Wednesday, February 11, 2015

What I learned from my old bosses

I was reminiscing with some former colleagues I used to work with about an old boss we had. She was a battle-ax. I have been in my own business for so long that I never had too many bosses but I learned from them all.

When I got right out of art school in the early 80s I applied for several jobs. Through a family connection I applied and eventually was hired by a pharmaceutical company designing suppository boxes (among other things). As a 21 year old kid I was happy to get any art related job (even only remotely related to art). I graduated from college knowing how to paint and do silk screening so I didn't have too many skills. But times were different and jobs were all around. My boss there was a very nice guy and we shared a lot in common. He loved art fairs like I did (attending and as a craftsman) and was an even tempered and overall nice guy. His boss, however was a bit of a tyrant. One year there was a terrible hurricane coming through the area. Most people stayed home to prepare but our office was open. Several people, including my boss's boss still came to work. I stayed home. The company quickly saw how bad the weather was getting and sent everyone home in less than an hour. My thoughtful boss' boss made me take the whole day as a vacation day since I didn't come in. I'll always remember him for that.

Another time the divisions big boss wanted someone to do some signage for his wife's bridge club or something and my boss' boss volunteered me to do it after work. When I complained to him (I was a feisty kid) he said I was to do anything they said I had to do. I argued (a bit) but did the work. I liked the paycheck!

I left that job after a few years and joined a large publishing company in Boston.-where that battle-ax worked. This woman was a hard drinking, rough and tumble woman who had to fight her way up the corporate ladder and wasn't going to take guff from anyone. After a long liquid lunch she would often roam the halls of her domain looking for someone to chew out. No kidding but her secretary used to try and run ahead and warn people to scatter. One time I was stuck in my cubicle on the phone and couldn't get away. She called me into her office and chewed me out for half hour about a project I did not work on or had ever even heard of.

Another time we were all celebrating after a very long and arduous few months getting a new series out to the printer. Someone in the company (not my boss) had t-shirts printed up for all the team members and told us to come around and get a shirt. At the time we had as many freelancers as we had full time staff. When the collected team went over to grab our free shirts this woman stepped up and said it was only for full time staff, not freelancers. Even though the box was overflowing this woman turned these people away. The same people who worked with us full timers all those months. I'll never forget that either!

Now I am the boss and have 18 people who report to me. I learned from my old bosses. I learned how not to treat staff. I see their examples and try to treat people in the opposite way. I am certainly not the best but I always try to treat people as I would have wanted to be treated (hey maybe we can call that the golden rule ;). We are all under stress but it doesn't take much to treat people with respect.

Someday someone on my staff may write a blog and mention me and I hope its for all the good reasons!

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