Continuing the theme of Halloween month and scary business dealings, I’ve been asked about my scariest job or the boss who made my life on the job a really big challenge.
My first big job after graduating college was with Moore Business Forms. I worked in sales at Moore for 12 years. I had two bosses. One was a smart direct marketing pro in his mid-twenties (at the time, he was the youngest DM person in the business). He was personable, helpful and taught me that if I can’t affect change I shouldn’t fret over the problem.
As I moved into a more senior position, this man cautioned me not to become too friendly with employees I managed. His reasoning was that, being friends with my employees might make it more difficult to perform tough decisions that affect the company later on. I was influenced by his management style, but I didn’t buy into his theory about being friends with people who reported to me. (Although he wasn’t one to be a pal to employees, this man was passionate about treating them well.) He was a great mentor to me and, later on, when he became CEO of one of the largest business forms companies in the U.S., we continued to be good friends.
My second boss at Moore; well, let’s say he was not the type of boss I would choose as a mentor, a role model, or a friend.
I had been selling in our mid-market tier for several years and wanted a bigger challenge. I asked to work on a list of unsold accounts. These were larger accounts on our list of potential clients, so I wouldn’t have directly taken work away from other sales people. He said no. I was angry enough to look for another job. Offered a job in Chicago, I was set to leave Moore until family issues got in the way. Ultimately, I stayed with Moore, but I knew that I would have to affect change.
With the self-knowledge that I was respected at Moore, and that my sales performance was quite good, I took issue with this man’s leadership and spoke up for myself. I got my promotion and also had the good fortune to not have to report to him. He used intimidation to lead. He also looked out for himself rather than his employees. I knew from the beginning that I wouldn’t want to be that kind of boss.
ONE LAST THING…
For the most part it’s not bosses who are scary, it’s the situation that’s scary. Sometimes we have no control, or we’ve lost control of a situation. Loss of control is what’s scary. I would advise anyone who feels helpless in a situation to seek help from a trusted supervisor or workplace ally. If the situation is helpless, then perhaps the best thing to do is remove yourself from the situation. In the workplace, it may be time to seek employment elsewhere. If that’s the case, I would advise someone to prepare for the inevitable and plan to find a job that offers more personal rewards.