One of the more interesting (and when I say "interesting" I mean "highly unpleasant, but not without educational value") facets of the underemployment experience is the kind of person you begin referring to as your "boss".
This particularly struck me the other day when the company I work for assigned me to babysit one of their more high-strung and dull-witted managers, a woman named Donna. Donna is a bitter, angry, menopausal groupie-wannabe, whose object of desire and worship is the erstwhile band Queen. "Erstwhile" in my mind, though not in hers, and Donna has the supremely annoying habit of referring to the surviving band members by their first names, as though they were regular participants at her Sunday dinner table.
I was hungover, by choice, since I had anticipated a long, tedious day of conversations about "Freddie". For the record, talking about "Freddie" is not the same as talking about "John" or "Paul" or "George" or "Ringo". Even "Mick" is inevitably followed by "Jagger", even to those who claim to have met him. Who are legion. (Pestilent, and legion.)
To a jury of my peers, who may deem my vilification of Donna too harsh, I offer in defense the evidence that one time - and this is not fiction - Donna told me, in a hushed voice filled with awe, that she has a friend who devotes three entire rooms of her home as shrines to the late Mr. Mercury, the most precious of the resident relics being an authentic piece of a Styrofoam cup to which her idol had once put his parched lips.
(Hey, Donna, the '80s called. They want their sweaters back.)
I have another day scheduled with Donna this week, one that I am determined to meet without chemical intervention, just to prove that I can do it. I am reasonably confident of emerging unscathed, so long as she leaves her once-alluded-to "Freddie" doll at home.
This woman is my boss. Believe it.
Sad to say, I've known worse.
There are three sets of circumstances under which one finds themselves underemployed:
- Demotion, after a recession-prompted job loss;
- Desperation, after attempting to enter the work force for the first time and finally settling for anything that will - theoretically - pay the bills;
- Delusion, underemployed only in one's mind, a result of gross overestimation of one's own abilities.
In the third case, one has contempt for all bosses, no matter how adept. In the second, the experience necessary for judgment is lacking. It is the first case that is the most disconcerting, as an 18-year-old shift manager and a time clock is quite the big adjustment for the average former executive.
I belong to set of circumstances #1. Although "executive" would be a bit of a stretch, I did find myself back at minimum wage after a long period of well-paying jobs and substantial levels of authority. In the going-on-seven years of my underemployment, I have retrograded to working for the same ilk of people I used to work for in high school, and - though I have been fortunate enough to enjoy some very good bosses amongst these - it hasn't always been pretty.
Since throughout most of my underemployment my brain has been spared any engaging activity, I have found myself spending a fair amount of time in anthropological consideration of the human element in the workplace.
The following is the result of some of this activity: a list of archetypes of the Bad Boss.
The Default Boss is the boss simply because nobody else wants to be. There is no other plausible explanation. The job is usually a "salaried" position, bestowed with the understanding (at least on the part of the corporate masters) that the Default Boss will work an infinite number of hours each week for substandard-of-living wages. Possibly, the work itself is so heinous as to be undesirable to a normal person for any amount of money so, hence, a miraculous opportunity is created for an otherwise hopeless idiot. The measure of power that accompanies the Default Boss' promotion is so miniscule as to do little to mitigate the unbridled ransacking of the Default Boss' life. Default Bosses tend to be unhappy. And tend to share.
Delegators tout "delegation" as a "management style". They are allowed to get away with this by their own bosses, almost always Delegators themselves. In reality, Delegators are lazy-ass bastards who expect their chosen victims, the "delegatees", to do their work for them while they, the Delegators, take full credit for it. They suck. Beware of doing a good job for a Delegator. There is no reward in it, only the gradual decimation of your self-esteem, which is the Delegator's game plan to keep you from escaping.
Mini-Me Bosses fervently worship the ground of their superiors, a word they take literally. There is no actual reason for them to exist, since they just parrot instructions from their immediate supervisors, a skill that became obsolete with the invention of the telephone. Mini-Me Bosses (bad news for the future of humanity) often become CEO's. Who have no actual reason to exist, either.
The Dilettante is a fairly bright person who is only passing time as your boss until his/her performances on YouTube attract the attention of as-yet-unknown persons who recognize his/her genius and offer him/her money. This is, of course, total fantasy. Dilettantes will remain your boss, in spite of having no genuine interest whatsoever in their jobs, until they grow too old to attract anybody's attention on YouTube (unless they really are a phenomenon, in which case they will eventually compete on "America's Got Talent" and win the "aaaaw, what a cute geezer!" vote), or they decide to "sell out" and confine themselves to playing bass on "Honky Tonk Women" once a year with the band on "'60s Nite" at the company convention. Dilettantes often have messy and ill-fated affairs with much-younger, stupid people.
Morons are exactly that. They hold their positions by virtue of having some sort of certification or degree that declares them in possession of the abilities to be a boss (such as an MBA), with the same efficacy of the diploma that the Scarecrow got from the Wizard of Oz. Their abilities are as phantasmic as The Dilettante's prowess in the fine arts. American companies like to hire Morons, mainly because the people doing the hiring are also Morons and seek to validate their own suspect credentials by valuing them highly in others. Morons tend to be deeply suspicious of non-Morons. And have trouble understanding big words.
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Those are my top five, but I'd also like to give a shout-out to the Party Animal Boss and the Bat-Shit Crazy Boss.
Oh, wait. I was thinking about me.