I don’t know if you can relate to this, but I sometimes wonder why individuals with the worst personalities become bosses?
The person may be your employer, supervisor or manager, the gender may be male or female, they don’t have good interactions with others, and have poor communication skills. They are furious or feel threatened if you have opposing views; They do not give respect but expect to get respect, uses his/her tone to intimidate or bully staff into getting the job done; has no “true” followers nor mentor prospective leaders although he is “the leader”, usually has a high ego and is always giving unsolicited instructions because it is “his job” “to lead” even at work socials or fun days!!
Most times a control freak, may appear quiet at times or may be loud, however he is ill-tempered and attempts to drive fear into his subordinates; he’s the reason for chronic stress on the job, absenteeism and job turnover and if he could force you to come to work on weekends and holidays he would, just because he can, because he is the boss!
Can you think of any individual with some of the characteristics outlined?
Do you know any Boss Jerks?
I have heard of and have met quite a few “Jerk Bosses” within my lifetime. They exist both locally and internationally. WHAT I REALISE THAT THEY ALL HAVE IN COMMON IS; THEIR HUGE EGOS AND THE INTENSE NEED TO LET OTHERS KNOW WHO IS IN CHARGE!
(According to the merriam-webster dictionary, a jerk is an unlikable person; especially : one who is cruel, rude, or small-minded)
It was the year 1994. I was sixteen (16) years old and a high school graduate. I decided to take a break from school and get a job which was the norm those days for families that were not financially independent.
I responded to an advertisement I saw in the Sunday Gleaner for the post of receptionist to work for a small business that was in the IT industry. I was quite excited about my job and I was trained and prepared to take on the world as I had the requisite skill set for the tasks at hand. As a matter of fact, I was actually over qualified (which was to my bosses advantage).
It was my first job, there was much to learn. The owners a husband and wife couple at first were quite friendly, polite and appeared professional and goal oriented. I was working in the New Kingston business district and although the pay was nominal it was enough to cover my lunch, transportation and to get a few personal toiletries on payday. I also had company nearby, friends who I would meet at lunch time as two of my schoolmates worked across the street at a large insurance company.
My primary focus at the time was to get some job experience until I landed a better paying job with a more reputable organization. Then, I would attend school part-time when I got the chance.
I would arrive at work an hour and a half early and sit in the cold keeping myself busy, learning, playing hostess and working. About two weeks into the job I started to see the very attractive “seemingly quiet” lady boss for who she was.
The staff complement was seven persons at that location and within eight weeks five individuals were no longer on the payroll. I was included among the five. Some left voluntarily and others were “casualty of war“.
The war that was being fought was within the head of the female boss who apparently had more say or power in the business than her husband who was generally nice to staff when she was not around and would hide in his office whenever she was.
The Jerk Boss
My bosses were from the “upper echelons” of the Jamaican society. They lived in a wealthy neighborhood, drove his and hers BMW’s, and in 1994 had a microwave in their office ( an equipment that I was introduced to on my first trip to Philadelphia in 1993). That equipment was expensive to purchase and not easily obtained in our country at the time. As a matter of fact, many homes still had black and white television sets and very few had VCR’s those days. Only the wealthy could afford certain items which were considered luxury items.
Frequently, I would hear the female boss shouting at staff. It did not matter the age or gender of the unsuspecting staff member. She did what she wanted and said what came to her mouth. If you dared to disagree with her there would be a consequence.
I used to wonder who invented the “Any Other Duties” section on a Job Description. I have now drawn the conclusion that it must be a “Jerk Boss”!
Lyssa-Ann Clarke 2017
One day I was asked to assist with the preparation of payroll as the clerk was going on maternity leave. My boss trusted me with the task at the time as I came equipped with accounting qualifications. The new responsibility did not come with increased remuneration or a change in job description. It was just an addition to my existing job function. It was a part of the section on your Job Description called “Any Other Duties“.
I always wondered who invented the “Any Other Duties” section on a Job Description. I have now drawn the conclusion based on my experiences that it must be a “Jerk Boss”
The additional function really opened my eyes to the values and ethics of the organization and within the first month I concluded that it would not be in my best interest to remain within that organization for a long time. I therefore devised a plan to send application letters to other organizations in hope that I would be called for an interview as quickly as possible. I mean, it really bothered me to be inputting data that included penalties (deductions from pay) for persons chewing gum and talking while they were performing their data entry duties at the offsite location.
I was also disturbed by my Jerk Boss’s tone when speaking to the bearer and office attendant. I am quite sure she treated her dogs better than how she treated her assistants. The bearer got frustrated and walked out one day whilst the office attendant was ordered to leave one day after a heated conversation where she actually responded to the boss. The “Jerk Boss” said some really insulting, degrading things to my colleague which made me angry and even embarrassed for her as I strongly believe that regardless of your background we should treat others how we would want to be treated.
My boss was doing her undergraduate degree in 1994. She would also have study group meetings in her office several days per week. Her friends from her study group would arrive early and I would play hostess setting up tea and coffee and letting them feel at home until “Jerk Boss” arrived.
One day “Jerk Boss” arrived at her usual 10 am in the morning. She stopped by my desk and asked me if I could help her a bit outside by collecting some things she forgot in her car. How very naive’ I was at the time. I did not realise that I was responding to her ” lady in distress game” which was just a ploy to get me to start an action that would now become a daily expectation. The “help” was now permanently needed and to compound my issues I now had an additional duty which was to do bank lodgements which was a part of the office attendants duties (remember both bearer and attendant left).
My thoughts at the time was that we were facing perilous times. I had no help, no one to talk to the boss was a monster however if I re-organize my self things would get done. I was like a donkey with blinkers on only seeing in one direction and I certainly wasn’t thinking “if a man got a donkey to ride that he would ride it”! Well, “Jerk Boss” got a new “donkey” who thought she was being helpful so she decided to ride it. Who can blame her, after all her role is to give orders and to direct!
“Jerk Boss’s” new 16 year old donkey’s hamper was getting full. The donkey would arrive early, sit in the air condition until 10 am, go outside to assist with the bags, return to the cold, type, answer calls, file, enter the payroll data plus go on the road again to do bearer duties (remember now the attendant got fired).
Help At Last
The week of October 24 – 28, 1994 was a memorable one for several reasons. A new attendant was hired, “Jerk Boss” was on her best behaviour and I was looking forward to my seventeenth birthday which I would celebrate that coming Sunday. I could now look forward to a normal secretarial life now that help was received, my life would return to normal.
I bet you all think I had a wonderful birthday. Well, from what I do remember that Sunday was a very sad day for me and a lot of persons I knew from primary and high school.
A schoolmate who was my brother’s friend and neighbor was killed that weekend. From what I remember of that sexy, hazel eyed, dude who had a passion for athletics, we shared the same birthday. I also remember warning him some months earlier to stop hanging out with his newly found friends or else if something happened to him I wouldn’t be attending his funeral. (Looking back I think those were really harsh last words, which I regret saying to this day, although I really meant well when I said them.) The emotions that triggered from the death of my friend spilled over into the next working day.
Monday October 31, 1994. I arrived early as usual. “Jerk Boss’s ” husband asked me to re-organize the filing cabinet that day. I was not my usual cheerful self. I was sad and distraught, I did not smile. I worked in silence. I set up the tea station and left her two friends to do what they usually do in her office.
I noticed that Jerk Boss was late as usual. I noticed that morning that when she arrived unlike other days when she would at least have her handbag and a book or her igloo, this morning all the had in her hand was her pocketbook/her purse which held her cards and cash. I silently prayed “please lord don’t let that lady call me today to help her with her bags today“.
Things went well until I heard over the intercom: “Miss Clarke can you come to my office please?”
I went to her office hesitantly. This was the first time that she was calling me to her office while her friends were there. I responded: “yes Mrs.?” How can I help you? Her reactions after that question stunned me.
Jerk Boss: (While holding up keys in her hands) ” Go to my car and get my bags!”
“Do you know how to open my BMW? Do You?”
Me: I looked at her in amazement. (Why is this woman trying to insult me before her friends I thought?) then said ” I’m sorry Mrs. I can’t help you today.” “Please ask your new attendant to assist you.”
Jerk Boss: responding in a very sassy manner, “Well, you and the helper need to go
work out who is going to carry my bags today!” (she shouted)
Me: (upset at this point) said: “ Let me ask you a question!” “Why can’t you carry your own bags?”
Jerk Boss: (embarassed and upset at my response before her friends, she stomped
out of her office, went to her husband and told him “she has to go!”
We all have our breaking point. Mine came after I felt disrespected by someone who I assisted out of kindness daily.
I was not aware that I was close to my breaking point however, just that one act of dishonor became my tipping point. It threw me off balance and that fortress of self control I had built came crashing down in the heat of the moment.
While I am quite sure that my “Any Other Duties” section of my job description did not include risking my life to do bank deposits for the business or taking the boss’s books and bags out of the car, when the tasks came I did them because I thought at the time that a good employee is a team player who helps out in times of need.
The sad thing is that many employers use the “Any Other Duties” card as a means of hijacking their staff to do work that has nothing to do with their core function. See for yourself, ask your friends questions about that “Any Other Duties” section on their job description.
I wasn’t thinking that my boss didn’t have my best interest at heart or that she was a jerk at the time. I thought to be a leader one has to be a servant first. I thought it was my duty to help those in need more so my employer. Many persons do not understand what it means to lead. Many employers think that bosses should bully instead of influence.
I would not bully my servant, the person who handles my food or interacts with my children. But that’s just me, (personally, I don’t wish to have any “foreign ingredients” in my food or drink nor someone hurting my kids as an indirect way to get revenge because of something I did.) On top of that, although I am not perfect, I respect people too much to do certain things.
Well, after receiving my marching orders I picked up my handbag and walked out of the office leaving the files strewn all over the front desk. I was not given my severance pay nor was I ever called to collect.
I went home, spoke to my grandmother and cried to put it mildly. I actually bawled loudly while she tried to console me. Her response was “don’t worry my child, God will provide!”
It turned out that my grandmother’s faith led to growth in mine as I saw God work in the situation. Two days later I was called to attend a job interview for which I was successful. The next Monday I was at my new job.
Looking back, I wonder what would have happened if I had not sent out those letters when I realised what a jerk my boss was. I was so happy that I used wisdom and in faith made preparation for what I was about to receive.
I sometimes share this story with my students and am amazed at the responses I get when the story is used in conflict management, stress management, leadership, or even communication classes.
One thing I do know is that avoidance does not solve problems and that one has to be very tactful in how you respond to situations especially if you value your relationship with whom you have a conflict.
I have asked myself many questions including :
Could I have handled the situation better?
Did I have the right to say what I said to “Jerk Boss”?
Where does relationship come into the picture?
Why do some people find pleasure in making others look small?
Shouldn’t bosses respect their subordinates?
What about rights and fairness?
The answers may be numerous, however the questions I would like you to ask yourself right now: ” Do you know any Jerk Bosses“? Are you a Jerk Boss based on how you treat people? Can you relate to my situation? What advise do you have to give those facing Jerk Bosses on a daily basis?
Also remember in your leadership quest, do your best to lead, to influence. Be careful how your treat others. Keep your ego in check and aim not to become a Jerk Boss!
Related Post from the JERK BOSS SERIES Jerk Boss Strikes Again Click on blue highlighted topic to read.
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