Which of the following things about my former bosses is true?
- One of my bosses had a blatant affair with our CEO. And other well-known CEOs.
- One of my bosses thought that New Yorkers deserved 9/11.
- One of my bosses believed there was room for only one competent woman in her department — her.
- One of my bosses hired me to clean up a departmental mess then failed to support me when other executives protested.
- One of my bosses handed me a complex project to handle completely alone. When it was a huge success, the CEO gave her a weekend resort vacation as a thank-you. She took it.
- One of my bosses was clinically paranoid and saw threats around every corner, even where none existed. Actually, make that two bosses.
- One of my bosses taught me to play bridge.
Exciting, right? Don’t you wish you’d had these experiences? NOT. Except for bridge.
Which is why I was so glad to be reminded recently of the very best boss I ever had.
He was the general manager of a small semiconductor company at which I spent four years as director of corporate communication back in the early 1990s.
It was 1994 when I moved on to another job. I hadn’t seen him since I left, but I’d kept up with him, loosely, and he with me, all that time. I knew he was in Southern California and a little about a website he’d founded, but not much more. When Michael and I decided to spend a few days in San Diego, I got in touch and he agreed to meet up.
The minute I walked into the bar I recognized him.
With a big smile he held out his arms and gave me a warm hug, saying those magic words we all love to hear, “You haven’t changed a bit!” I mean, who wouldn’t call him “favorite boss” after that! But he looked the same, too. I introduced him to Michael, he introduced us to his significant other, and we proceeded to eat, drink and catch up for hours.
K. had an engineering and upper management background. He was always a methodical kind of guy who could explain technical concepts in easy to understand terms. He was fair and fun, both. I loved him. And I was touched when he turned to Michael and said, “I want you to know something about Carol. I have never, ever, gotten so much work out of someone who worked for me. She could really produce!”
That comment was characteristic of Ken: he didn’t have to acknowledge me, but he did. He was also that kind of boss, rare among CEO types. VERY rare, as it turns out.
Plus he has a great laugh and also a great sense of the ridiculous. I was lucky to work for such a boss.
Oh, what did I learn from my horrible bosses?
I learned to appreciate a great one.
Being a boss is hard. Managing people is a thankless task, to be honest, and it takes a certain skill level. I’m not sure I ever fully mastered it, even though K was a great role model. I’d had plenty of bad ones. At least I never slept with a CEO or thought competitors were following me, something I learned NOT to do from my horrible bosses.
K was a boss of a different stripe and so much so that we socialized outside of work.
At the time, I was seeing my second husband, who worked at the same place. Ken was married to a woman I liked. The four of us began hanging out together and since he and his wife played bridge, and my husband at the time did, too, they taught me. I can’t remember much about how to play now, but we spent many a wine-soaked Saturday night at one house or another at the bridge table.
And, we picked right up where we left off 20+ years ago.
Now, K is divorced with a delightful significant other. We’re planning another get together, probably in Santa Fe. So about those bosses. Got a good boss story? Share it in the comments.
K, in case you read this (of course you will): you rock! See you and B. in Santa Fe!
Fill me in on your own horrible bosses: I know you’ve had them. What did they teach you?