Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Bad Boss Finalist #2 - Escape From Jane

Here's the story from the second Bad Boss Contest finalist. Feel free to share comments below and come back tomorrow for another story.

Escape From Jane

I was a victim of corporate America for 20 years, where I had a wonderful career inventing new products. As a smart, hardworking, senior scientist and passionate about creativity, I loved my work and was pleased to be providing the world with new outlets for colorful, creative expression.

Managers came and went, each with any number of unique quirks, pluses, and minuses. I adapted to change as it came, focusing my talents, knowledge, and creativity on putting out new products- until about 5 year ago, when I was abruptly transferred to my boss from... well, I’m not sure, but let’s say it became difficult, at best.

Let’s call her “Jane.” She immediately moved me to an offsite team that underutilized my technical abilities, and which suddenly required an average of 2-3 extra unpaid hours of my time daily. I was salaried at 25 hours a week, and was suddenly working an average of 35-40, plus working through lunch. I asked to have my hours officially increased and my benefits covered, but Jane adamantly denied my request and insisted that I should not discuss this with HR lest I look bad.

I continued to do all I could, and later was brought back to the labs. There was a new corporate drive to segue to platform management of products, and the technical and marketing leaders were all scratching their heads wondering what else our company could do. Jane came to me, asked me to stop all project work, and instead to dedicate 100% of the next several months gathering and outlining all possible new product and platform ideas. I researched the market exhaustively, and presented her with 4 thorough documents, each with tens of pages of outlines. I also copied the potential new product document to my old R&D manager, as well as to several of the key marketing managers. Suddenly, there were 1000’s of ideas flowing freely, and the company was reorganized to begin implementing many of the new directions I had originated.

Meanwhile, whenever she wanted something, Jane would use fear and authoritative tactics. Once, she waved a binder at me, saying, “I have one of these on everyone and I can get you or anyone else fired at any time.”

That year, my review was mostly positive, but the depth of the background work I had done for her was minimized. Further, I was dinged for getting few new products to market. The breaking straw was when I questioned Jane as to why she wrote that I was “Not a team player.” We discussed this for about 10 minutes, but she couldn’t give a single concrete example, saying only, “Everyone knows it.” The following day, I told her I took her feedback seriously, and asked her to either remove the text or to please let me know what I had done or how I could improve. Jane became exasperated with me, stood up with eyes flaming, banging both fists to the desk, hovering over her desk and finger wagging towards me, forcefully saying, “Look! I got it on my review, so you’re getting it on yours!”

Whew! Ok... So that’s how it was. I left that day wanting to quit, and contemplating my options. In our organization, going to HR generally did more harm than good; I had heard plenty of stories of people who had legitimately approached HR to resolve a problem, only to be let go or looked down upon thereafter. So, I sought my mentor for suggestions, feeling like I couldn’t possibly work for this woman anymore. He suggested I ask the other manager if he’d consider taking me back into his group, since there was an opening.

I did, he wanted me, and that worked out well for 2 years. Jane was promoted shortly after for her excellent work on new product and platform direction. A year ago, she was promoted to Director of R&D, and my boss reported to her. A few months later, with a new CEO on board and a “realignment,” I was permanently laid off. Those still working under her tell me they are all in constant fear and rumor she’s having an affair with her boss...


Anonymous said...

The person who submitted this story might have a grievance under FLSA. I recommend reading up on the Fair Labor Standards Act and possibly consulting an attorney. Seriously.

Colette said...

Anonymous, I think they may have a grievance, and we don't know whether they pursued one. What I do know for sure is that when someone has worked in a toxic environment for a long time, sometimes the best choice for them is to just move on.