Learning Like a Boss

With the wedding over, my life should return to some semblance of normal, and hopefully I can spend a little more time here. Like several others, a tweet byAnn Marie Klotz inspired me to write something a little longer than 140 characters

I’ve been working since I was 16; half my life. I’ve had every kind of boss that one could imagine, absolutely learning a lesson or two along the way. I’m sure there is more, but these are some of the most influential.

  • PG (18-20 years old): This was the first good boss I ever had–previous bosses were kind of non-entities, neither good nor bad. J stuck with me though. My lesson here was, “I am the $h1t wall. When a customer gives you $h1t, you send them to me and I will be the wall to stop and deal with it.”  Whether an employee was 16 or 46, we didn’t deserve anyone’s crap–HE was the boss for a reason. This began developing my ideas of the ideal supervisor: someone who is not only able but WILLING to take on the battles that are beyond my training.
  • BA (23-24 years old): This was the first bad boss I had, my saving grace was that R was not my direct supervisor, but as the AVP/owner’s son in a small company, he had a lot of influence. My lesson? “Don’t get bullied…at lest not too much.” Yes, this 50 year-old man was a bully. One of my tasks as the secretary was to make popcorn everyday at 11 so the big-wigs could stand around my desk eating it and congratulating themselves on their awesomeness. One day, it was about 11:10 and I hadn’t made the popcorn yet because I was in the middle of printing over $100k worth of checks for our vendors. He grabbed the popcorn basket and banged it on my desk asking when I was “going to get to work.” I’m not proud of my  somewhat heated reply, and I did apologize for reacting strongly, but he didn’t bully me as much (some change is better than no change)
  • BU (24-29 years old):  My supervisor was offered the VP for HR position when it came open. M had been with the school for 20-ish years and was the Acting VP while they conducted the search. I remember multiple occasions when the President came to talk her into taking the job. She refused, and threatened to begin looking for another job if she thought they were stalling in the search. I asked her about it, and got the most influential lesson I’ve ever received from a supervisor, “I know what I am good at, and I know what I like to do. I don’t want to just go to meetings; I want to interact directly with staff and faculty, and work with the vendors to ensure employee needs are being met. I LIKE my job and I’m good at it. I won’t be as good as VP as I am here, and that would be detrimental to the department and university” (or similar, it’s been about 5 years…). One should never say never, but unlike many people I went to Grad School with, I don’t ever see myself as a Director, or VP–my strengths don’t swing toward the strengths I see in those whose supervision style I most respect; I’m not confident enough that I can be Completely.In.Charge; and I like being “on the ground” with the students. I know where I belong. That could always change, but I don’t find it personally beneficial to aspire to become something that I am uncomfortable with.
  • WT (30-31 years old): This was an indirect lesson. A’s grad school advisor told him once that “Students cannot develop if they don’t have beds.” He was in housing operations, and I think that there had once been a concern about whether that fit Student Affairs or not. I’ve taken it as my mantra to remember that, without basic needs, nothing else matters. In my current position, I am advocating for scheduling reform because the needs of the students have changed since the format was initially developed. In previous institutions when I have overheard students/faculty/staff complain about facilities, I have mentioned that the Facilities staff don’t have the time/resources to hang out in bathrooms and hallways picking up after everyone, we have to take some responsibility.

What have you learned from supervisors?

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