The Real Life Rookie Year: Pointy-Haired Bosses

Because I work in IT and was raised by a father who also works in IT, I am somewhat very familiar with the comic Dilbert. Dilbert is a little man [with, ironically, no facial expressions, or alternatively, the same facial expressions for every situation] who spends his days “clinging to the walls of my fabric covered box while being consumed by a vortex of failure.” Hilarious, as some days, I see the fabric walls of my little box consuming me in a vortex of boredom and lack of purpose. This is besides the point. Dilbert’s boss is affectionately known to me as the Pointy-Haired Boss. You’ve seen him. He says dumb things, asks for projects to be completed early and by spending zero dollars. He cares only for himself and his own raises and benefits. He is not fit to manage anything, much less an office. That’s the funny part. Now to relate Dilbert and his boss to this silly little series.

Us rookies probably have minimal experiences with bosses. You’ve had maybe a couple at the most. If you’ve been working since high school, you’ve had more than a couple but that was high school and that’s different. You old guys have had lots of bosses, and I’m sure greater than or equal to three of them were exactly like the Pointy-Haired Boss in some way or another. Some managers are awesome. Some of them don’t really care about you, as long as you do what they tell you. Some managers should never be managers. Sometimes it’s the blind leading the blind. Sometimes they’re your best friend, and sometimes you get drunk with them and learn things you’d never repeat in the office. They write your performance review after all, and you value your paycheck and raise possibilities.

I’ve had 4 or 5 bosses since I started working at a place where I didn’t wear a swim suit and pink cowgirl hat and take an occasional dip in the pool. [Awesome job.] Some of these bosses were awesome, and some of them were less than awesome. Since I think some people with whom I work read this, I’ll be mentioning no names, chronology, or any reference which would give any hints whatsoever as to which boss was awesome and which was not so much. But they each taught me something about myself, which as a rookie is part of my daily life. Lessons all the time, from all places, until I’m blue in the face from learning so much and my Trapper Keeper (good times) of learnings is bulging and won’t stay velcroed. Annoying.

My first lessons were learned as a young girl working summers in college. Oh the days. A nice man we’ll call El Jefe (haha) was one of my first “real” managers. He was very quiet, not really a jokester in the office, very business-y. I worked very hard to accomplish everything he tasked me with very efficiently and as quickly as possible, even ordering lunch. Ordering lunch was probably the task I felt the most pressure. After all, if people have a bad lunch, it ruins their day. If you’re late for a meeting or send the wrong document, these are easily fixed, solved, or forgotten. Lunch can make people grouchy. So every day I was nervous. Jefe was busy, so it was my job to pick something and sometimes I had to order for him! Nerves jumping! What if he doesn’t like club sandwiches?! What if he fires me because the pickle got his chips all soggy?!? Well luckily, I can tell you I survived every day of lunch ordering. I learned that 1) it’s quite alright to bring around a notepad and force everyone to choose their own lunch, even if they’re on the phone. 2) Most times he was too busy to even notice if I forgot to say no mayo. 3) He noticed my work more than my lunch ordering abilities. And 4) I still attribute (at least partially) all my lunch successes to the good recommendation he wrote me when I changed jobs. I’m thinking he associated good meals with me. This is not a bad thing.

One of the managers I’ve had was so-so. I was pretty much never comfortable talking to this person, and I also pretty much thought a monkey could do this particular job better than this person. No pronouns, sorry. But I learned to work around the incompetence and discomfort, that we can all be successful regardless of the dimwits we work with (this is not limited to managers obviously), and that anyone who blames others in the workplace is just excusing their poor work. Sorry chickens.

Some of the best lessons I’ve learned so far are from a boss we’ll just call Boss. He (or she! Tricky) was pretty cool. Very direct with directions (as the word implies), very direct with feedback, and never sugar coating anything. When I first started working for Boss, it was intimidating. He talked way too fast for my little southern brain fresh out of Southwest, VA, and I better keep up if I knew what was good for me. He forced me to think quicker, say “um” and “like” less because those words take up valuable seconds that I dearly needed to get my entire statement across to him before he got bored and dismissed me. I left that job more confident about a couple of things: 1) asking questions, 2) saying my mind, 3) he’s just a regular guy so therefore 4) there is no reason to be scared or intimidated. Unless you screw up.

Obviously we all have different bosses, and as rookies it is a trial to figure out how they all like to work. Some like to see every nano-second of your day’s productivity. What did you do for the last five minutes? Why were you away from your desk for 15 minutes? Why are you leaving at 4:55 today when you usually don’t leave until 6?? Send me a status report twice a week! Send me every version of every document you have! Ask me permission for everything! Others are different. They leave you alone. They give you the bare-bones requirements for a project and you must dive in solo. These all teach us different things. For me, it teaches me that most anyone can drive me crazy. The ones that ask too much are annoying. The ones that don’t talk to me for 3 weeks make me feel lonely and irrelevant. But none of these are things I can change. We must adjust, because we are the rookies learning how things work. When I’m a manager I can be the one calling the shots, but until then, I will send as many or as few status reports necessary to appease whomever needs to be appeased. I am still in the business of proving myself. The only thing I’ve proved so far is that I took the right classes, got the right grades, and conducted myself appropriately in an interview. I, and we as rookies, still have to prove we’re worth the investment for the team.

So here’s to enduring the Pointy-Haired Boss. He wears white socks with tattered dress shoes, smells funny, is incompetent sometimes, and makes us want to quit our jobs occasionally. She’s bossy and on a power trip all the time, micro-managing us when we are perfectly able to send an email by ourselves, thank you. He talks about his kids way too much. She never answers emails. Whatever. We can do it, because like I said, we’re young, fabulous, and they hate us because we’re younger and have better metabolism. Let’s use it to our advantage, shall we?

One response to “The Real Life Rookie Year: Pointy-Haired Bosses

  1. So very true. We have good and bad bosses. We have good bosses which we hate this personality trait. We have bad bosses which we love another personality trait. Yet, we learn from them all. And we might as well learn from the all while we are young. Because once we are “old” there is no room for mistakes!!!

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