…being a good boss

Hey, are you the big cheese in your company? Or, are you the manager — with people reporting to you on a daily basis, usually at your beck and call. Do you juggle project after project, potently laced with various individuals’ Performance Appraisals and futures thrown in between?

When I was still way, way down low in the office hierarchy, I used to dread authority and the kind of people that wield them. In my mind, authority is a good thing–when wielded by a person who is not in danger of abusing it. But give it to a pyscho or a person with low EQ, then we are doomed to fail.

I have been working for almost 14 years now, and within those years–either had the pleasure or the misfortune of working for a long line of bosses. Some had terrorized me no end, some I have managed to curse to high heavens while there are also others whose lessons and reminders I have treasured greatly. Writing this piece, I am inspired to list them one-by-one and try to remember if I have been unfair to them during my tenure.

Due to my long and historical (as in, there’s just too much story in between) employment record, I will only list those who I worked with for more than a year:

The society doyenne – My first boss was recognized as the “Dean of Philippine Lifestyle Editors” — she is a small woman but very imposing and authoritative, her presence was enough to reduce me to a blubbering idiot. One word from her and we, her Lifestyle staff would cower in fear. I was a young writer then, fresh out of Journ school and prone to lapses in grammar and writing. After I have submitted my article, she would then call me to sit beside her — checking my grammar and writing style as she edit, alternately scolding me and joking in the process. I have always feared her presence and hated her for always singling me out. In her mind, I needed growing up. Now more than 10 years after, I realized that everything I have learned about writing a good story, I learned it from observing her and being part of her team. There are days when I still wonder what would have happened to me if I just stopped being childish then and did not quit the publication?

The Japanese Editor who is a stickler for details – I have always been fascinated with Japanese culture but working for my Japanese editor made me appreciate their discipline and dedication for work. This is the guy who asked me to cover the police detachment and ask gory details about a reported murder. My second editor was a big guy who resembled a polar bear more than a hard-hitting journalist.

The office heart throb had much of the female population in thrall for his almond-shaped eyes and bedimpled cheek, except for dear, old me who was both his right-wing (wo)man and constant frenemy. Worked for this guy for two and a half years and in those two years, was a witness to his revolving door of women. Now happily married, this boss of mind taught me confidence and how to charm your way to some of my most direst situations. It is under his wing that I realized how much I love marketing and public relations and that being a Corporate Communications professional can be a life-long career for me.

The Psycho Slave Driver from Hell – The less I say about this person, the better. Let’s just say working for her led me to my first nervous breakdown, total loss of confidence in my self and I had to leave a really good company with outstanding benefits plus amazing relationships I managed to cultivate during my tenure. In the end, I chose to pick my sanity and health over any potential regional career.

The A-Type Management-pleaser, in spite her obsessive, anal way of dealing into things, have always been a good person and a joy to work with. This boss taught me all the things that one needs to know if one wants to succeed in the corporate world, no thanks to her “take-all-prisoners” approach in all things. She diligently (and sometimes annoyingly) badger me into addressing emails according to recipient’s position, reminded me to always and diligently respond to messages and phone calls and basically given me the insight to think more like an office drone rather than a rock star wannabe. While she and I had our bad days, she will always have my respect and gratitude for shaping me to be the person that I am today.

I had other bosses aside from those mentioned above but my stay with them has either been too short (less than 6 months or a year) or uneventful that I can’t think of anything to say about them. I currently work for someone who shall be referred to as “The Legend” and I wish to think that I have already found my mentor. The Legend knows our industry inside and out, and her international training and experience had rid her of the usual emotional baggage present among local bosses. She encourages her team to be bold, to take intelligent risks and aim for the best. This person inspires me to do better and to build a career out of what I currently do.

The reason for this lengthy post is this: as I go forward my new role as a manager of a whole department, I have developed an obsession to be a good boss and mentor to my team. After all, just a few short years ago, I was one of them.

Last Friday, I had the misfortune of having to present my team member, who is doing an amazing job, her first ever memo for tardiness incurred. Half of me wanted to be authoritative and explain the process, but the other half just wanted to be there for her during, what probably is, the worst day of her life. For one, I didn’t agree with the memo — I find it stupid that she gets docked for showing up 5 minutes late to work when she is usually working for more than three hours after work lets out. But this was one simple instance where I have to wear the hat of a management representative and the manager corp and do what is expected of me.

I hope that when time passes by and my team grow bigger and bigger, I will be blessed with the fortitude and wisdom to do things according to what is right and not what is popular. I don’t want t be the kind of manager that ends up getting burned behind their back.

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