“I think your relationship is good for the both of you”, my therapist says. “Your personalities compliment each other. And I think he likes a smart, funny woman who isn’t afraid of him.”
“I think you’re right.”
2 years ago…
Before Bossman, I worked for some asshat who happened to be the best friend of the head honcho. Asshat was an idiot…and I knew he was an idiot. And he knew that I knew that he knew he was an idiot. He made my life a living hell. There was no appreciation for what I did for him. He refused to let me move on within the company. He blocked promotions, threatened others not to give me any work that would further my career. He took a sick pleasure out of reminding me that I was his. And I would take it or leave the company altogether.
It didn’t work. I’m a pitbull at work and after growing up with a father like mine, huge men with bigger egos and a “tough guy” bark didn’t faze me. I recognized his insecurity for what it was.
For every move that he made, I countered with a smile. He blocked my promotion, fine. I made him change my title (without giving me a pay increase) because I knew when I left him that title change would double my pay. When Bossman hired me on, he did just that.
Asshat told others not to give me work. They ignored him. I was smart, competent, more than capable to do what needed to be done. And we were short staffed. People began sneaking me work and teaching me things under the agreement that if I was caught they would deny any wrongdoing. Over the years I became proficient at certain projects and other executives came to rely on me. Asshat was furious.
One particular meeting, Asshat’s boss was there to discuss a multi-million dollar project that was crucial to our business unit. Asshat called me into the meeting- I was to observe and take notes. I did just that, but while listening to Asshat’s boss talk I realized his boss kept locking eyes with me. I didn’t back down from his stare because why would I?
Later, Asshat called me into his office and told me his boss had praised me, said he knew that I was intelligent and basically scolded Asshat for sleeping on my talents. I was to be the new project manager on the project immediately. It was a move that launched me into my company’s national spotlight.
I argued with lawyers, high level executives, even a few millionaires that were partners on the deal. I wasn’t impressed by titles. I wanted shit done NOW. Everyone knew that if I wasn’t happy, no one would be. We got the job done, by the skin of our teeth and I ended up getting well compensated for it. Money wasn’t what I was after though. I was plotting my escape from Asshat. I got glowing recommendations from the same lawyers, executives and millionaires that I was hobnobbing with and then quit.
It was those recommendations that I coolly laid in front of Bossman the day he interviewed me.
“Very clever,” he murmured. I smirked. Yes. Yes, I was.
Bossman emerges from his office, shuffling his feet. He’s exhausted, stressed. Three day stubble lines his face. He’s wearing his “fuck it” attire: jeans, plaid shirt untucked, brown shoes. I glance up but he seems to be ignoring me. I look back down and then allow my eyes to drift above the top of my monitor. I can feel him still there and it’s unnerving as always. He’s glancing at me, a smile on his lips.
“Hi Bossman,” I singsong softly. His smile gets wider and he mouths “good morning” back before shuffling off.
These past few months have been hell. Our division has been named the new “it” kid for the entire company and all eyes are on our performance. The pressure is intense. My boss is not sleeping, not eating, not enjoying life. He’s constantly working, round the clock. I often wonder what his home life is like. His wife is a busy executive too, traveling as much as he does. His kids seem to be taken care of by in laws and nannies. He misses them–he has pictures on his computer. But he never has pictures of her. In fact, he rarely mentions his wife. It’s weird.
The stress from the exposure has affected our relationship. He’s snappish and short tempered. He’s a natural introvert and no longer cares to play nice with others, preferring to hide out in his office to solve the world’s problems. I no longer enjoy working for him. It bothers me (more than I care to admit out loud) that he’s not eating and not sleeping. I get angry- doesn’t he see that he can’t be an effective leader if he’s not taking care of himself?
Yes, I see the hypocrisy of it considering I lead my own teams and have a thousand reminders to help me remember breakfast. But that’s different, right?
His stress has thrown our dynamic off. We dance around each other, me shying away from him when he’s in the office because I’m afraid I will say something to cause him to close off. Him doing the same because he’s afraid to say anything that will spook me.
Our dance is exhausting. Today, I am exhausted from that simple exchange. I miss the old Bossman…the one who routinely invaded my personal space just to watch me fidget. The one who would call me from the road to see if I missed him. The one who would stare at me intently until I squirmed. The one who could see through my bullshit before I even opened my mouth to offer it.
This man, this shell of Bossman, is *not* the man I want to follow. I don’t want to ditch him, though. I turned down another job offer recently because I like my work (most days) and the people I work with (most days). I’m compensated fairly, and money is not everything. But also…because Bossman needs me. And I don’t want to add to his stress by leaving.
To be continued…