In the job I have presently, I had a boss a few years back who was the WORST boss I’ve ever had, in any job, bar none. She was terrible because she engaged in obvious, and detrimental, favoritism. There were certain people that she liked and those people would get information, and others that she did not, and they did not. When we first got Internet connections, she allowed only one of her favored to have access. In an office of seven librarians, that was just plain stupid. And being her favorite wasn’t always a walk in the park, since she tended to be needy, in an incompetent sort of way, and her favorites had to repeatedly show her how to use the software we used over and over and over again.

One time, her predecessor wrote a scathing e-mail to one of the staff (not me), criticizing her. She felt (wrongly, I believe) that confidential information was given out and she wanted to know who the disloyal one was. She grilled me for an hour and a half, before concluding (perhaps) that I wasn’t the “guilty” party. (I knew perfectly well who had spoken with my former boss, but did not find the need to rat that person out, since I didn’t think that person had done anything wrong.)

So, when I got a new permanent boss in 1998, I was very wary. Mary SEEMED nice, but I was suspicious. I made a point of telling her, preemptively, things I disliked about my previous boss. I had taken one of those personality assessment tests a couple years earlier, and I gave her a copy of mine, highlighted to show her things that her predecessor had violated, and I shared stories too. Here’s one:

I was assigned the task of changing our intake form. I was given a week. On day four, she asked, “Is it done”” “No.” On day five, she asked, “Is it done?” “No.” On day six, she asked, “Is it done?” “Yes.” (I couldn’t bear to hear her ask again.) There was some person who was touring our offices, and she picked up the intake form and said, “Here’s the intake form I designed.” It was an intake form, but this nevertheless INFURIATED me. If she had said, “This is the intake form WE designed,” I would have had no problem.

So all of this anger and frustration I dumped on poor Mary, and she magnanimously listened to it all. In fact, she was so kind, it was almost certainly I who came up with her nickname, the Hoffinator, because she was so very unlike Ah-nold, very go with the flow. Our department was downsized less than six months on, from seven librarians and a secretary to four librarians, and she deftly recalculated the budget.

We moved to a different building, and she and I shared the WORST office I’ve ever been in. The shortest distance from the MIS (techies’) office to the state director’s office was THROUGH our office. So people were constantly saying, “Excuse me,” as they traversed through. How either of us got any work done, I’ll never know.

Since my desk sat in front of hers, I became a de facto screening agent for Mary. She’d often sit at her desk for lunch, but her phone would constantly ring. I would answer her phone and suggest that the person call back after lunch.

We played music, and she was the most accommodating of the other three librarians. The only things I couldn’t play in her presence were Willie Nelson and Neil Young. (Anne, one of my former colleagues, by contrast had a list of about 20 artists, starting with Bruce Springsteen, which could not be played within her earshot.)

By the time we moved upstairs, she was now the Associate State Director, appropriate since she had been doing many of those duties anyway. We now each have our own offices. So now, we make a point of having lunch regularly to keep in touch. We have these wide-ranging conversations about politics, music and life, that are exhilarating.

Happy birthday, Hoffinator. You turned to be all right.

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

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