We have all had experiences working with the boss from hell, but I had one in particular that just wins the award.
I had worked at "Happy Time Pictures" for about a year before I met my district manager's boss, the regional manager. Everyone told me how mean she was and how horrible it was going to be and I was scared shitless to meet her for the first time. I had everything all triple checked and made sure my store was spotless before she came and I made it out alive. Her name was "Cher" and she was so picky that she literally walked in the door and looked through everything and when she couldn't find anything wrong the bitch got on a chair and looked at the top of my door frames so she could say, "Ah ha! See? You need to make sure things like this are clean." But despite the crazy that came out, she did seem to know her stuff and she was nice to me as a relatively new manager and I learned a few things from her visit. I even went so far as to tell people that she wasn't so bad and that I respected her. At first.
Then she came to my studio a year later during our busiest time of year. I was panicking because my DM already told me that she wasn't in a very good mood and I knew that at this time of the year there were a few things that I hadn't completed because of all the customers coming in the door. Two minutes before she comes in, one of the seasonal ladies that I hired shows up to work in jeans which is totally out of the dress code. I freak out and before I can send her home Cher walks in the door. She asks my employee why she is wearing jeans to work and the lady didn't know what to say, so she threw me under the bus and said "Because my manager lets me wear them all the time." Before I know what is happening I am being escorted out to the food court with Cher and my DM and she asks me if I let my employees dress like that. When I tell her that I don't the first thing out of her mouth is "Well, that's obviously a lie." I was in shock. I had heard that she did things like this, but this was not the same person that I had met the first time. I brushed it off but she kept digging into me and wouldn't let up saying things like "Maybe we just have the wrong person for the job here" and "Why are you crying? I haven't raised my voice to you at all." She was classy. By the time I was done I was a puffy, red mess and I got sent on my way home. After the fact my DM told me that Cher was impressed by the job that I was doing but just wanted to see how dedicated I was to the company. She also said Cher made her cry too. I hate crying in front of people period, let alone someone that I work for. This was going to suck ass.
Eventually my store started doing really well; well enough, in fact, that I was promoted to District Trainer. I didn't get paid any more for it, but it meant that someday I would be in line for the DM position. A few months later I moved into the DM in Training spot, which meant that I was not only working closely with my DM, but that I had to work with Cher whenever my DM went on vacation or leave. That was a blast. My DM at the time had decided to step down because Cher had been so cruel to her that she had started having high blood pressure and literally had a panic attack. I never thought I'd have to ask my DM if she needed me to go to her house and drive her to the hospital because a phone call with her boss was so bad.
One day Cher decided that it would be a super fantastic idea to do a workshop for the DMs and DMITs and I got to spend the better part of a week with her and a handful of other people. When I get there only two other people "could make it" and one of them was my DM who was there for a few hours when there was very suddenly a family emergency and she had to leave. The other DM was local, so she got to go home every night which meant that Cher and I were the only ones staying at a hotel. And then it got awkward. I was technically off the clock, but it sure felt like work after the workshop was over. When your boss's boss asks if you will go out to dinner with them it's kind of hard to say no when you can't find an excuse to leave. And I really, really wanted a shot at a DM position coming up, so I rolled with the punches.
I had only ever seen this tiny, bulldog of an older lady wearing slacks and a blazer and when she comes to meet me at my room she is wearing shorts, flip-flops and a sleeveless shirt. It was crazy. We just walked around the hotel looking for a place to have dinner. I was about a foot taller than her and someone at the front desk asked if she was my grandma. So it was awkward. It didn't help that she found herself to be the most amusing person that she knew and had a cough that only a veteran smoker could produce. She told me all about how she quit smoking a few years back, and all I could do when she spoke was look at the scary wrinkles on her upper lip from thirty plus years of sucking on a cigarette that made her look like an extra from Planet of the Apes. I thought that after dinner I would be off the hook, but then we had to walk around and find somewhere they sold candy bars because she had a sweet tooth. The night just kept getting better and better. Two Milky Way bars later, we ended up in the hotel lobby where she basically did an impromptu interview for the job that I wanted. We talked for over an hour and then finally she said she was tired and I got to go to bed thinking that she was impressed with me and that I had got the job.
I could go on into several dramatic things that she pulled over the next few months, but suffice it to say she had been stringing me and another gal along the whole time about the position I wanted. She had actually filled the position with someone else, but by some freak chance they couldn't take it and she grudgingly offered me the position. When she asked me about it I was all too eager to say yes and I probably screwed myself in pay, but I knew my window with her was small, so I jumped the fuck in and I didn't look back!
During my DM training I had to go with Cher and another DM to do a studio visit. This other DM was bombing her visit and made the mistake of telling Cher that we were going to "her best store" that had her "best store manager" who was also her DMIT. You never tell a boss that something, somewhere or someone is your best anything because if there is anything wrong with it then all of your other people, places or things are automatically crap. I learned that lesson here. The store was a mess, the employees were improperly trained and the store manager was ill-prepared to tangle with Cher. Cher first starts asking the store manager questions that she already knew the answer to, then doing the same thing with the district manager, just to show them that they had fucked up. But I will never forget what happened next. The DM is trying her best to hold back tears and I can see them welling up in her eyes, but the store manager couldn't hold her shit anymore and lost it. She went to go excuse herself because she didn't want to cry in front of everyone and this crazy bitch follows her into the ladies' restroom yelling after her "We weren't finished talking! Where do you think you're going?" And then after that had the audacity to come out and say that we are all invited to lunch. Her treat. I had to keep telling myself what a good opportunity this was and that I just had to stick it out to get some experience and if I couldn't deal with her anymore then I'd quit. It was a very long experience.
Cher lived a few states away, so when she came into town I was basically her personal chauffeur. And being in a car with her was not the most pleasant of experiences either. I was the youngest DM in the company and she was the oldest RM and she always made me painfully aware of it. She was always calling me "kiddo" and "sweetie" and saying things about my "lack of experience" and starting or ending sentences with "for someone of your age." It got old really fast but I tried to make the best of it. Thankfully, I have a musical upbringing that included listening to a lot of oldies radio stations, so when we were in the car together I could talk with her about Smoky Robinson and Gladys Knight and made sure that I had all kinds of the music she liked loaded on my iPod. I always tried to steer the conversation towards music, but sometimes the lady wanted to criticize me while I was driving. Not exactly the brightest person ever.
It took me a while to figure out that Cher wasn't just a "mean boss." Even now I don't consider her to be mean, but after a few one-on-one outings with her, I realized that she wasn't all there. One of my favorite crazy Cher stories was going out to lunch at Cheesecake Factory. I don't know if you have ever been, but their menu is like twenty pages long. She sat there for like thirty minutes just reading the damn menu. She snapped at the waitress for "pestering" her to order and then when she left made some off-colored comment about "the help." When she finally was ready to order it was a sight to see. "Ma'am! Ma'am! Yes, I know what I want now, so I hope you have your pencil ready! Okay, I have decided to select the following menu item: I would like the All-American Hamburger and I would like the sesame seed bun, the burger cooked well-done--no pink at all. Do you understand? Alright. I want four pickles, two tomato slices--and they better be red, not green--and please make sure they aren't sliced too thick--maybe about a quarter of an inch--and lettuce--but the leafy kind, not the shredded. Do you understand?" The waitress and I were both floored and I was pretty red in the face after that. When the waitress asked her if she wanted fries or a salad you would have thought she asked Cher if she could crap on the table. It was insane. But when her food came to the table that was when she got all Howard Hughes on me.
She picks up the burger and looks it all over to see if it meets with her specifications. Seemingly satisfied she takes a large bite and gets this look on her face like she smells something terrible. What the fuck is wrong now? "This burger is somehow off," she tells me and then proceeds to flag down the waitress. "Is there anything in this burger that I didn't ask for?" The waitress tells her there isn't and then walks away because apparently she is tired of her shenanigans now. I sit there and watch her pick apart the whole damn burger. I have never seen anyone do this in my entire life. She picks off a piece of the bun and nibbles it, "Well, the bun is okay..." Then she does the same with the lettuce and tomato and every other damn thing on the burger, talking the whole thing out as she goes. I am looking around uncomfortably and just keep nervously sipping water while people pass us by and give me looks of pity. Finally she nibbles a piece of the burger patty and says "Oh! Here it is!" rather loudly. "There is seasoning on this meat! I did not ask for any seasoning." That was the moment that I realized that she was bat-shit crazy.
After the Cheesecake Factory debacle her crazy just kept peeking out more and more. She was being completely irrational and asking for things on conference calls that she had never had us prepare for and we would just have to pull a random number out of our asses to appease her, she would call you up throughout the day "just to see what you were doing" and you could see she was losing it. One thing that we had to do as district managers for "Happy Time Pictures" was to review our studios' photography online each day. She would tell us every day that she was looking at our pictures and that it was clear that we weren't doing our jobs properly. She would make announcements on our calls and send us emails that she saw what was going on out in the field and that she did not approve of it. She made it seem like a huge deal to her and even said on a national call that she didn't like the quality of photography in her region and that it could be so much better. One day I got an email and all it said was "I need you to send me instructions on how to view photography online immediately." I couldn't stop laughing about it for almost a month. She had some nerve.
The crazy just kept coming with Cher and eventually we got a new VP of our division and he realized that when you go through eight district managers in one year that there was probably something wrong. He realized that she didn't understand how to use computers, that she couldn't read reports correctly and that she had no discernible people skills of any kind. Human Resources took statements from us all and finally, after her twenty year reign of terror, Cher was fired.
And yet, I still felt a little bad for her. That's just the kind of person I am. I'm not the kind of person that felt so bad that I couldn't sit here and type of this out, but I am the kind of person who feels a little bit bad or guilty for pretty much everything I do to some extent. I dunno, I guess I'm broken that way.
If there was anything that I learned from the whole experience, it was that sometimes good things really do come to those who wait. I also learned that after working for someone like that, I am pretty confident that I could work just about anywhere. Bring it on world!
***BONUS STORY*** This one is second-hand, but I still found it amusing. Cher took my last DM out to lunch with another manager and they were sitting their eating when all of a sudden she puts her sandwich down and covers her mouth. Apparently all of her front teeth were fake (because she ruined them with her tobacco habit) and her partials fell out in her lunch! They had to take her to an emergency dental office and she had to leave early to go home. Karma's a bitch.