This post is inspired by a quick little message I got the other day, via LinkedIn.
An old boss who always seemed to terrorize me, and was never satisfied with my work and who never praised me, came out of nowhere to congratulate me on my latest promotion.
I asked a friend (who was in the trenches with me at the time and knew this person well) if I was terminally ill, or if he was terminally ill. She laughed. Then we made jokes about the old jokes about he and I having sexual tension.
I thanked the ex-boss for the compliment and noted that it meant a lot to hear it from him that he was proud of me.
He quickly responded that he has always loved my grit and determination and advised me to never lose it.
I really thought my days on the Earth were numbered and that the Rapture would commence once I closed the email. But I smiled. I felt validated and was left thankful, the Good Lord gave me a little more time.
Some folks would say I shouldn’t care, and what this old boss thinks of me shouldn’t matter. But he finally stepped up, and damn it, I do care. It felt nice. I told you I was awesome, mean boss! Now you see me! Ha! I still became somebody anyway!! I’m still in the industry! Ok, that was immature.
I’ve had a couple of bosses who were terribly hard on me early in my career. I mean, I really felt like it was bordering on abuse or hazing and I’m not exaggerating or complaining like today’s young folks who are really wack (for a prime example of our über entitled next generation, read this http://doanie.wordpress.com/2010/02/23/mean-professor-tells-student/).
But from time to time, when I just couldn’t take it anymore, I would have moments where I’d face off, toe-to-toe with those folks, job security be damned. When I had those moments, I secretly dared them to fire me, because I knew I was right.
There was even one instance with the boss that I mentioned, who told me to my face he felt I was too green and that my well-connected and highly respected recommendations were “overembellished.”
So I went off. And I even went as far as saying that despite all of that, I wasn’t going to quit, or be pushed into quitting. So if you are going to fire me, you call security and have me escorted out. I didn’t come all this way, and move my life to a vastly different part of the country, not to do what I came to do.
When I took another job, this editor and another difficult editor did say I reminded them of themselves as a young reporter and that they were so hard on me, because, well it was a hard business. They congratulated me and wished me well. While I disagree with how far they took the tough love without balancing it with necessary praise and acknowledgement of improvement, hey, it was a life lesson. I did get a tougher skin.
A second boss, who was at the job I landed in after the first mean boss, may have been even rougher than the first.
I was on assignment with this boss out of the country, and when he said something out of line, I looked at him dead in the eye and said, “You are impossible. Your expectations for this situation are completely unreasonable.”
He looked back at me and said that no one has ever said that to him. He actually smiled. The next day, we were having dinner at the top of the CN tower in Toronto, on him.
He was angry when I quit that job, but I told him I was underpaid and the conditions of the workplace were not conducive to my growth and things that I was promised upon taking the job never happened. I have to make the right business decision for myself.
In turn, he held my last check, citing that according to my contract, I had to pay back my relocation expenses and upon receipt, I could then have my last check.
I negotiated a signing bonus with my new job, to get me out of that wack deal. A mentor loaned me money to pay my rent until the whole thing was resolved.
Sometime after that madness, a person I deeply respect said that boss actually spoke highly of me and said he respected me.
To hear that from such a complicated person, who had ego that rivals that of Kanye West, I was shocked. Especially since he was so emotional about me quitting and was heard saying that I had no integrity for breaking my contract.
So what’s the point of all of this?
I often hold back. Sometimes it seems like I back down. But every now and then there are the moments where I stand up, put the fear aside and stand up for myself and for what I really believed was right, no matter how intimidating the person was/is/ or pretends to be.
And in both situations, I may have found out way after the fact, but I eventually found out that through those moments, I gained their respect.
That said, I didn’t cuss anyone out, or say something disrespectful, but I firmly stood my ground and spoke my truth. I’m sure God was looking out for me, because maybe other people have gotten fired for doing such things, but I still stand by it. Sometimes you have to show people that you demand respect no matter what level of the game you are in.
The sweet little LinkedIn message was a reminder to, as that ex-boss said, never lose my grit and determination.
In some cosmic way, he might have been right on time with that…