Though I do not at all support Phil Anselmo as a human being, I can't help but think "Walk" by Pantera is perfect for this cathartic blog post about business managers good and bad! Click the title to listen on Spotify!
"I can't figure out what goals my boss wants me to accomplish daily."
"I don't know what my boss expects from me."
If you've said this in regard to your workflow on your job, there's a likelihood your manager doesn't know how to lead you. Leadership, to those that lead, comes naturally, and it can be taught. One's willingness to listen and dissect problem areas in business dealings with employees can make or break the foundation of leadership roles in the workplace.
I am going to move away from generally speaking and focus on my career as a filmmaker. As cinematographer and director of several short films, I begin setting goals for my crew before we ever set foot in our work spaces. The last thing I want to do while directing groups of multiple people is to establish power hierarchies and workflows while in the middle of the job. Hours can be wasted by having to explain why I am making decisions, and provisions can be taken before starting work to establish the order of demands.
I've worked on sets with overbearing directors whose power is forced on those working for them, and I've worked on sets where several people believed their power was precedent over others because of the roles they filled. To help you with the way film set command is divvied up, the director is the leader over artistic choices and the producer is the leader over business choices. So, while the director's primary goal is to establish relationships with their scripts and actors, the producer's job is to facilitate the needs of the director by acquiring the right workers (crew & cast).
As I seem to be a lifetime employee and never a manager, I've had a veritable display of managers since adolescence. My favorite manager of all was at Hibbett Sporting Goods in 2003. Jay was the best manager I've ever had. He treated all of us like his children, spoke to us with firm compassion, and was considerate of our time outside of work. He was hilarious, had a bright smile, and let me make fun of him for shaving his eyebrows consistently. To this day, he's the only person I've ever met who shaved their eyebrows. My favorite memory of Jay is walking into work for the day and being greeted by him writhing at the checkout counter, screaming for me to go quickly over to him because he needed me.
When I reached the counter, he was putting all of his weight on the counter and his right leg was drawn up tightly, the striation of his calf blistering as I ran to aid him. I asked his what was wrong. He remarked his calf was drawn up in a charliehorse, and the only way to relieve the pain was for me to grab his calf and squeeze it as tightly as I could.
Being the diligent worker I was, I bent over behind him and grabbed hold of his calf, wrenching down on the muscles in an attempt to help him relax the muscle. A couple of brief moments into holding onto his leg, Jay farted immensely, sending a plume of gas toward my face. Immediately, his muscle rescinded and Jay fell over the counter at the waist and began laughing hysterically. Jay, in all of his glory, managed to have to fart the moment I walked into work, and decided it would be in good fun to capture me in a prank that would send the room into a spiral of laughter.
Jay shared in my love for flatulence and pranks. Workers often had to be reprimanded by him because we'd gone one step too far sometimes, and he was always so generous and loose with his punishment. I have tremendous memories of Jay, and I took getting farted on in stride because every day at work was a masterclass in how to conduct managing a business. Now, yes, in the 2018 climate of workplace affairs, Jay's gas could have gotten him into some trouble if I'd been a lesser person. We don't want to practice these type of habits on people who don't desire to be ribbed and are looking for professionalism by-the-book.
But, I wouldn't trade this memory, or the whole setup of getting pranked, for ten semi-serious workplace employers. Jay drove past the business on his day off and caught all of the employees throwing Nerf footballs over the clothing racks. Instead of punishment and chastising, Jay asked us to instead try to not throw the ball around the front of the store so patrons couldn't see us. We took to the back end of the medium-sized suite to toss baseballs and footballs when we were bored. Jay knew we were responsible employees who would own up to our shortcomings if something was broken during our leisure times. But, also, being a sporting goods store helped us because much of the items in-store weren't breakable, rather they were designed to take a beating.
I wanted to try out for a semi-professional football team during the summer of 2003, but lacked the money to properly equip myself. Jay bought my cleats (which I still use today), offering to let me pay him back when my paycheck came in, and then he gave me a Saturday off to go try out. How many employers have I had in my life that treated me like their child? Just Jay. In the 18 years I've been in the workforce, Jay was the only man who made my workday feel like time at my second home. In many ways, I've been pursuing this kind of business ever since, with absolutely no luck. But, as a future business owner, I know exactly the man whom I look up to to guide me as a compassionate manager. I'll forgo fogging my employees in my gas, though, unless they're blood relatives.
I worked for a company recently who, at the beginning of the sixth week of a seven-week period where I needed to maintain 32+ hours scheduled a week to acquire health insurance, decided to schedule me 28 hours. When I asked for my manager to make up the difference, he told me he couldn't because there was no work to do. While this makes sense if the logic to be extrapolated is "we only work you when we have work for you", how it doesn't work is I was basically a service desk representative for an audiovisual business at a resort. And, my basic daily functions were to be in-house if customers needed new equipment for their seminar, to install seminar equipment purchases, and to assist the customers if they had any issues with their equipment. I sat (with nothing to do) until something to do arose. It was that way the first six months I worked there.
In the preceding five weeks, I clocked well over 32 hours and no issues were had. However, I'd been having to clock in early and late to ensure I reached 32 hours. I'd made 32.05 hours on the second week of working toward insurance only because I clocked in 15 minutes early one day that week, and I constantly had to eyeball my allotted time-clock punches. The entire process of working like this for insurance seemed to have been met with resistance on my employer's end, given I'd reminded them I needed to complete the next two weeks to successfully apply for a healthcare they offered, which required the aforementioned seven-weeks-at-thirty-two-hours routine in succession.
What I received was blowback for asking for 4 hours to cover this request, which led to the manager and myself having a verbal scuffle that ended with raised voices. In fact, during that altercation, he yelled at me, called what he was doing "abuse toward you", and followed that up with "I speak first and you shut up, and I'll tell you when you can speak". The previous week, I'd managed to work a scheduled 38 hours and only managed to assemble and teardown a pop-up screen in that entire time. I had been working to do nothing, and my job was more complicated when I asked for simple courtesies than any job I'd ever had to that point in my career.
All of this nonsense left me with an overwhelming impression that my boss certainly didn't want me around, and the place we worked for cared even less to help me acquire what they required of me for said insurance. There was resistance every moment of my day, yet I was paid a good deal of money as just an assurance employee, someone sitting in a chain-link cage with a couple hundred thousand dollars in audio equipment behind me. I have every conversation from my interactions with staff recorded on my phone, in the off chance I'll need to one day prove my innocence to an attorney. This job was hell, and I felt unsafe and embattled with fear every day I worked there.
At the notification I could move my desk to another part of the cage, I did so. When the same boss who struggled to come up with 4 extra hours for me saw this after giving me notification to do so, he lost his temper and demanded I return the room to the order it was before. I can't put into perspective how clean I am as a professional audiovisual technician, since the only way to describe myself would be to show you pictures of my clean workspace. I never made a mess at this job. In fact, I applied ergonomics to the moving of the desk as to clean the space even more.
Yet, he went back on his word, due likely to what I'd describe as sociopathic tendencies with latent and dominant obsessive-compulsive disorder. I'd followed each of his rules to a T, and yet, it wasn't good enough. He'd often change the narrative construct of what he wanted done to suit a moment where he could display power over me in front of other employees of the resort. I could sense when he was using lies and diversion tactics to keep me off-center, and was so good at it I rarely had an opportunity to display proof of his abuses. When I did manage to catch him in an unfolded lie in front of others, he'd turn the tables on me, back out of conversation and victimize himself by saying "this is why we can't work together, because you don't listen".
Oh, my friends, I'm always listening. I have thirty minutes of audio recorded from several interactions where he'd yell obscenities at me over something he'd intentionally confused. It was all smoke and mirrors, and I inevitably sounded like the crazy one until people in the facility finally did catch up to his immense and oft-changing lies. He caused me a great deal of emotional stress from his outbursts and the way in which he craved power over my workspace, a workspace he'd always maintained was mine, until I made the space feel more like my own.
Sometimes, you've got these great jobs with great employers and you've got to do less-than-great tasks. In the latter case above, I had a great job with an awful boss and I got to do some better-than-great tasks, all of which he made nearly impossible to find any joy. I got to work for billionaires, dignified professionals in a myriad of businesses, and yet I struggled to sleep at night due to his constant berating of my character. I could struggle for an hour (and I have, hour after hour) over why my manager enacted such responses to my workplace abilities, and I've never come to a conclusion as to why he made my life so hard. I believe it likely he was abusing the clock-in system (an online app), and was working seven days a week, telling his remote management sixty miles away there was no way he could ever take off work because it was just simply too busy.
His work was his life, and if he proved I could maintain 32 hours a week and claim myself for their insurance coverage, that would mean he needed to also take a day off. In the seven months I worked there, he never had a single day off, and was at work doing whatever it was he did in that work van for hours on end by 7am daily. I'd clock in, work 9 hours, and go home. He'd be in his office staring at Japanese hentai (animated porn), or be out in the van at another building several miles away, though he had no reason to be there. He'd peruse buildings on the property, making his rounds to see if the Chinese women working in the kitchens would take to him. He'd drive the company van home, if ever he had the opportunity.
Meanwhile, he was calling the corporate office telling them I didn't have the right license designation to drive the van; a diversionary tactic he employed for each of the seven months I worked there. I drove the van three times before they found out I had an Arkansas license (it was a company in Missouri I had been working for). The silly thing about the whole van issue was the license was a regular Class-D that basic automobile drivers needed to pilot any regular vehicle. The catch in this you've maybe not picked up on is that he perceived the van to be "his", even though it was the van for the entire facility, and in turn, also mine to drive to haul equipment. He offered once to "allow" me to use my personal vehicle to haul their equipment, which I turned down immediately due to the tremendous legal issue I'd be presented with if I were hauling their equipment and had a wreck in my personal vehicle. He spent all of his time telling me how important he was, only to never be acknowledged in front of big-wig types, even though he claimed they'd asked for his help specifically.
He loved the anonymity of being a remote employee, but when the responsibility of caring for another employee (I was the first in over a year they'd hired for the position) was thrust upon him, he crumbled and really made my career hard there. If his big bosses knew he slept in his office from 9am-2pm thrice a week instead of "being so busy I can't not work", they'd have put the kibosh on his being there seven days a week. I am stricken with sadness over having to relive this sordid affair with a workplace that didn't care for my presence, and a boss who felt threatened by my existence.
For your (further) information, this man, on the beginning of my seventh week trying to achieve health insurance, wrote me off the schedule entirely, and completely ignored my calls and texts to see when my work shifts would start for the week. Never knowing when I'd work was one of the many other games he played with me. Even though I'd be sitting on my ass 8 days a week, I wouldn't know my schedule until about 9 hours before the fiscal work week started.
So, for example, on Sunday of nearly every week for my entire career there, at around 9pm he'd text me to tell me to be at work on Monday at 8am. He disregarded that every work week was the same for me. I came, I sat down, and I waited for anyone to need my assistance. This was an easily-planned scheduling, as far as I'm concerned. Yet, to keep me totally off-balance, he'd wait until the last possible, most illogical moment to tell me to be at work... at the same time as last week, and the week before, and the week before, etc.
Time off was another tale altogether. I never had time off available to me, despite asking months in advance. I asked for May 11th & 12th off to take my mother to visit my grandmother, only to be shot down two months in advance because we'd "be too busy". On May 11th, I arrived at work at 9am. By 9:22am, my boss stepped in and told me to go home because there was nothing for me to do for the day. On May 12th, I had car trouble ten minutes away from work, and my boss told me to go home after I fixed my car because there was nothing for me to do for the day. You see what I'm saying about lies and not being able to back them up?
The forecast of our business was these events I worked were scheduled months, sometimes years, in advance, and there was never a pop-up event scheduled at the facility that would lend credence to his notion that we might be busy. So, when I asked two months previous to that date, he knew exactly the work load we'd encounter, and he knew there was nothing scheduled then. So, what he did was give me May 13th & 14th off, the Sunday and Monday following, as some kind of ill-received apology. By that time in my career there, and with hundreds of lies to try to keep up with, I couldn't view his letting me off two days after when I'd asked as anything but passive-aggressive bullshit by a sociopathic asshole.
And yet, I feel a strong sense of empathy for my former boss, something he never had for me during the denied requests for time off or extra hours to complete a mandatory structure of full-time work so that I may have health aid. He cared so little about me and about maintaining his facade, he put me through an emotional bind daily. Every day was detailed by a new issue that arose. I spent two weeks tucking my beard in because he decided I needed to shave it. I will never shave my beard, but I did shorten the overall length of the beard through a tuck to about 2 inches in length on my person.
He told me to wrap extension cables for an entire week. I did so in the professional over-under way I was taught in film school. And, after taking one day off due to an illness, I came back to work to see he'd spend the weekend Saturday before my return Monday re-wrapping the cables in the same way he'd had them before. God damnit, the feeling I have in my chest right now is undeniable, and it's been so long since I worked for that company. Between the bad management and the even worse blind-eye-turned employer, this was the quite worst job I'd ever worked in my 18 years of professional workforce relations.
So, should I detail any further what kind of manage I am when it comes to my film sets? I can't imagine you'd read anything about the latter employer and find much emotionally redeeming out of it other than "how not to be a total prick to your employees 101".
A manager manages people, he/she facilitates a learning environment, enriching the employees understanding of customer relationships or field-oriented talents. A manager doesn't constantly lie to you to make sure you can't use the van, or feel belittled around your clients, or enforced to adhere to rules that don't exist in the employee handbook. A great manager emboldens you to expand your talents, and to see the bigger picture for the business you're working for.
And, maybe a great manager doesn't fart on his employees? Your mileage on that may vary.