A couple of days ago I had done a review of a YouTube web series titled ‘Girl in the City’ in which a girl named Meera comes to Mumbai to work with a fashion house. Meera’s boss is an arrogant woman who is very hostile towards Meera and constantly bullies her. In my review, I had written that I loved the web series because I could relate to Meera’s situation as I too have worked under some horrible female bosses who made me hate my work, my life and myself. Today, I want to share my experience working one of the few female bosses who made work unbearable for me. I had actually planned to do a single post on all the horrible bosses I worked with but by the time I finished the first one I realised that I had too much to share. So, this will be a series where I will tackle one horrible boss at a time.
Before I start, let me make a few points clear:
– the experiences mentioned in the series are 100% true without slightest of exaggeration
– I will not mention names as it’s unfair to grant my ex-bosses free publicity
Okay now, first let me unsheathe my sword.
My first job was with a financial company that consisted of 90% men, at least that was the case in the first two years of my tenure. Back then, a huge crisis had hit the financial sector and a lot of people had been laid off. My company too had laid off a lot of its employees owing to the prevailing recession. But as soon the situation got better they started re-hiring their old employees that were laid off. One such employee was the female I had the bad luck to work with.
I had worked with the company for a little over a year and in that one year I worked on just two projects that were completely different from each other. Though my job involved writing it was financial writing, which I wasn’t fond of and though I was a commerce graduate I never really liked finance. Not a bit. (If you are wondering why I chose commerce if I didn’t like finance then let me tell you that there is a long story behind it which I will explain some other day.) My work wasn’t the best but it wasn’t the worst either. I was just an average analyst. The bosses with whom I worked till then were all men who were very accommodative and helpful. So, my life was pretty smooth as long as I worked with my male bosses.
One day this woman walks in the company and comfortably starts chatting with people around me. Has it ever happened to you that you see someone for the first time and do not like the person without knowing anything about him or her? That’s what happened to me when I first saw this woman, let’s call her Miss One, she exuded such negative vibes that I took an instant dislike to her without even knowing her name. My colleague told me that she was one of the ex-employees who was asked to leave during the recession and she was here to meet everyone. Ex-employee? Not interesting, I thought to myself and got back to my work. Later, as I was leaving for the day I bumped into her but without saying anything or even looking at her I just kept walking. Let me explain that I wasn’t giving her a cold shoulder, I am a socially awkward person and I feel uncomfortable around new people. I am not a mean girl, I am just terribly shy. I did realise what happened but didn’t bother much as she was an ex-employee who I would never be seeing again. At least that’s what I thought. A few days later that same woman walks in again and this time I come to know that she has joined the company. Though she had nothing to do with me, I still didn’t like the idea of having her around only because of the negativity she brought with her.
She started working on a project different from mine and though I would see her every day, I never tried to smile at her. Again, I wasn’t being mean, that’s just how I am, reclusive. One day, I was summoned to a team meeting where I was told that I would be working on a small project with Miss One, which would have me interacting with our client’s clients and discussing economic news with them. Though the work seemed interesting, the way she looked at me after the announcement defused any excitement I had for the project. She had this sinister look in her eyes that told me I was in deep trouble. She was asked to train me for the project before I went live on it since had no experience with such a project. But the only ‘training’ I got was some links and a word document of previous posts. That’s it. She told me to read it and ask her for any doubt. I knew it right then that she is going to make me pay for being so unfriendly towards her. I missed my other boss who took the trouble of sitting beside me every day to explain how things were done. I missed being pampered. Anyway, I took it in my stride and decided to work hard without taking any help from her.
After a few days, I went live on the project, which meant that I would be writing replies to client’s questions and discussing economic news with them. For the project, I had to study the economic trends and then create an interaction and send it to her for approval before uploading it on the client’s website. In the first few days of any new project, every writer sees a lot of correction in his or her write-up till the writer understands what the reviewer wants. But that wasn’t the case with this woman. Whenever I sent Miss One any write-up she made a lot of changes and though it did prick me a little, I still accepted it thinking that she was my senior and would know better than me. But as days went by, the corrections only got worse. Many times, I noticed that she would only ‘rephrase’ my ideas and send it back to me, which made no sense. She would also add some rude comments stating how bad a writer I was and how I should have picked some other economic event for discussion.
I started hating the second half of the day when I had to work with her. The work wasn’t difficult, in fact, it was enjoyable but this woman insulted me so much that I started losing confidence in myself. My confidence was fragile back then and her soft blow shattered it without any difficulty. Reading bad comments every day, I started believing that I was a horrible writer, good for nothing. My mind kept screaming that she was a vicious woman and I shouldn’t listen to her but I decided to shut my mind and accept my defeat. I couldn’t complain to anyone because I thought she was right about me being a horrible writer and that complaining against her would only expose my shortcomings.
One day, she came to me and told me that she would be on leave for a whole week and that I would have to send my write-up to the company director for review. I can’t tell you how scared I felt listening to that. I remember telling myself to look for another job as the director would now see my work first hand and will certainly fire me right away. I went home and cried. I prayed hard that evening. I prayed to God to give me some super power to be able to write decently. I feared being unceremoniously fired. The next day, I couldn’t concentrate on my morning report only because I was too worried about the afternoon posts. I was trembling with fear. I kept praying to God to help me out of this situation. And when the moment of submitting my write-up arrived, I think I almost cried out of fright. Worse was the wait for the review of my write-up. I still remember how hard my heart was beating the whole time I waited for the review. I even said a small prayer before opening the review mail. And when I did open the mail my eyes couldn’t believe what I saw. Just a few random red strokes here and there and not a single comment. For a person used to seeing almost 98% of a document in red and more comments than content, this word doc was a miracle. I kept staring at the document wondering if this was really happening to me. I felt that God had heard my prayers and had helped me out this time. But I had another four days to go and I knew anything could happen in that time. So I didn’t have my hopes high but I kept praying to God to save me. And my week never went smoother before. The director hardly made any changes in my document and I felt like as if I could write. And that’s when I finally understood what my mind had been screaming for weeks. I wasn’t a bad writer, Miss One was a bad human. I used to think why would anyone criticise someone unnecessarily? There must be something wrong with my work which is why she criticises me. I used to tell myself to work harder and leave no chance for her to make any changes. But no matter how I wrote or what I wrote she always rejected my work. That one-week working with the director opened my eyes and I decided to fight back and show that woman her freaking place.
After she returned, the same old red and white document kept coming back to me. One day, I did thorough research on an important economic news and wrote a post expressing my views on it. To be extra sure, I asked a few of my senior colleagues if my interpretation was right and they gave a thumbs-up to it so this time I was prepared to confront her in case she said I was wrong. When my write-up came back not only was it completely in red, it had a long glaring comment stating that my English was bad. I knew I wasn’t a prolific writer. I knew that my grammar wasn’t (still isn’t) perfect. However, I also knew that my grammar wasn’t bad. I read the comment again and then read my original write-up to spot my mistake by there wasn’t any. I showed the document to a senior colleague and asked him if anything in the document was grammatically incorrect, to which he said that there was nothing wrong with my write-up. And I lost it. I walked up to her and the conversation went something like this:
Me: You mentioned in a comment that my write-up has several grammatical errors but I didn’t find any could you please tell me what exactly was wrong with my write-up?
Miss One: Oh! The sentences were too long and such long sentences are not accepted. In fact, your corrected version with all the red lines was supposed to go to sir (director) but you know I didn’t send it to him. Instead, I sent the clean copy with only a few red lines, so he won’t know your mistakes.
Me: Why did you do that? You should’ve sent it to him. Let him also see how I write. He would have come to know that I don’t really make grammatical errors. I even showed my document to Mr. XYZ and he said that there are no errors in my document.
Miss One: Why did you go to Mr. XYZ? You should’ve come to me I would have told you your errors.
Me: I think I did do that and know what your ‘opinion’ is. Next time please send the corrected version with red lines to sir. I want him to see your corrections and I want to know what he has to say about it.
I did not wait for her reply and turned my back walked off but as I turned I heard her murmur something which I think was a cuss word. She was trying to show that she protecting me from sir who would be displeased with my bad performance when in reality she was protecting herself by not letting sir know her ways of bullying me. Such a shrewd woman, I hated her from the bottom of my…. bottom.(I am not writing ‘heart’ because I have some amazing people there and I do not want her anywhere near them.)
After that day, the comments and red lines kept coming but now I wasn’t fearful at all. I didn’t care what she corrected and what she commented. I started accepting her changes blindly without sparing a glance at it. I had understood that this woman wouldn’t change and that I just have to be prepared for any major action that she could take. I collected documents where she clearly had tweaked my ideas and re-written it as her own, to use as proof against her in case she ever complained of my ‘supposed’ inefficiency. I was waiting for her to do something of that sort but sadly she never complained and one fine day I get a call (because I was on vacation) saying that the client has withdrawn the project and that I would no longer be working with her on it. Normally, I would feel bad whenever any project was discontinued but this was the first time I felt happy for losing a client. Sorry, I know I sound selfish but working with that woman was pure torture and despite my interest in the project I didn’t want to work on it anymore.
I didn’t work on any other project with her ever again except for one week when my boss was on leave and she had to take his place and review my work. I did everything to save myself and convince my boss to select someone else as his substitute. My senior, who was already loaded with work, agreed to review my work but sadly things didn’t work out and I was once again left in her hands as she was the only person free to take on the work. For the first time, I actually pleaded my boss to come soon from his vacation because I was worried about working with that crazy woman. As expected, that woman continued with her personal vendetta against me. From re-writing my whole write-up to screaming about my ‘supposed’ sluggish work, she did everything to put me down in every way. But I held it in reminding myself that it was only for a week.
She didn’t last long in the company and left soon. There were rumours that she was actually asked to leave by the management. The rumour was that everyone in the company was fed up with her and nobody liked her. Ok this part isn’t a rumour. She was an extremely annoying person and people actually disliked her. The rumour was that she had an offer from another place and she asked the company to give her a hike or else she would quit. The HR asked her to quote her expected hike so the management could negotiate. She asked some senior employees around for their advice as to what would be the best quote to which the men (who didn’t like her) deliberately encouraged her to quote a 100% hike. Everyone knew that for the kind of work she did she wasn’t an indispensable employee and in such a case 100% was way beyond reasonable. But that foolish woman fell for their trick and quoted a 100% hike. When the HR conveyed this message to the upper management, the director simply said, “Please ask her to leave”. I still laugh remembering this epic dialogue.