Angels and Assholes #6...Perspective

Do nice guys (angels – either male or female) finish first or last? The answer to this question is undoubtedly going to involve cultures, once again. Corporate vs. non-corporate, for example. But, before we get into that. Let’s take a look at some of the bosses we’ve had. I’ve began interviewing some acquaintances about a-hole bosses and, if not angels, at least nice guy bosses. Also, it appears my blog (never thought I’d have a blog, kinda blows my mind) is going to get picked up by The Reporters, Inc.—a not-for-profit journalistic production house promoting social awareness and encouraging social change. It has thousands of on-line followers, so not sure where this on-going discussion of A-hole and Angel bosses (and who finishes first or last) might go, but if you have a great story about one or the other, please leave a comment. Also, while you’re at it, check out The Reporters, Inc. website. It’s a great concept.

I’ve been fortunate to have been self-employed most of my life, so it would have been a little disturbing to be an a-hole boss to myself. Well, on second thought, that’s not entirely true. When you’re getting going in your own business, there are times you gotta tell yourself to do things you don’t want to do…like work your ass off. But, once again, trade-offs.

Even as a high school teacher during my first career (13 years), I considered myself self-employed. I did what I wanted to in my classes, and principals, who might have considered themselves to be my bosses, pretty much left me alone… except for my last year and a half. Some schools had been closed in my district due to declining enrollment and there were too many administrators with seniority, so they got dumped into my high school and were assistant principals in charge of departments…mine being Language Arts/ Social Studies. Every morning our assistant stood by my door as I wandered in, usually on time for homeroom at 7:35. We were supposed to be at our desks at 7:00, I guess, according to our contract. I even admit to getting there at, maybe, around 7:40 once in a while, but always before 7:55, when home room ended. Besides, I had my student assistant, Desiree – a cool gal – transferred to my home room, and she took attendance every day anyway, which is what home room is really for…that and for students and teachers to wake up.

There he was, the assistant, every day, waiting at the door to my room, looking at his watch. I never mouthed off…I mean didn’t he have something better to do?... but I’d make a face or something when I walked in the room, and the kids would all laugh. Although I’m sure this pissed him off, it was a great way to bond with the home room kids, wake them up, and get them on their way to a higher education. I wasn’t concerned about being there at 7:00 AM because I coached, directed a play, and did the literary magazine. Since I was often still at school at 7:00 PM, I didn’t worry about 7:00 AM!

So, at year’s end, the assistant has to write an ‘evaluation’ on my performance during the year. All he wrote was: “Tim wasn’t at school, on time, once all year.” I have to admit to being a little proud: I mean a perfect record! Anyway, in spite of the fun, I’m pretty sick of the assistant by the end of the year, and with schools closing and teachers (NOT administrators --- who don’t TEACH and administer very little) – getting laid off and losing their jobs, morale is low. I’m going: this evaluation is certainly NOT good for my morale. So, to make a point, I request a meeting with the main man – the principal, ‘Doc,’-- and our assistant guy. I mean, not being totally witless, I realize our assistant has brought my transgressions to the attention of Doc, who has not seemed too concerned since I haven’t heard anything from him.

We sit down and I mention that the soccer team I coached went undefeated; the play (improvisational – worth a lot of brownie points) was a huge success; I had built up the creative writing program from ziltch to two competitive classes (all I could handle – ya gotta not only read what the students write but digest it); and the literary magazine sales had increased from 30 to 300 in the first year to a reported 500 this last year. But all I get is: “Tim wasn’t on time for school once this year!?”

I look at the assistant and ask him what time he leaves school. He responds: 2:35 (on the dot) when school is over. I point out that a lot more things happen after he leaves at 2:35 ( and goes home and sits on his fat ass –of course I didn’t say this, only thought it…but in my Catholic up-bringing just as bad) than between 7 and 7:35 in the morning (we all know from his bored secretary that he reads the paper until wandering over to my door).

So, in one little story we have the a-hole and angel boss: Doc hands our a-hole assistant the evaluation and tells him maybe he should revisit it. I never saw what he might have accomplished with the revisit,but my angel of a boss supported an underling teacher rather than a fellow administrator!

Now, I’m obviously not a psychiatrist, although I plan on getting some professional opinions in the future (not about myself, but the angels and a-holes), but here’s my take:  Doc had perspective. He attended many of the evening school events, and, I’m guessing wasn’t, like our assistant, always at his desk by 7:00 AM. He, I’m pretty sure, realized a good teacher was integral to the school, our assistant not so much so. The assistant, although not really an a-hole, needed to justify his job and validate himself somehow, and so saw a need to make sure I was following the “rules.” I don’t believe he had perspective…along with a few other traits.

Oddly, the next year I quit teaching half-way through the year (leaving the assistant, hopefully, to find another doorway to haunt). Doc was going to retire and I had an encounter with his replacement -- a boss from hell, that I’ll illustrate next week. You got one or had one; a boss from hell or one from heaven…tell me about it.