I’ve been a high school teacher for about ten years, and I consider my boss both a mentor and a friend. We see eye to eye and can talk frankly about just about anything work-related. Plus, he respects my personal life and understands that as a mother of two, I have to stick to a very strict schedule. When I had my children, my boss not only understood but encouraged me to stay home, rest and be with my family. I’m totally devoted to my career and to being there for my school “kids” as well as my real ones, and my boss’s attitude toward the work-life balance makes me actually want to carve time into my crazy schedule for after-school activities and tutoring. It’s a nurturing, give-and-take dynamic that consistently works for both of us.
In my previous job, I had a co-worker who I knew for a fact had a crush on me. He was cute and I actually liked him a lot, but for various reasons I wasn’t really in a place to be dating anyone–he and I hung out a lot, but I refused to call it “dating.” Anyway, I ended up leaving my job to go to grad school, and towards the end of my time there, I started to feel a bit carefree. One day as he was leaving (I always stayed late), he convinced me to get on the elevator with him and make out all the way to the first floor! I’m still a bit ashamed, but I have to say: It’s a memory that warms me during long nights in the library.
When I decided to ask for a raise while working an entry-level job in my second career as a magazine editor, I didn’t really know what I was doing. (I hadn’t read success stories like these.) I told my boss that I just couldn’t live on my salary and he replied, “That’s the one thing that you never say.” I always remember that because he was right (even thought it was just so true!). To me it made total sense to ask for more money because I needed it; it’s just a practical issue. To him it was a faux pas. Your boss’s only concern when considering you for a raise is what you’ve done for the company–whether you deserve the raise based on merit, not your lifestyle needs.
I once temped for a summer helping an office receptionist. We were in Ohio, which is one state over from Indiana, and she once yelled at me after I labeled an envelope because, as she put it, “Indianapolis is the state and Indiana is the city.” Another time, she had me create a set of hanging folders labeled with the letters of the alphabet. She then came over to “check” my work and got angry because I’d messed up–”F doesn’t come after E,” she told me. I’m happy to report that ever since, I’ve worked for people who are a lot sharper.
I once had a boss who I think was quite possibly was the worst in the world. If I dressed up for work, she’d stop me and say, “You look nice today. Do you have an interview?” (How are you supposed to respond to that?) She once left an editing note on a recipe story that said: “Please be specific. Do you have to peel the egg before you boil it?” (Think about it.) But the only time I’ve ever cried at work was the morning that I found out that a young woman I’d interviewed for a story had died. The story was about her and her twin sister, and one had been diagnosed with lung cancer—at the age of 19. When her twin called to tell me that her sister had passed away that morning, I lost it. I emailed my boss to tell her what had happened, and to ask if I should order flowers on the magazine’s behalf. She emailed me right back and all it said was: “Did you get the story in time?”
*Names have been changed.