I’m really struggling with my relationship to my boss. In part, this is because I’ve worked mostly autonomously for my entire adult life. Now, I see my boss and interact with her every day.
Note: it’s really hard for me not to write a hilarious post right now, because it would be easy to do. It would be easy to make fun of my boss, but I’m going to try not to do that. In fact, so many moments in my relationship with my boss should’ve been made into episodes of The Office. However, I’m going to try to be real about the way I ache over this relationship right now.
My boss is an interesting lady. She’s raised a bunch of kids – none of whom were hers. They were her siblings’ children, and she took them in when they had nowhere else to go, because their parents had mental breaks. There is an elderly lady my boss visits once a week. She helps out at her church.
I so wish I could admire her properly for those actions, but she’s so… aware of them. Instead of keeping her right hand from knowing what her left has done, she seems to be holding a sign with her right hand that’s a constant headline of what the left has done.
Taking in and raising another person’s children is HUGE. I don’t want to miss that. She gave up much of her life willingly.
My boss is the type who exerts power as a default. I think this comes from becoming a mother abruptly, rather than growing into it as the child grows. When a woman takes on a teenager, I think it’s easy to view her role as one of the enforcer. With teenagers, and especially teenagers who’ve not had strong parenting previously, it’s important to be able to say, “No,” and say it loudly.
I think that’s why my boss interacts with the people around her as if she’s been appointed the enforcer. The volunteers who are almost all older than she is call her “Mom.” They do so teasingly, but she takes pride in the sense of authority that comes with that title. She doesn’t quite get that only half of them call her “mom” with any affection.
Her previous job experience comes from working at Intuit, where she did tech-y things, and moved up through the company into mid-level management. Her career advancement was through hard work, and despite the absence of a college degree. Her time at Intuit created in her a strong respect for process documents and the chain of command. She won’t do anything outside of the normal process without permission from her direct superior, regardless of how insignificant such an action might be, and she sees it as incompetence and rebellion when anyone else does anything outside of what’s written on the process doc.
My boss is proud of her Christianity, and talks a lot about her good works. Along with that, she’s judgmental, believing she knows what’s right and that all people should conform to her sense of morality. She doesn’t take the Bible seriously as the Word of God, but sees it more as a bunch of parables and metaphors, so the majority of her beliefs about morality are centered in church culture.
My boss is insecure about her appearance and her weight. She’s made a New Year’s resolution to lose weight, and has given up… well… most of her diet for the foreseeable future. She points it out when I eat anything she can’t eat on her diet, and does so in a sort of, “That’s a lot of calories,” kind of way.
My boss panics and/or gets angry when a day strays off its intended course. If a volunteer doesn’t follow a process laid out in their training, she thinks less of them and expects them to continue “failing” as we go forward. She also continuously admonishes me for my tendency to give such volunteers the benefit of the doubt. She believes I see them with rose-colored glasses. Her greatest mission with regards to me and my performance seems to be to squash any amount of patience, peace, and flexibility I have with people who draw outside of the lines.
It’s a really difficult relationship, because she seeks to make me into something I don’t want to be, and believe I should, in fact, never be.
My relationship with her reminds me of my relationship with my sister in a lot of ways.
You see, I’m the worst person in the world for someone to try to control. It’s not that I’m rebellious or competitive… I know some people see me that way. I actually think I have something more akin to tunnel vision. I set my view on what I want to be, and drive towards that without regard to anything else.
My boss wants me to be less forgiving, which is in direct opposition to what I want to be. She wants me to see the volunteers’ flaws, but I intentionally choose to see the best parts of them.
I’m coming from a place where I was routinely asked the same question 20 times a day, and I repeated my answer (calmly for the most part) every time I was asked… a place where I had to be at peace with those under my authority making mistakes, often intentionally and/or maliciously… a place where I never thought it was within my power to eliminate bumps in the road… I truly saw my job as providing unavoidable opportunities for kids to learn, and continuing to love them when they were least lovable.
So… when volunteers do something that’s in a gray area, it hardly registers to me. It’s just part of the day. It’s to be expected. Of course, there are times when they really cross a line, and we need to sit down and talk, but that’s a rare need in my view. I’d also prefer a casual mention of it the next time we see them to sitting them down and formally telling them they’ve done something wrong and we’ve documented it in their charts.
For the most part, I believe my job is to equip volunteers to see patients. I believe I am to fuel them, advocate for them, and make it easy for them to serve.
I think my boss believes our job is to keep them from breaking rules.
It’s just a really painful dynamic with my boss right now. My hope is that we will work smoothly together to complement each other in the future, but, I worry that her heart is in the wrong place and that she’s a rude person who oscillates between feeling sorry for herself and undiluted pride.
I try to pick my moments. I try to show her the grace I wish she would hold for others. I try to be gentle and helpful. I try not to point out her hypocrisies. I try not to lose it when she insults me or others.
And it’s been okay. There have been a few times when I believe I said something that’s helping her grow.
And as much as I didn’t want to write a comical post about all of this, the dynamic just reminds me soooo much of Michael Scott. Of course Michael made a few big sales, and all of the characters developed an involuntary affection for him, but sometimes, he just… well…