Nancy Roman

Hang Up.

Pointy-haired Boss

Image via Wikipedia

Just about everyone gets a bad boss sooner or later.

At my age, I’ve been through several.  My motto has always been, “Just Outlast the Bastard.”

For the most part, that mantra has worked pretty well.  Executives seem to either rise in the organization or leave.  So I just hang on till the obnoxious boss is gone.

I’m lucky now to have one of the good ones.  But a few years ago I had my most terrible boss ever. The sight of her car in the parking lot was enough to make my heart pound.  I persisted for two years, waiting for her to move up or move on, but I began to realize that she expected to take care of me first.

If I made a decision on my own, I should have consulted her.  If I consulted her, I didn’t have any initiative.  If I worked late, I was slow.  If I finished early, I was uncommitted. if I laughed, I must be ridiculing her. Okay, she had me on that one.

I’m sure down deep she was a wonderful person.  She loved her kids sincerely, for example.  I mean, why else would she have had three nannies in two years?

The day it became apparent that I wouldn’t outlast her was the day of my annual review.  After more than a decade of reviews as glowing as the Versatile Blogger Award, I was suddenly substandard in every category. I had considerable management responsibilities myself, and Bad Boss said that I was a horrible manager.

“You have no management skills at all,” she said.

Which actually is true, but I’d manage to conceal that for lots of years, just by hiring smart people and leaving them alone.

So I was willing to suck that up, until she offered me this advice:  “You need to be tougher.  You need to be more like ME.”

Well, I had an overwhelming, uncontrollable urge, that at another time in my life (that is, non-menopausal), I would have been able to suppress.  But I said it.

“I don’t want to be more like you.”

It was an unwise thing to say, not to mention very mean.  If I had it to do over again, I wouldn’t say it.  But since I can’t do it over, I might as well be glad I did say it.  But that was pretty much the end of my career at that company.

Looking at it now, from a happier place, I can see that lasting two years under miserable conditions was a success in itself.  And so I offer this little secret that helped me get through.

Just hang up.

On Voice Mail, that is.

When you get a voicemail from your Bad Boss, hang up.  Slam the phone down.  Right in mid-sentence.  Cut the idiot off.  Then play it again, and do it again. Sometimes I slammed the phone down several times before I ever made it through to the end of the message.  It felt awesome.

Just make sure you don’t do it in real time.


  1. Great post…Happy you in a much happier place.
    I have really only had one really mean boss…her name was Bea Phepps…I repeat…BEA PHEPPS…she made me clean up the microwave after HER Lean Cuisine exploded in it! Bea Phepps you sucked!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


  2. Honey, I know what you mean. I worked 11 years for a bi-polar, ex-Marine that owned a beer distributorship. That meant that happy hour every afternoon (his, not mine) at 1:30 and live gernades in his desk drawer that faced my desk head on. Heck, my husband built him a secret gun room in his office that would armed a small army alone. One day I looked up to see him looking at me, down the barrel of a gun he was cleaning. (He had a bullet hole in his bathroom wall from an empty gun he was cleaning) Needless to say I hit the floor in a nano-second while he laughed at me. The third time he did this to me, I reached into my purse and pulled my 9mm out and calmly told him that mine was loaded and the safely was off. That’s all it took for him to not do it again. Yep… you don’t mess with us Texas girls.


    • See, I knew there had to be a bright side to my experience…No guns!


  3. My gosh I should have proofed that before I hit the comment button. Sorry for the horrible errors!


  4. I had an editor who insisted that I write a story about a certain topic every day even if there wasn’t any new news on this certain topic. Well one day I didn’t write a story because there honestly wasn’t one way in hell it could be written about or advanced any more than it already had, and when I got home, he called to tell me I could never do that again.

    The next day, he called me in his office to say “You know how I called you to say could never do that again. I wanted to make sure you knew, you could never do that again.” I should mention that he sounded exactly like the boss from Office Space.

    I think I lasted another three weeks.


  5. bigsheepcommunications

    It brings me such joy to know you actually said, “I don’t want to be more like you.” It may have doomed you, but what a way to go out!


  6. I know what you mean about things spilling out in a menopausal moment of truth. I say and even think things I probably never would have before. In some ways it is frightening, in others it is liberating. I just need to watch when, and with whom, I am speaking the truth.

    I had a boss who pinched me on the arm (he thought it was fun!!!) and left a rather large bruise. He was simply awful. I loved my duties and responsibilities, but hated working for him. Each day in the parking lot I would have to pry my fingers from the steering wheel and force myself to go in the building. It was pure torture.

    The upside, however, is that it finally got me off my butt and into nursing school, and I have never looked back.


  7. Oh, I’m so glad you said it!!! One of the things I struggle with most is walking the fine line between ‘being nice’ and ‘being walked all over.’ Sometimes I can’t tell the difference between taking the high road and letting someone get away with murder.

    II’m very glad to hear you’re in a happy work place now (me too :)!


  8. Another funny but true post. When I got fired two years ago, I had to uncontrollable urge to smack him in the face with the clipboard he was clutching to his chest like a cartoon squirrel. (See the “About” page on my blog if you’d like to know WHY I was canned). I’m glad I controlled that uncontrollable urge though, because I might have been arrested!!


    • Do you remember the movie, “Broadcast News?” After they laid everyone off, the boss said, “If there’s anything I can do for you…?” And the departing employee said, “You could die soon.” I loved that moment.


  9. Sometimes ya gotta do whatcha gotta do. Sometimes there even IS a silver lining.

    The company I worked for was downsizing in the beginning of the 90s just like the rest of the world. I couldn’t be laid off (20-year + seniority) but was sent OUT of the office into the factory to drive an overhead crane (hopefully I would quit). My really bad boss thought he was helping protect another worker who was going to get laid off anyway (everyone from 8 years down were being let go) and told me to my face he wanted HER and not me. How do you work in a dangerous enviornment under those conditions? I reported him. There was an investigation. I was moved back into the office and I have no idea what happened after that. Probably nothing to him.

    Sometimes flying by the seat of your pants works. Thank goodness.


  10. That hanging up thing on voice mail isn’t just for bosses is it? I can think of at least 3 people I know that I’d like to hang up on…at least sometimes.


    • You may use the hang-up on anyone you like.


  11. First of all, thanks so much for being my very first “Like” since starting my blog: Babyboomersandmore. What immediate gratification THAT was!
    So – I too have had yucky bosses – which is a euphemism for a @^&**@&$% boss. I would take over your blog if I gave you every instance that qualifies as being horrible, but here’s just one: My name is Irene – no one in my decades of living has ever abbreviated that name. I was the paralegal for the General Counsel of a publicly held company at the start of this century and my cubicle desk was just outside his office. Unfortunately I could see him from my desk. Argggh. One day he beckoned me, “Heh I, come in here.” Well, my name isn’t “I” so I didn’t respond. His second and third attempts were also failures: “I!! Please come in here!” My parents named me Irene, so he couldn’t POSSIBLY be talking to me. He finally came out of his office and asked: “Didn’t you hear me? I’ve been calling you!” My response: “I had no idea you were calling me because “I” has never been my name. I’d prefer if you use my complete 5-letter name: Irene.”
    Did he correct his impolite evil ways? Heck no – he kept calling me “I.” Well, he obviously mistook me for someone else, so I quit, hoping he’d find “I” somewhere else.


  12. Snoring Dog Studio

    I’m horrified by these stories of rotten bosses. This is emotional abuse and HR departments ought never to tolerate this treatment of employees. How utterly awful to be subjected to this. I’ve been extremely fortunate in having only one annoying boss – not a mean one, just an incompetent one, which made my life very difficult. I have had lots of coworkers who were awful – geez, they probably became bosses. Good for you, though for stating your case and refusing to be like her. Break the chains of tyranny!


  13. Funny, but scarey too. I’ve had only one bad boss, but it was a long two years. I loved the pic of the pointy-haired boss from Dilbert.


  14. pharphelonus

    Editors who, when you explain the story idea to them, give you the scenario that would sell it and tell you to find that.
    Editors who view every story editing thing as Journalism 101 and want to teach you even tho you’ve been doing this for 25 years and know their only thing is they had to edit because they can’t write.
    Bosses can suck, but those moments when you know you showed ’em, and the subject is dropped because you did? Those are what we live for.


  15. I love that you said it to her. I can’t imagine you had much of a future with her anyway. I once had a boss with a violent temper. He never actually hit me, but he yelled at me plenty, usually for reasons that had nothing to do with me. After I left him for another position at the same company, he was fired for assaulting an employee. Can you say vindication?


  16. I’ve realized four things after reading your post. One, I don’t have a voicemail message from my manager. Two, I can do a pretty imitation of my manager’s annoying voice after working late with her till nearly midnight last night. Three, I will call my voicemail pretending to be my annoying manager and leave myself a passive aggressive repetitively condescending message. Four, I could probably do this all day, and in fact, will make it part of my regular morning routine. Thank you, this makes quitting immediatly less urgent so we’ll see how long this excersize lasts. Will keep you posted.


  17. Suzanne

    Having worked with you, I know exactly who you are talking about. She did have her own Waterloo not too long after you which made everyone here much, much happier. We were commenting yesterday how when she was around that you never knew what would set her off, and we all felt like we were walking on egg shells


    • Hi! Glad to see you here – and YES, everyone was better off after she took a hike.


  18. Garry Coltrane

    I like you mantra, but I’ve got several that are a little more user friendly, for lack of a better way of putting it, even a brand new one, just for this response:
    A- Hang On, And Let The Storm Blow Through! (The New One!)
    B- If You Hang In There, You Won’t Get Hung By It!
    C- I Was Here Before You Got Here, And I’ll Be Here After You’re Gone! (MyPersonal Favourite!)
    I hope you like these as well as your own.


  19. I don’t get voice mails from my boss and if I did they would make me laugh–he is ADHA and OCD–and has a hard time being still long enough to send leave a message. His emails are a hoot though. Oh, he is a very nice man and a great boss once you give up trying to pin him down for an answer to something.

    Anyway, back to voice mail—my favorite thing about voice mail is that after you listen to whoever it is that is getting on your last nerve you can–delete–aah bliss.


  20. Well – seeing as I am my own worst and often toughest boss – I’m taking your advice to heart….:-)!!!


  21. Brilliant! I’ve read and written a number of posts on bad bosses. Yours adds a range of emotions and perceptions that are priceless. I intend to share it with my followers.

    I love your twofold advice:“Just Outlast the Bastard” and taking your wrath out on their voice mail messages. Yes, in this economy, strategies to stay out of the unemployment line have real merit.

    Love your writing and your fresh perspective. ~Dawn


  22. Lisa Wields Words

    Fabulous post. Nothing gets me angrier than a woman being a total power bitch over another woman as if that is the only way to achieve anything in this world. Good for you for standing up for yourself.



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