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Boss' Brain!!  

A Genuine Boss Answers your Questions!!
(identity concealed to cover their ass

Previous Guest Mystery  Boss
A Brief Profile

(Our anonymous Mystery Boss of the Month is a big mucka-muck of a major sportswear manufacturer. Yes, you would know the name right off (hint-hint), and many an“air borne” athlete has been able to buy that vacation home in the Bahamas because of the money this company throws at them to simply be "seen" in their label. Without getting specific, he is the head honcho of several thousand employees, having worked his way up through the ranks and claims to actually like his job!)

So... Fire away!

The first question comes from A. Brown, of Dallas, Texas

Dear Mystery Boss,
Do all bosses hate temps? I'm temping now while trying to learn a new career (I don't want to show false "loyalty" to a permanent employer) and all of the jobs are clerical. I've been in so many companies you wouldn't believe it, but without fail the people supervising me are a bit on the overbearing side. Because I'm a temp they give me things to do from other departments I'm not assigned to so they can help out bosses they're friends with (I see them going to lunch together, etc.), they're rude, make jokes or comments (as in, verbatum, "She's just a temp") and on and on. Why?

Is it because they can get away with paying me next to nothing, providing no benefits, and get rid of me without legal consequence if I even flinch when I'm insulted?

I start on each assignment anew, with an open heart, feeling good, wanting to do a good job, but I always end up hurt and isolated. Don't they realize that temps have feelings just like "regular" employees?


Mystery Boss:
That’s a very good question, and my heart goes out to you! But the number one rule that every employee must learn in the work place... and it’s a very hard one to live by... is: “Don’t take it personally!”

The “Off The Boss” Manual (and Website), have an excellent section called “The Bag Lady Effect”, where you learn to see your boss as that crazed homeless bag lady on some street corner spewing out verbal garbage and abuse to anyone (real or imaginary) who passes by. You don’t take what she says personally, since you realize she really knows nothing about you and is just spewing out her own internal hell. By putting her “head” on your boss’ body when they give you grief, you suddenly realize they’re also just spewing forth from their own internal hell.

But that only answers one bit of your question. The bigger answer and time-honored trick (which works for so many frustrations in the work place)... is to imagine yourself as a boss. Now, though you may find this very hard to believe... but MOST bosses (and remember now, I’m saying most, not all) are human, and are actually very much like you. And therefore they carry the same prejudices and “knee-jerk” reactions, emotionally speaking, as you do.

Now that you are the boss, sit behind their big desk and sink into that leatherette cushy chair, and close your eyes. Now travel back to your own childhood. Remember what it was like when you were in Elementary School and suddenly a frail, slightly scared and pale stranger would come into your third grade classroom and say in a shaky voice and even shakier handwriting on the chalk board: “Hello, my name is Miss. Ginsberg, and I’m going to be your substitute teacher for the day”. Know the feeling? Suddenly something snaps inside your otherwise well behaved little angel head, and you become her worst nightmare... testing her limits to see just how much you can get away with.

Well, even though we grow up and have to shave and watch our fatty acids, the child is still deep inside of us. I will be the first to admit that when a “temp” comes into the office, even I... a well adjusted, mature and very professional big-shot finds myself falling back to the days when I’d tell my substitute that our regular teacher always lets us play tether-ball all afternoon on Tuesday’s instead of the usual math lesson. Unfortunately, you, as the temp, who like “Miss. Ginsberg” and all the other substitute teachers of the world just want to do your job without losing an eye, and get home to your microwave. Is it right? No.

Is it professional and mature? Of course not. Is it human nature?... you bet it is. And therefore if you understand the “child” in all the bosses you have to contend with, you’ll find yourself realizing what’s really going on inside their childish head, and just going with it.

A third factor comes into play, that you may not even be aware of. In the world of business there is a lot of corporate espionage that transpires. Really. Bugging of offices, copying of confidential documents, stealing of computer files, etc. And one of the best people to get at these secrets are “temps”. Think about it, a stranger comes in, and yet is given access to the entire company. Many bosses have been burned (including me), and no matter how reputable the temp agency is... there is no guarantee that the temp that comes in, isn’t really Tom Cruise in disguise who is going to be hanging from the ceiling stealing all your secrets while I’m out wolfing down a Happy Meal. So we play our cards very close to our chests when it comes to temps, and many times it may come across as just plain cold and impersonal.

Finally there is the simple trust factor. Any stranger is, by animal-human instinct a threat until proven otherwise. Unfortunately, one or two days on the job isn’t nearly enough for any temp to create genuine confidence with their bosses.

I feel for you. It isn’t an easy job, and as the name implies, hopefully is only a “temporary” discomfort until you settle in to a more permanent job. But as I’ve shown, the reasons for the very real “abuses” you describe have nothing to do with you... but are only "fortunes of temping" in general. But look on the bright side. Just as it may be uncomfortable for you every day to come into a new “battle ground”, at least it’s only for a day or two! Think of the poor employees who have to work for such a cad of a boss day in and day out. Many envy you your freedom! And, you can pick and choose. Learn from each assignment... and understand just what you are looking for in an ideal job.

It’s really no different, than dating in a way. Except you do get paid (albeit not as much as you are worth) for your troubles, and you don’t have to worry about what to say after the movie is over.

QUESTION  #2 from Larry D. of Atlanta, Georgia:

Dear Mystery Boss,
Whenever I have to go in to see my boss, I find, no matter what time of day or week I go there, that I have to wait a long time after I am summoned, or have an appointment. I’ve also noticed that the furniture in the outer office, and even in the “hot seat” in my boss’ office are very uncomfortable. Am I just paranoid, or is this done on purpose? And if so, what can be done about it?


Mystery Boss:
I, of course, can’t speak for every boss, but I must tell you that, in most cases, you are far from being paranoid. Especially if you are coming in to ask for a raise, or to log a dispute, yes, I must admit I (and many fellow bosses I lunch with), have been known to purposely keep you waiting.

This has a two-fold effect. One, of course, is outright intimidation. The longer you’re kept waiting, the more insecure you become, the more you begin to question your reason for being there. In a busy corporation, you will also, most likely see all kinds of activity at a high level that will make you feel “smaller” since you see just what a powerbase you’re deal with.

Secondly, I have discovered that if an employee is coming to give me hell, the longer they are outside to cool off the better for me. You’d think waiting outside would help fester the anger into something even worse, but it seems to have a reverse effect. Being in that cold outer office (and yes, we DO keep the thermostats unusually cold for the psychological effect!) makes them reflect on their lives, their jobs... their children’s orthodontia and education, and their mortgages. I myself have not gone to the extreme of selecting uncomfortable furniture to enhance the ego-deflating effect, but I actually know of one boss who did have an assistant scour the furniture emporiums to find couches that actually make you sink so far down, that even the tallest employee suddenly feels like one of the “Lollipop Gang” -- with “hot seat” chairs in his office that have high backs and low seats to make one feel very uncomfortable and inferior.

Personally, I’ve never gone to that extreme, but I must admit that I do purposely use a chair in front of my desk without arms, since I’ve discovered that it makes my “accuser” very uncomfortable and gives me an advantage.

What you can do about it?

I’d say go for a two-pronged “attack”. First off, be totally and completely secure in the reason you’re going to see your boss in the first place. If you have a grievance... think it out totally before hand, so that nothing we do to you will make you change your mind. Exhaust all your options first, so that you are aware that seeing us is the only course left to you. And most important, remember the “secrets” I just told you... that, just like when you see a horror movie and you say to yourself “It’s okay... it’s only a movie”... try the same thing when you’re sitting in a “quicksand” couch in the outer office in sub-freezing temperatures for hours at a time waiting to talk to your boss. Remember, it’s usually all just “smoke and mirrors”, and, though it’s hard for me to admit... I’m only a boss. Say to yourself: “It’s all just calculated manipulation!”

QUESTION  #3 from Melissa G. of Williamstown, Mass:

Dear Mystery Boss,
I'm employed by a small publishing company. I’ve been working here for eight years now, and have grown with the company, which is doing better each year. I have sat back, done my job, and assumed that I would, one day, be promoted or at least get a raise that would reflect my efforts and the company’s continual success. My friends have given me all kinds of advice for asking for a raise, from threats, to intimation, to out and out begging! When someone comes into your office asking for a raise or a higher position, what works best with you?


Mystery Boss:
I hate to say it, since this is a word most boss’s flee from like a cross put in the face of Dracula... but I’ve found “honesty” to work the best! A colleague of mine has a habit of speeding and is an expert at talking to Highway Patrolmen who pull him over. He’s found that he has actually beat a ticket, or simply got off with a warning, when, after the officer asks him if he knows why he’s been stopped he says: “Yes, officer. I was going 85 miles an hour, and the speed limit is 65. I was in a hurry to get to an important meeting, which I know is no excuse, but I stupidly accelerated anyway. I was wrong, and you had ever right to stop me.”

This kind of approach totally disarms the officer, and since my colleague obviously isn’t drunk, nor has any wants or warrants against him, and his license and registration are in order, many officer’s let him off! I think the same approach is the best for asking for a raise.

First off, however, may I also suggest that you do a little bit of homework. Without making it sound like you have single-handedly turned the company around by yourself (we boss’s do have fragile egos you know), make notes as to just what you’ve contributed and what the outcome of your work has done for the company’s coffers. I hate to say it, since it perpetuates the belief that we boss’s are all unfeeling, money- hungry monsters... but pleas of poverty, or family needs, or some monolithic bad luck in your personal life falls mostly on sympathetic but ultimately deaf ears.

Decision’s made in the “Wonderful World of Commerce” are more often than not, ultimately based on fear and greed. I promise you that if you are an employee who deserves a promotion or a raise, we are aware why you’ve come to see us, long before we’ve made you wait in the outer office. What we are looking for is YOUR understanding of just how much you’ve given to the company... and how well you’ve documented it. That doesn’t mean you come in with charts and spreadsheets, but if you simply, and calmly tell us what you have accomplished, it has a very strong effect.

The greed factor comes in play if we believe that we can make even more money from you, and the fear factor arises if we believe that if we don’t at least “give you an inch”, you’ll take a mile and a hike to another company. Therefore, you must also be willing to truly believe you’d walk if you don’t get what you deserve.

My advice is never, ever threaten to walk! That only steps on a Boss' delicate toes by challenging their power! Simply totally believe you are indispensable and that you are willing to leave (perhaps you may want to put feelers out beforehand)... and trust me, your boss will pick that up.

Like my colleague with the Highway Patrolman... by telling the truth and stating the facts, you'll leave your Boss little room to argue. Truth is a powerful tool that even a boss has a hard time denying!

QUESTION #4 From Steve J., Troutdale,Oregon

Dear Mystery Boss,
Right off the bat, I hate ass kissers! Makes me sick! I’ve worked as a trucker in a large meat packing plant for five years. I like my job, and I don’t have too many complaints. However I do see other employees ass-kissing the owner at every turn.  Boss seems to enjoy it, and I’ve noticed that they do get better hours and routes than I do. Hey, I’m no idiot. I don’t want to be left in the dust here, and I sure the hell don’t want to make my boss angry, but isn’t there a better way to get her to throw some favors my way without putting on the knee-pads and puckering-up?


Mystery Boss:
Yes. However, firstly I must say that perhaps what you think is giving other’s favors over you could be your imagination. Our shipping Foreman is accused of that all the time, and most of the time his decision’s are based solely on the “dart board approach”... that is, he just slots times and routes with drivers as their names come to him, or appear on his list.

However, to say we don’t have favorite employees would be a vast lie. I know you don’t want to put on the “knee-pads” as you say... so may I make a suggestion. Rather than telling the boss how good they look, or what a nice dress they’re wearing, etc., simply have a warm smile, a nice sense of humor, and be easy to be around. There’s nothing a boss likes better than a good hard worker who seems to be after nothing more than their hard earned paycheck, and seems to enjoy their work. I have several employees who I like “hanging around”, simply because they make me laugh, and take the stress of the job away for a few minutes. I can’t tell you how much that impresses me to have workers like that.

Let’s face it, we know that every worker would like to get ahead, or make more money. So there’s no reason to make that so obvious. Maybe it's my having been raised on Eddie Haskell, but to me, most chronic "suck-ups" are only trying to conceal the fact that they're just not doing their jobs.

To put it bluntly: we like to help those we like. So make yourself likable and easy to be around and you’ll be surprised how the opportunities will open up to you!

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Continue Guided Tour of STICKING IT TO YOUR BOSS!

Back to Part OneDirectory

Part One  
 Physiological Differences  |  Common Boss Ailments  
 Employer Aptitude Test
 Bonehead Bosses |  Don't Fear the Inferior!

Part Two  
 The Tire Iron Story  |  The Bag Lady Effect  
 The Inner Boss  
 | Send Your Boss an OFF THE BOSS Postcard!
 The Water Cooler |   Get The Goods  
Your Certificate of Completion | The Credits

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