Coffee Talk: Lessons From My Dysfunctional Boss

30 Aug

  After almost two years of blogging I’ve decided to close ‘Molly On Money’.  This won’t be the end of me blogging by any stretch.  Michael and I are teaming up and creating a new blog!  I’m all a-quiver!  We’ve spent this summer designing, programming and writing a blog that is full of ideas on frugality, building stuff, gardening, cooking, parenting and all sorts of stories that cannot be contained into just one category.   Tune in next week and we can tool around the new site together!

Sandy over at First Gen American is hosting a great writers challenge called ‘Coffee Talk’.  Here’s my contribution.  Don’t forget to check out all the other bloggers posts.  It’s really interesting to see what others come up with!

 “What my dysfunctional boss taught me about achieving your vision.”

Years ago I was hired to work as a construction manager for a spa.  Going in I knew it was gonna be tough.  I had endured several rounds of interviews poking and prodding into every part of my personality.  All the while I was getting insight into the owner of this business.  He loved to build things and I would be his right hand gal to make those dreams come true.  There was no sugar-coating how driven and detail oriented he could be.  Before they brought me on they wanted to make sure I would be up to the task, at least for a year.  You see, no construction manager had lasted much more than that in the past decade.  To boot, they had never had a woman in this position.

In many ways it was love at first sight.   For him I was the shiny new penny and I loved the challenges that this quirky guy set before me.  It didn’t take long for the shine to tarnish though.  Pretty soon I was pushing back and telling him what I was thinking (I don’t have a great edit button).

He would give me pictures of structures with materials he liked and ask me to reproduce it at half the cost and time.  Simple?  Not when the photo is black and white and I can’t really see what it’s even made out of.  Time was of the essence and I had to find answers fast.  What he was asking me to do seemed impossible.  I was already having to build under huge constraints on the side of a mountain, on top of rocks and caves and the spa NEVER closed.  In addition to the pressure coming from my boss it felt like the massage therapy staff hated me.  I was the bane of their existence.  I caused noise and disrupted their schedules.  I’m a people person so I was always trying to make it better.  Communication with the staff became my main goal though I couldn’t forget that my boss’s priority was that I build an amazing world-class spa at all costs (except financial).    Often all of these things- irritated staff, material that didn’t exist in North America and trying to make a deadline would converge into an all out screaming match between the two of us.  There was many a Friday afternoon that I left wondering if I had a job on Monday morning.

He was asking for the impossible which I couldn’t deliver.  For him it wasn’t personal.  He had asked the same of every other construction manager that had come before me.  One hot September day we were installing two giant ceramic teacup tubs (yes, they looked like 3′ tall teacups). They needed to be set straight, level and in precise relation to each other and the plumbing.  The next day the contractor was returning to pour a concrete deck that would encase the first few inches of the tubs.  We couldn’t get this one wrong.  The day before had been spent fussing with them and it hadn’t gone well.  We were all hot and tired and very frustrated.  I was suddenly questioning if this was going to be done right.  It seemed so simple in the plans- so straight, so level…

As the afternoon progressed the owner came out.  He knew we were having problems so he had a ton of questions (as usual) and wanted to help. (Fabulous!)  Suddenly he’s taking over, pushing the tub this way and that and in my mind making a friggin’ mess of things.  We start squabbling and I eventually stomp off.  My mind was in a fury.  I was so pissed and feeling so inadequate.  I walked until I found myself on the edge of the property.  I started picking up large rocks and throwing them as hard as I could against the hillside.  I threw and threw and threw until I had calmed down.  My next thought was what to do next…I could go home but we still had these tubs to set.  I knew I had to return.  When I came back no one asked how I was, they just made space for me to help push the tub.  The owner was still there commanding each worker on where he should be maneuvering the tub.  I slowly started making suggestions, he made some space for me to take the lead and within an hour they were set.  Before I left for the day the general manager came up to me and congratulated me.  He had been out helping set the tubs and saw the incident in it’s entirety.  I asked him why he was congratulating me.  For god sakes, I had argued with the owner and ran off to throw a hissy fit!  He responded, ‘But you came back!  That’s never happened before.  Past construction managers would drive off in their truck never to be seen again…   but you came back!’.

HA!  I came back.  That was what I did.  You see, what I could never wrap my head around was that my boss was willing to sacrifice most things to achieve his dream.  He didn’t need to be my best friend or even respect me and he didn’t need it in return.  What he needed was someone to help him get that dream built.  He didn’t compromise for his vision.  I can think of so many times I’ve compromised my vision to preserve friendships and relationships along the way.  It’s how I’m wired.

When my first year anniversary came up there was a sigh of relief that I was still there.  I had found my niche in the place.  When my second year anniversary came up my boss joked with me, acknowledging that I had passed a milestone by still being around after two years.  During my tenure at the spa I had come  this close to being fired several times. There was no third anniversary.  As much as I loved being part of that vision I view the world so differently from my boss and my values were being challenged in ways that just made me very tired.

He asked me repeatedly why I was leaving.  I was feeling so used up at the time I couldn’t give him any more than, ‘I’ve decided to move on.’   I knew I was just collateral damage on the way to his vision.

I’ve worked for a few more bosses since then and they too have had no problem burning through staff in order to get what they (think they) want. I want success too but I don’t want to sacrifice relationships with my friends and family to get there.  This idea of success and how to achieve it keeps bubbling up for me.  How does someone like me with my drive to connect to people get there?

Other Contributors to ‘Coffee Talk’:

Invest It Wisely –What My Dysfunctional Aunt Taught me about Wealth and Finances.

Budgeting in The Fun Stuff – What My Dysfunctional Family Taught me about Personal Finance

101 Centavos – A few Things I’ve Learned from my “Old Contract” Grandfather

Growing My Girls- What My Dysfunctional Dog Taught Me About My Limits

Krusty On Chrissy- What My Dysfunctional Father Taught Me About Love


25 Responses to “Coffee Talk: Lessons From My Dysfunctional Boss”

  1. thejoyofcaking August 30, 2011 at 5:07 pm #

    It’s good to finally see a post from you! I love your story – so well written. I can’t wait to see what you and Michael have cooked up where this new blog is concerned. It’s like waiting for Christmas!

    • Molly On Money August 30, 2011 at 7:17 pm #

      It’s been so fun creating it but I’ve ignored MOM because of it!

  2. Lori Dyan August 30, 2011 at 5:24 pm #

    Your post was awesome – I’ve missed you! Glad to hear you aren’t hanging up your blogging hat – looking forward to reading the next adventure!

  3. nicoleandmaggie August 30, 2011 at 6:43 pm #

    OOh, we’ll have to change you on our blogroll.

    • Molly On Money August 30, 2011 at 7:19 pm #

      YEAH! I don’t want to beg but…PLEASE can I stay on your blogroll? I’ll make Michael behave 😉

  4. First Gen American August 30, 2011 at 8:22 pm #

    Great great post. Showing up is really half the battle.

    I remember feeling exactly the same with one job. Crazy
    Hours were rewarded with more responsibility at the same pay.
    It made me realize that some places will take all you have to give and still want more.

    I am in Long Island right now and the place is
    Still a mess from the hurricane and I can’t get online right now.
    I will link up to you as soon as I get out of here tomorrow.

    • Molly On Money August 31, 2011 at 6:01 am #

      Thanks again Sandy for hosting this great challenge. I’ve read about 6 other stories and they are all so varied- it’s been fun.
      I don’t have a TV and get my news from the radio. Strangely without the images I don’t have a real perspective how bad it is on the east coast. I’m glad your family is safe!

  5. Mommy Sha August 30, 2011 at 8:35 pm #

    You have all the right morals and ethics. Good for you.

  6. krusty505 August 30, 2011 at 8:54 pm #

    Great post, Molly! I love your insight that entreupreneurs sacrifice so much, sometimes everything, for THEIR vision. Probably one of the many reasons I have never made the leap to business ownership. I’m just too cathected to relationships.

    • Molly On Money August 31, 2011 at 6:05 am #

      When I first move back to Albuquerque I had two jobs working for two different entrepreneurs. They were both successful (at least in my mind) and didn’t follow this model. It is possible!!!
      BTW- love your post!

  7. 101 Centavos August 31, 2011 at 3:53 am #

    Love this post, Molly. Determination and perseverance in the face of assholish boss behavior. I’m sorry to see MoM go, but very much look forward to the new one from M&M.

    • Molly On Money August 31, 2011 at 6:07 am #

      I tried to say ‘assholish’ out loud and couldn’t wrap my tongue around it 😆 . We’ll see you there- we’d love you to come over and write a bit about Terra Farm!

  8. Niki August 31, 2011 at 5:22 am #

    Great post.

    I am excited for your blog changes. Can’t wait to see what you have up your sleeve.

  9. Jeff @ Sustainable Life Blog August 31, 2011 at 10:33 am #

    Great lessons molly – I cant wait to see what’s on the new site!

  10. Jill August 31, 2011 at 3:53 pm #

    OMG Molly. I’m in stitches over this one!!! Shared it out loud with Enrique… he didn’t laugh as hard as I. You are such a creative and delightful writer. I miss you and would love to see you sometime. I know, forget Greece and come and visit me in L.A. The beach is just 1.5 miles away. 🙂 BTW, Diego started kindergarten today! Pics on FB to come. I was a wreck yesterday… such a mixed bag of emotion. XOXO

    • Molly On Money August 31, 2011 at 3:56 pm #

      I miss you all too! I kinda thought you might be able to relate to this one!!
      I was sure on S.R.’s first day of kindergarten she wouldn’t make it- I had to hold off on crying right in front of her. This year, on her first day, she made me drop her next door to the school!

  11. Natalie September 4, 2011 at 11:49 am #

    What a great way of reframing your experience Molly. Good for you!


  1. Coffee Talk: A Few Things I Learned from my “Old Contract” Grandfather | 101 Centavos - August 31, 2011

    […] Molly on Money: Lessons from my Dysfunctional Boss […]

  2. What my Dysfunctional Family Taught Me About Life First Gen American First Gen - August 31, 2011

    […] Molly on Money (Note this will be the last post at this blog..Molly’s starting a new blog, so wish her a nice goodbye for me)  = Lessons I’ve Learned from my Dysfunctional Boss […]

  3. What My Dysfunctional Aunt Taught Me About Wealth and Finances | Invest It Wisely - September 5, 2011

    […] Lessons I’ve Learned from my Dysfunctional Boss […]

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