Tuesday, March 06, 2007

The Devil Wears Prada

I watched the movie on the weekend - thought it was really quite good. Brought back memories though, long deeply buried memories ...

I had my own boss from hell about 10 years ago. Wasn't much older than me, quite attractive, very smart (Ph D, MBA) and she knew it. But I think the main problem was more cultural. She came from a moneyed background, raised in Latin America and boarding school in Europe. A lot of her attitude I assumed came from growing up very class-conscious.

I wasn't her whipping girl, though, unlike the movie. I was a manager, had been working in the field for a number of years and knew what I was doing. She was new to the Canadian environment so she needed me. As I said, she was smart. In actual fact, she was quite good to me, but her behaviour made working conditions really quite terrible for the whole department. She talked down to many of the administrative staff, was addicted to her cell phone (ie. she took off mid-negotiation with important government representatives to take a personal call), would only want "the best" at all restaurants (eg. always sent something back, insisted on cloth rather than paper napkins).

I travelled with her quite a bit. And like the Meryl Streep character, she was not a one-dimensional caricature. She was struggling through a divorce, setting up a new apartment, I guess trying to get herself on her own feet and so her priorities were likely all messed up. So I got more of an inside look into her life; not that I'm making any excuses, but I'm sure that had a lot to do with some of her actions.

The worst incident for me was when she had a hissy fit at the airport coming home after an overnight trip to Ottawa. She had an enormous carry-on which somehow got through the first time. But Ottawa to Toronto they wanted her to check her bag. So she made a big stink, hauled in a couple of attendants, then the head attendant, then the customer service manager etc.. etc.. We ended up missing our flight home, had to take the next one. I called into the office and they could tell from my voice that they were luckier being where they were than with me. I wished that the floor would swallow me up!

I looked for and was actually offered another job at another company. But I didn't take it - they wouldn't pay for my MBA, and the entire compensation was less than what I was making. The problem was that I loved the company, but working conditions in our department were the pits. But why should I have to take less just to move away from an intolerable person? So I stuck it out.

It turned out that I didn't have to wait long. In the end her antics actually adversely affected her performance and she "left". And I got promoted. Which was a good thing on one hand, not so good on the other. But we'll get into that some other time.

Looking back it's easy to gloss over the bad parts. I think ultimately I did benefit from the experience. She did encourage me to pursue my MBA, and she authorized the departmental budget to provide for it. Although I think in some way it was more to make her look good, it still worked for me. And it proved to me that I could work under difficult circumstances and still perform well under that pressure.

I was given a tip recently about a job at the company where she presently works. I was curious about it and asked whether it would report into her. It didn't, but I'm not in a hurry to go back to full time work anyway. And certainly not with her ... sorry, but Been There, Done That and More Than Bought the T-Shirt!!!


Anonymous said...

They say that people come and go in our lives for a reason and maybe she was the right person for you to encounter at that time!

Karen MEG said...

I think you're right. That's what life is all about, new experiences and you learn from the. I sure did!
Thanks for stopping by merinz :)


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