Notes on being the boss

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Let’s talk about bosses.

argument-cartoonWe’ve all had at least one, and if you haven’t had at least one, you’ve either never worked a job or were raised by wolves. (In fact, if the wolves thing were true, you’d have had a boss in the form of a pack Alpha – so that’s probably not a very good reference, but you get the general idea.)

Bosses are a fact of life.

Just like anything, there are good bosses and there are bad bosses. And then there are people who should be charged with a felony for even calling themselves a boss. People who do things like hide and watch, while their employees have an altercation, but refuse to do anything about it at the time “because they didn’t want to get involved.” The felony part should come in when they come back days later and try to exercise control over the same situation, when they should have handled it like a grown-up in the first place instead of hiding under the covers and pretending to be Sleeping Beauty.

Real bosses don’t pick and choose when they want to be boss. They take the good with the bad, and get in there and dig right along with the people they’re telling how to shovel that ditch. You don’t get to say, “I’m the boss,” and not take any of the responsibility that comes with being the boss when it gets uncomfortable, or difficult. Being a good boss is hard, it’s not a vacation to be the boss. If you’re doing it right, you’re actually working harder than you did before you were the boss.

The worst kind of boss to work for is one that hires you on as a “member of a team” and stresses that everyone on the “team” has equal say-so in the process and development of the project but, secretly, views themselves as the ultimate boss and just doesn’t have the cojones to come out and say it. If you’re going to be the boss, be the boss, don’t be a passive-aggressive jerk who is only the boss inside their own head.

I’ve had some really great bosses, and I’ve had some boss psychos who probably go to Pet Smart after work and squeeze hamsters really hard, just to exercise more control over the universe. I once had a boss who was so great, even after she ended up firing me, I went back and told her thank you. She did me a favor, she knew as hard as I tried and as much as she liked me, I wasn’t right for the position I was in, so she cut me loose to go find my own way. That’s a great boss. I’m eternally indebted to her for doing something so unpleasant and difficult to make me a better person.

Some people have the misconception that being an owner-operator makes you the supreme boss, and nothing could be further from the truth. Managing yourself is just as difficult as managing other people sometimes, and every single customer is your boss in one way or the other. Finding a balance between being reasonable enough to sort out disputes and not being a pushover is hard. It requires skills every head honcho should have, whether they’re managing themselves or a group of people.

Recent events have led me to be even more thankful for the bosses I have – Max and TD let me meander away out here, writing about whatever strikes my fancy, as long as it doesn’t include the “eff” word. I have a dream job, and I had forgotten how crappy it is to be involved with poor management, because they really do treat me well. Kudos to you guys, I don’t tell you enough how much I appreciate it. [Thanks, Wendy! –ed.]

For those of you who have unpleasant boss stories, or are living an unpleasant boss story, know that you’re not alone, and there are people who understand your desire to watch your boss be rolled in honey and planted in an ant hill. It’s OK. Imagination is a great way to relieve tension. The next time he or she is yelling at you or being ridiculous, just imagine jettisoning them out of a giant T-shirt cannon, attached to the front of your truck, into Friday afternoon Dallas traffic, with a giant parachute that reads, “I’m here to take your guns!”

That oughta do it.

Be safe out there.

The Business Manual for Owner-Operators
Overdrive editors and ATBS present the industry’s best manual for prospective and committed owner-operators. You’ll find exceptional depth on many issues in the 2021 edition of Partners in Business.
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