Ex Boss

A reader sends me a link to this article. Let’s take a look:

I’d had my eye on the biggest company in my field for a couple of years, just waiting for the right role to come up. They had a reputation for staff retention, beautiful offices and great workplace flexibility, and after proving myself and climbing the ladder at the company I joined after I finished uni, I was ready for a new challenge.

Some questions for my readers. Do you think this is a man or a woman writing this? Do you think he or she is in role where outcomes matter, or whether following the process is more important?

A friend had alerted me to the opportunity, which wasn’t being advertised publicly, so I thought I was in with a good chance. I stayed up past midnight one night polishing my resume and ensuring I tailored it to the values of my dream company.

I’ve tailored my CV to a particular role, but never to the values of a company. It sounds as though she just filled it with whatever drivel she found on the corporate website.

So I was thrilled when the HR manager – a guy named Brendan – called to offer me an interview. I told him I’d see him tomorrow, and left work early to go home and prepare. I practised answering curly questions with my housemate and made sure my best corporate outfit was pressed and clean.

I had to look up “curly question”. Apparently it’s Australian slang for a difficult question. In any case, this reads like something from a teenager’s diary.

I felt ready when I walked up the broad white stairs of the building, through the glass doors and up to reception. I told the receptionist my name and who I was there to see, and I waited.

I might have guessed the interview didn’t take place in a porta-cabin at the muddy end of a building site.

He was Brendan. From Bumble. We’d chatted for three solid weeks before I’d decided he was a snoozefest and unmatched with him.

The joy of dating apps like Bumble and Tinder, for those lucky enough to not need them, is that – as long as you haven’t exchanged phone numbers yet – you can unmatch with people on there at any time and they have no way of finding you again.

I use this function to my advantage all the time because I hate telling guys I’m not interested. So I will talk to them for weeks in the app and then either go on a date – at which point I have to offer up my number – or unmatch and disappear forever.

I’ve written before about how the mobile phone has allowed people to dispense with the normal politeness that governed ones behaviour when dating. If she lacks the courage to tell people she’s not interested and simply disappears, it’s hardly surprising she’s on Bumble looking for a boyfriend.

Brendan seemed like the perfect guy for me when I first swiped right on him. He was good looking, fit and had a good career in HR.

People will say that about me soon.

But as we chatted back and forth over the weeks, I realised he’d never really done anything off the expected life plan. He’d never messed up. He’d never travelled or been arrested or even bared his bum in public.

In short, he was too straighty-one-eighty for me.

I like my guys to have a past. Some perspective on life so they know what they’re doing is the right thing for them. I want them to have stories about being arrested in Amsterdam or streaking at the soccer in Rio.

And being convicted of possession with intent to supply and smacking their ex-girlfriend in the eye when she got a bit lippy. I’m reminded of this post.

Brendan had none of that, and he had to go.

I expect she did a backpacker’s trip to Europe with ten thousand other Australians and now considers herself worldly.

And all I could think about in this moment was that I shouldn’t have ghosted him.

Because it’s a cowardly thing to do, or because it might now affect what passes for your career?

I could identify the exact moment, as he reached out and shook me hand, that Brendan realised who I was. There was a flash of recognition in his eyes but it quickly disappeared as his professional face took over, and he ushered me into an office with two of his colleagues.

A penny for Brendan’s thoughts here.

I was rattled, but I tried to shake it off and focus on the interview. I still really wanted this job, and I couldn’t let a failed dating attempt get in my way.

The trio fired question after question at me, and I think I answered pretty well. I even started to think for a moment that perhaps Brendan didn’t realise who I was.

Then, after I had asked a few questions about the role, and we were winding up the interview, Brendan said, “What about challenging conversations? How are you at having those?”

This is the kind of thing HR people ask at interviews for a job requiring complete and utter obedience.

I could see amusement in his eyes as he asked and I could tell he was toying with me. But the others didn’t know that so I knew I had to be careful how I answered.

“I’m comfortable dealing with people at all levels and I’m not afraid to have difficult conversations,” I lied. “I believe if I conduct myself professionally and communicate openly, that will foster respectful and clear conversations with others, so everyone can get on with executing their roles to the best of their ability.”

She lied then, and she’s lying now. There is no way on earth she said that.

The other interviewers seemed pleased with my answer and Brendan smirked as he said, “Thanks Sophie, we’ll be in touch.”

I was so relieved to get out of that office, and was surprised when one of the other interviewers called me later that day to offer me the job.

I don’t know how I’ll handle things with Brendan now that we’ll be working in the same office but I do know I’m about to become an expert on having challenging conversations.

I expect it will end in your very own MeToo moment. At least you should be able to get another article out of it.

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21 thoughts on “Ex Boss

  1. Good-looking, fit and in HR. People will be saying that Tim has two out of the three soon.

    Sorry. Open target for male type banter.

    Seriously- treat everyone as you wish to be treated. That’s the golden rule that keeps advanced societies functional. Shame it’s been binned recently.

  2. Brendan’s thoughts are probably “She can sue me now if she doesn’t get the job, or later if she does”. Brendan is probably already looking for his next “new challenge”.

  3. I believe if I conduct myself professionally and communicate openly, that will foster respectful and clear conversations with others, so everyone can get on with executing their roles to the best of their ability.

    Does anyone actually talk like this in the real world?

    I’m currently working in a medium sized company, dealing with a large multinational and I’ve worked in small companies.

    Nobody talks like this. At all. Even in the management meetings. Sure, you get the odd bit of management lingo or TLA for someone to show they’ve read the latest how-to-manage-for-dummies trend. But full sentences like this? Nope.

    Maybe it’s because I’m at the sharp end of engineering. Is is different in other industries/departments?

  4. Does anyone actually talk like this in the real world?

    No: this is what she wishes she’d said. I expect in reality she mumbled something which alluded to the fact that yes, she’ll do what ever is expected of her.

    The only time you can come out with sentences like that, and I find myself doing it often these days, is when you’ve had the same discussions many times before and you have a to hand a collection of lucid responses to the stock questions which come up on a given subject.

  5. Good-looking, fit and in HR. People will be saying that Tim has two out of the three soon.

    As one of my professors likes to say: “I used to be young and beautiful, now I’m just and.”

  6. A previous employers had a ‘professional behaviour’ of ‘being prepared to have difficult conversations’. Like all such bollocks it was doublespeak, it was supposed to be about ‘speaking truth to power’ and ‘being honest with stakeholders’ about business priorities. What it meant in practice was delivering bad news because your boss had made some contentious and probably highly dubious decision and therefore didn’t want to ‘have a difficult conversation’ about it. There was normally some internal politics involved, often some executive whim in the background.

  7. Challenging conversations?

    Sit down, talk it through, then they agree that I’m right.

    Piece of piss.

  8. Does anyone actually talk like this in the real world?

    No – the French have an expression for this: l’esprit de l’escalier for things that you wish you had said and think of too late (i.e. when you’ve left the room and are on the staircase).

  9. I don’t think any of this actually happened. It’s just a variation of the fictional “Imagine my surprise…” scenario which every new communication technology throws up. Shakespeare did it with cross-dressing and disguises. 1920s short stories marvelled at the fact that one might not be recognised on the telephone. I’ve read on-line fictions about post-mortem videos, and chat-room buddies/enemies meeting in real life. This particular one plays on the twin anxieties of women getting a job in a “beautiful office” and also the amount of pleasure one is supposed to experience in being mounted by a succession of men who are secretly being auditioned for the domestic dad role.

  10. This “Brendan” (stock character name?) might be married.
    If not, and she’s not in HR, why should he GAF?

  11. There is as much fantasy and wishful-thinking in this as there used to be in the “reader’s real-life experiences” stories that one sometimes found in the kind of literature encountered in hedges in the pre-Internet era…

  12. Does anyone actually talk like this in the real world?

    I started what I laughingly call my career in the early 80s in a public sector pseudo-profession peripheral to education. I enjoyed the supervision of one particularly dim harridan, an MBA graduate (sorry, Tim!) whose first conversation with me concluded with the phrase “Thank you for dialoguing with me”. This was not a one-off.

  13. Trevor, that reminds me of the time a colleague and I had a business meeting with a large consultancy corporation in Bracknell and the twonk we were meeting introduced himself as a “six-sigma black belt”. To which my colleague replied “Interesting. I have a black belt in Origami myself”.

  14. Henry,
    Bad memories.
    I used to work at a division of Motorola, an acquisition situation. For a while Moto mgmt pretty much left us product dev people alone, but one day there was that email…Time for everyone to spend time learning about Six Sigma, our great achievement!
    Fortunately for me this was just before Moto stumbled badly in the phone biz, and we got sold. So I never got any belts, sigh.

  15. “Do you think this is a man or a woman writing this?”

    Without reading any further than this, absolutely a woman. What guy give’s a monkey about the fancy office and the flexibility? Nor would men, typical, do something like ‘wait for the opportunity for the ‘right’ role’.

  16. Some questions for my readers. Do you think this is a man or a woman writing this?

    Screamed “Woman” for me

    She’s accepted a job where she dislikes her new boss and he believes she’s a liar, unprofessional and views her with contempt?

    She’s either insane or lying.

  17. Do you think this is a man or a woman writing this?

    First clue. Question would not have been asked if it was a man 🙂 But yeah, like someone else noted, “beautiful offices and great workplace flexibility” are not things a man (and quite frankly a lot of women) care about.

    The whole tone of this piece screams “fake.”

    People will say that about me soon.

    One of your funniest lines! Evah!

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