She Who Shall Remain Nameless

Remember Gleda Balls, one of my first bosses? Well, here’s another gem. This one made my life so miserable, I’m afraid to mention her by name. Though, if I were to pick one for her, Voldemort would be quite suitable. The best thing she did for me was to teach me how to recognize the signs when things are not working out. Signs that I’m sharing with you, so that you know, if any of these happen to you, it may be time to move on. Here’s a sampling:

  • Every night, you come home from the office and cry.
  • Sometimes you also bang your head against the wall.

When I first saw the 1988 film, "Working Girl," I thought Sigourney Weaver did a stellar job of capturing my boss. (Melanie Griffith is on the left).

  • You wish every day was Friday. In fact, you hate Mondays so much you start hating Sundays too, knowing they often lead to Mondays. You’re on the fence about Saturdays.
  • You’re well into your pregnancy and your boss says, “I don’t care how tired you are, you still have to be here by 8:30, not 8:35.”
  • Having children who may pull you away from the office for doctor appointments, school plays, etc., is frowned upon. You know this because only two others in your department have children and one has hired a full-time nanny, so that she rarely has to go home and see her child, and the other, the boss, has sent her child away to boarding school.
  • She asks you to cover for her on those mornings when she doesn’t get in until 10. This means you have to turn on her office light in the morning, pretend you’re having a conversation with her, and say she just went to the restroom, if asked.
  • You have a mild heart attack, are rushed to the hospital but are expected to show up for work the following day.
  • Inside information about your company is anonymously leaked to the press (not by you, as you’re too low in the corporate ladder to know anything) and the boss orders everyone into the boardroom for a scolding, and no one’s allowed to leave until someone confesses.
  • Your boss doesn’t know how to use her computer and orders you to do some of your work on hers so that management, which is monitoring everyone’s computer, thinks she’s doing her share.
  • You come up with an idea and your boss takes the credit. No one’s the wiser, and you watch as she gets recognized for it at a staff meeting.

All of these things happened to me, except for one. It was a colleague who suffered the heart attack.

I spent three years, five months and two days working for this boss, and yes, I did look for other jobs, but when I finally resigned, I left on the best of terms. My boss was so terrifying, there was no way I wanted to leave on her bad side. No burning bridges, if I could help it.

And when I left, I moved so far away I thought I would never see her again. Well, I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Fast forward four years. I have a new job, as does she: VP for a national company, in charge of communications, which includes coordinating the A/V for their annual conference. She rings me up, all sweetness and smiles and, when I answer the phone, I am immediately drawn into her snare.

She wants to “team up” for old time’s sake. Will pay me handsomely to help her with the conference, and do a little writing for her, like I used to. Just a few days and all I have to do is name my price.

Name my price? The spider has me in its web.

She even flies out Frankie Sands, the A/V guy and his crew, whom we used to work with back in the day. The three of us are together again, she says, adding, one last hurrah!  Though, she hints that if I play my cards right, there may be future gigs, repeating the words, “Name your price.” I’m taken in, thinking everyone deserves a second chance.

Oh. There’s one more thing she forgot to mention. Just a tiny matter, she says, with a sigh, her crimson lips mouthing a yawn. We’re sitting in a restaurant in the hotel lobby, and her long, manicured nails are drumming persistently against the mahogany bar.

She leans in, conspiratorially, and, looking me in the eye, she whispers, “Don’t tell a soul about this arrangement.”

And by soul she means the CEO, her boss. She explains how she hasn’t yet told him about our business deal, but she will soon, any moment. In the meantime, mum’s the word.

“Don’t worry,” she assures me. “It’ll be fine.”

A few days go by and the conference is over. Frankie Sands and I do our best work ever. “Have you told your boss?” I ask as she heads for the airport.

“Not yet,” she replies, but she’s so grateful to me. She kisses me on the cheek, reminding me to send her my invoice. And then she gets in a cab and is gone.

The flim-flam man. The con. For, that’s the last time I see her. Every call and email goes unanswered. Weeks go by. Months, and I finally give up. I fell for the biggest con of them all.

Then, one day, I get a call from Frankie Sands. Turns out, what she did to me, she did to him. She screwed us both. Shame on us.

But unlike me, Frankie and his company are at risk of losing money in the six figures. He tells me he’s suing her and her company and wants to know how much I’m owed because Frankie, God bless him, has a plan.

He rolls the funds owed to me into his suit and he wins. Every cent owed. Soon, he sends me a check, and I am overcome with gratitude. He didn’t have to do it; he didn’t have to help me, but he did. And, if Frankie is reading this, Frankie, you’re a true mensch.

And to Voldemort, my old boss: Good riddance. As The Who once said, we “won’t get fooled again.”