He Who Laughs Last… #socs #JusJoJan

My uncle Jack gave me the advice early on in my career: get whatever experience you can on a job and leave after a couple of years. I wish I had followed his advice rather than working for the same company for 20 years. Actually, the company changed hands a number of times while I was there, but it was a case of “new circus, same clowns” each time.

I finished my career there working for a person I didn’t like working with many years earlier. To give you some idea of how well it went, the day it was announced that he was going to be my manager, he omitted my name from the list of names he sent his introductory email to. I walked in that morning, and everyone wanted to know what had happened and where I was going. Naturally, I was pretty upset by the whole thing and was ready to raise a stink about it, but I checked my email and he had forwarded me the original, with a sorry-not-sorry added to it. The next time I saw him, I introduced myself: “Hello M., I’m John Holton, and unfortunately I work for you.” He laughed it off.

I was lucky that I had a manager between him and me for most of the time I worked for him, but that relationship went away about the time the company had developed a new product, so to speak, and he decided I should be the lead person on it. He then spent a lot of time and effort micromanaging me and basically getting in my face whenever he didn’t like the work I had done. I should have read the writing on the wall right then, but I was too busy to start looking for another job, or so I told myself.

Things came to a head when I was onsite with a client. He called me in my hotel, informed me he would be arriving that night for a meeting with the client in the morning, and he expected me to meet him at his hotel (which was on the other side of town) so that the two of us and the salesperson (who had worked with us before and who’s another story entirely) could “strategize.” He then launched into a lengthy diatribe about how I have a “cavalier attitude” and that I had better watch myself and change my ways.

I wasn’t especially happy when I hung up. The only thing that cheered me up was realizing I was in Cleveland, whose NBA team is, ironically, the Cavaliers. After dinner, I went in search of a Cavaliers hat, but couldn’t find one. I went back to the hotel and waited for his call. By midnight, I decided he wasn’t going to call, and went to bed. The next morning, he arrived at the client site and told me he had gotten in at 10 the night before and decided to go to bed (and obviously not to call me).

Things deteriorated rapidly after that, and by May I was informed that I was being put on probation for 30 days. I asked what would happen if I didn’t want to do that, and he told me to hand in my notice as of the day the 30-day period ended. Mary and I had already discussed what I should do (she had already told me to go ahead and quit several months earlier), so I handed in my notice, Mary asked some friends to watch the cats, and the two of us took off for Tennessee for a mini-vacation.

We spent the next several days wandering around central Tennessee, and one of the things we did was visit antique stores. In one store, Mary came up to me and said, “I found something you should give M.” She took me to a room and pointed at a painting on the wall:

Frans Hals, “The Laughing Cavalier” (source: Wikipedia, Public Domain)

It was a reproduction, of course, but if it hadn’t been a little out of my price range…


Stream of Consciousness Saturday is brought to you each week by Linda Hill and this station. This month, it’s also part of Just Jot It January.

Now here’s Yogi Bear for Kellogg’s OKs cereal. The one with the bear on the box!

34 thoughts on “He Who Laughs Last… #socs #JusJoJan

  1. Excellent recap of the journey to laughter and freedom from a not-so-wonderful boss – leading to a great take on the ‘art’ prompt too!

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  2. Boo that you had to go through that. The manager makes or breaks the place that is for sure. Love the portrait of the Laughing Cavalier. I wish they had had an inexpensive postcard sized one in the gift shop.

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    1. It was at an antique store, so I doubt there was a gift shop. 🤣 Or you might consider the whole place a gift shop, I guess…

      My definition of antique: “expensive old crap.” Not that some of it isn’t worth having…

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  3. I bet you did not know there was a female version. I worked for her up to the point when I decided it was ‘time’ to retire. I am grateful to her for getting me to move on to the greener pastures I now roam. I wish it had happened sooner. Actually, mine was not as difficult as yours, but your story reminded me about how important it is to have a boss who is at least almost reasonable and knows what he or she is doing. I would need to find a painting of a witch doctor sticking pins in a voodoo doll as I was a bit more passive aggressive.

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    1. Bad managing is an equal opportunity employer. Trust me on that. Mine was like Col. Klink from “Hogan’s Heroes,” a reasonably good administrator and inveterate sycophant who had absolutely no idea what he was doing.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Toward the end of my career, I had two managers. I was a commercial insurance underwriter and handled several states thus the reason for the two managers. Well, they didn’t like each other, which made my job unbearable. Finally, when I transferred to Atlanta, I was rid of them. One of the managers felt he deserved more than he was getting and found other employment (his ego was bigger than life itself). The other manager didn’t know insurance very well, yet was teaching it to her team. She eventually was demoted. Needless to say, I was thrilled when I retired. Obviously, some people are not management material.

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  5. I got some good laughs from this post. It’s crazy what we put up with for security or whatever. Glad we both survived difficult work settings with a sense of humor intact. Keep laughing!

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    1. It takes a lot of time to realize that the only person that keeps someone “trapped in a dead-end job with a crappy boss” is themselves. I know that was true in my case: I didn’t want to leave a company where I had spent a significant portion of my life, where I knew and liked my immediate supervisor and I had four weeks of vacation, to go somewhere and be the new guy and have to break in a new boss and everything. Fact was, I hadn’t been happy in that job for years; after I had quit, I sat down and made a list of all the times I should have quit, and there were close to a dozen entries on the list. I should never have let it get that bad.

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      1. I understand. My immediate supervisor was good too. She’s still there and very stressed by the job, but as a single mom feels she has to stay until her son graduates from high school. I had good health benefits, lots of vacation time and hundreds of hours of sick time built up. They paid me for the vacation time but not the sick. Thing is, if I had stayed, the job would eventually make me sick. I’m very thankful to be free.

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  6. HAHAHAHA! That would have been awesome, and it’s awesome enough just to know you could have, and you shared it right here. Well played, John, well played!

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    1. I actually have Mary to thank for coming up with that. She was the one that found the painting, which was a full-size reproduction (33 x 26.5). It was HUGE. Would have looked great on the wall opposite his desk, where it could stare at him all day…

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  7. I hear you. I’ve had some doozies. Currently I have a Director who took off for 4 months, at the busiest time of the year (guess her boss has a good idea of how important she really is to the running of her area), then when she returned last week, told me that she has no intention of going back through her 4 months worth of email – if it’s important, they will get back to her. Well, she has been back a week, and I’ve already see several examples of how her NOT knowing things that were happening while she was gone has led to issues. Not that it matters as long as her boss keeps allowing her to get away with things. Sorry – I didn’t mean to rant about my work stuff on your blog. Glad you came out unscathed and able to laugh!

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  8. A lovely story from the “world of work” and p*ss poor managers. It takes a special kind of person to be a good manager. Unfortunately the definition of good manager widely varies based on whether you are a worker or an administrator. Oh how I wish you would have found one of those hats in Cleveland that day. Glad you are out from under that mess.

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    1. It was said about that manager that he managed the people above him much better than the people below him (in other words, he managed his managers better than his staff). He was the perfect example of the Peter Principle in action. It was my own fault that I stayed and let him ruin my life: I should have been ready to make a move when he took over, but I always hated writing my resume and always tried to do it at the last minute.

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      1. John, it’s unfortunate you are blaming yourself (the victim) for his actions. About his being a better manager of his managers, that’s so often exactly what happens. I stuck through a steady stream of managers that ranged from mediocre, to deranged, to spiteful, to harassing, to outright toxic. Looking back at many of them, they ended up getting “downsized” and I am the one collecting a pension, so I guess it was worth the abuse. Probably not.

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        1. The only thing I was the victim of was my own bad judgment. I knew he was a jerk and that me working for him wouldn’t end well, but instead of dusting off my resume, gathering references, and putting out feelers, I stayed, believing for some strange reason that it would all change within a year and everything would be sunshine and lollipops again. Shows what I knew.

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  9. It must have been a word they taught in “how to be a jerk” school. One of my worst bosses also accused me of being cavalier. I’m glad you took the road you did, John, it’s just not worth it. I do understand about feeling too busy to look for a new job. It’s a function (I think) of a strong work ethic, where the job seems important, even though the people make it crummy.

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  10. I’m too close in to the whole “unemployed” and “different circus same clowns” thing. I’m glad you could laugh it off eventually, and really can empathize with the stress that was no doubt going on during the whole thing. I fantasize about sending something to the nanomanging (worse than micromanaging) Botox Barbie from the last job, nothing as pleasant as a painting of a cavalier…

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  11. In my career I had to deal with bosses from all European countries ! I could write a book about them ! I had to translate German, French, Italian, into English or the other way around. I think you did well to quit !

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