The good, the bad and the ugly supervisors

I'm reading The Devil Wears Prada right now and it's a pretty amusing book. (I know I'm about 6 years behind.) I've been wanting to see the movie for a long time, but I refuse to watch any movie that's also a book before I read the book. That's my personal policy ever since I saw the first Harry Potter movie before I read the book. Anyway, recently a colleague told me I needed to watch Julie & Julia because of some parallels she saw between myself and Julie. It was a fantastic movie - Meryl Streep was incredible and it reminded me that I still want to see The Devil Wears Prada, which meant I needed to first read the book. (No, I didn't read the book and I'm not sure if I want to - has anyone read it who really liked it? It's getting a lot of terrible reviews.)

Okay, no more rabbit trails.

If you've ever read The Devil Wears Prada, you probably thought about all the not-exactly-favorite supervisors you had in the past - like I am right now. In my personal work history, I've had roughly 50/50 male to female supervisors. I've gotten along well with all of them in general. Most males I've worked for are pretty laid back. They will occasionally ride you about silly things, but even when we disagreed it didn't seem to have a long-term impact. In fact, it barely had a short-term impact. 

The women I've worked for have been incomparable to the men - understandably so, as men and women have different ways of handling situations and different motivations for getting things done. Many of them were good to work for, but they often lacked essential management skills. In most cases this was because they just hadn't been trained in management. I think this was mostly due to constraints of the particular organizations I worked in. I didn't envy them doing a job they'd been ill-equipped to do. It's hard not to feel for someone who is clearly struggling to make a firm decision or doesn't have control over a group of employees. Another problem with ill-equipped managers is they aren't ever truly given the authority and autonomy they need to manage effectively without input from higher levels. Talk about a recipe for disaster.

Then there's the mean manager I worked for years ago. I'm fortunate that I've only had one of these and it just so happens that it was a woman. (With this exception of this one mean manager, whom I've dubbed "Her Highness" for this post, I've had perfectly lovely women managers who were really great people to know.) Her Highness would eat you up and spit you out. She would tell you how bad you were doing your job to your face AND behind your back (while you could hear). The toxicity in the environment of that workplace was so bad you needed a hazmat suit to survive. My second day of work, I got in trouble for not putting coffee and water out for a meeting someone had. My second day. The first time there was such a meeting. There was no way to set up a reminder that a meeting was about to begin (you know, in case I was in the middle of something important).

I came from a high-tech background and not having reminders was just strange to me. So, the time for the meeting came and went and no coffee was served. Instead of the consultant mentioning my slip to me, he went straight to my supervisor to tell on me (he was a real mature one). And I got reamed out for it. Reamed out. Over coffee. On my second day. I should have quit right then and there. (But I stupidly stayed for two more years.)

This woman seemed to have an innate ability to hone in on your weaknesses and vulnerabilities and use them to denigrate your ability to do a job. She would claim you weren't doing something to her standards - standards she almost never communicated. Then she would take the task away to complete herself or give it to someone else to do "the right way" rather than spend the time training people on how she wanted things done.

So, it is with that particular supervisor in mind that I'm reading The Devil Wears Prada. I'm sure you can understand the correlation.