Last week I complained about a bad day at work, so today I think I will turn it around and discuss a more upbeat work-related topic. Namely, my manager J. J is not like any other manager I have had. In fact, she is not like any other person I have known. A one-time high school cheerleader, J maintains a constantly upbeat demeanor that would normally irritate the hell out of me, but for some reason she wears it just well enough that I find it incredibly refreshing and inspiring. J sees the best in all of her employees and actively connects us with opportunities to challenges us and help us grow. J respects are abilities and does not have a single micro managerial bone in her body. J is a spiffy dresser with an endless supply of beautifully tailored clothing. J brings in cakes for our birthdays and has a major sweet tooth and normally you'd hate somebody who can shovel chocolate into her mouth all day and still maintain a size 0, but with J I somehow don't mind. J inspires me to be better at my job because the thought of disappointing her upsets me to no end. J is the first manager I have ever liked, and has shown me that it is in fact possible to maintain a respectful relationship with the person who ultimately decides if your work is up to snuff.
In the past I have maintained a level of disgruntled resignation to the people I report to. In addition to the year I spent temping when I first moved to the area in 1999, I have had four managers before J.
Manager 1 seemed pretty cool at first, but three months into my stay there it became clear that she had little interest in her own job, let alone mine, and would spend most of her time out of the office planning for her upcoming wedding and the arrival of her new baby. I respected the fact that Manager 1 had achieved all of her professional goals and had opted to spend the next several years of her life concentrating on her family. That was cool with me. What I wasn't cool with however, were her unfilled promises of wanting to "mentor" me, because apparently her idea of mentoring was to let me do her work at a fraction of her salary with no promise of advancement for a job well done.
Manager 1 eventually resigned and was quickly replaced by Manager 2
Manager 2 was a surly Jamaican woman who hated me from first glance. I'm not 100% certain why she took such an instant disliking to me, but boy did she ever. I will admit to having possessed a certain amount of self-entitlement at 25 but she quickly took to work stripping me of that as my life became an endless series of data entry assignments, which having recently been doing the work of the Public Affairs Director, I was a little bored with, which showed in my attitude. Manager 2 also liked to criticize my wardrobe. She didn't look fondly upon my head to toe black sartorial statements and took every opportunity she could to inform me of this. Manager 2 also spent hours each day gossiping with B, the office priss, in her office with the door closed. Manager 2 tried to fire me, without success.
Eventually fate intervened and the President of our organization decided to promote the Development Director to be Manager 2's boss, and mine as well. Manager 2 was no longer my manager, and the Development Director quickly stripped her of most of her responsibilities. The Development Director was now Manager 3. I had previously disliked her overbearing nature that seemed a desperate attempt to overcompensate for some sort of personal insecurity perhaps inspired by her oversized doughy body and unfortunate frizzy black hair. But Manager 3 and I shared one crucial commonality--neither one of us could stand Manager 2, and we quickly bonded. In fact, Manager 2 was eventually forced out altogether and I was promoted to Public Affairs Manager, not a shabby feat for a 26 year old.
However, word that the organization was losing its funding and going under had inspired me to develop a contingency plan, which leads me to Manager 4 who hired me to work at a nationally-based progressive non profit. Early entries of Hey Pretty reflect my experience there so I won't go into major details expect to say that Manager 4 ultimately turned out to be a dud as well. If you've ever had a manager who dressed right out of the Juniors department at Kohl's, used flirting as her primary mode of communication with powerful men, and left you alone to photocopy for two hours while she got her hair done, then you have a good idea of what it was like to work for Manager 4. She laid me off a year ago and I have never missed her for a single moment.
If you're still reading this, all this is to say that J announced this morning that she's moving to Arizona to be closer to her family. As the lynchpin of our little work family, I hate to imagine what it will be like without her here, and her announcement this morning left all of us stoically attempting to not burst into tears, our chins trembling when she delivered her news, made more poignant by the fact that she herself looked like she was about to lose it.
We'll get a new team leader but nobody will be able to replace J. In this age of disgruntled office workers blogging about their sucky work environments I am proud to offer tribute to her. Here's betting she'll be just as happy and successful in her new job of full-time mom.