Thursday, November 27, 2008

Giving Thanks

Bullies. I was tormented by them my entire life, until ten years ago. That was when I had it stopped.

For several years prior to that, my supervisor was an ex-Marine, ex-Special Ops, probably an alcoholic, definitely possessing an anger/attitude problem. "Butch" was also one of the most talented illustrators on the East Coast. This was all that was needed by the nimrods who hired him to bring our organization back to respectability, after several years of direction by a budget analyst, of whom conventional wisdom said his only reason for getting the job, was that his boss owed his daddy a favor. (Your tax dollars at work, folks.) This new supervisor, on the other hand, was eminently qualified, at least on paper. He also came in with a "manifest destiny" of sorts, which meant reminding us all of our place, especially the "senior designer," which was me.

So, after most of the nimrods left -- political appointees from the elder Bush years; more about those losers later -- Butch was still here. He loved humiliating me in front of co-workers, clients, other managers, you name it. And he could get away with it too. He called me into his office one day, and described in vivid detail how he would hunt down my family members one by one if he wanted to carry out a vendetta. My performance evaluation one year went something like this: "You're doing the work, David, but a lot of people just don't like you." Once he even grabbed a piece of paper out of my hand and pushed me, in front of witnesses. Around here, that's simple assault. Anyone else would have been terminated that day. I don't know why the EEO officer didn't think I had a case, or why the union local didn't help. I do know the union's attorneys said I had a case against the local for being a bunch of screwballs. I also know, that had it been a case of a white supervisor and a black employee... but never mind that for now.

Did I try to leave? Oh, sure. But it's hard to do when a) you can count all the openings for graphic designers in the Federal government on one hand, b) two other colleagues from your own office are also putting in for it, and c) your supervisor essentially lies in giving you a bad rating for it. So with a pension to consider, not to mention child support, I was stuck.

Then one day, during the Clinton years, we got a new Director of Communications (our parent office). She went about re-organizing the entire staff into marketing teams. This put me out of his reach. Still, he told me in a staff meeting that he could still order me around, and the Big Director nodded in assent. That's when I hatched my devious plan.

One day I sent out a memo on a job-related matter. Butch was one of those who got a courtesy copy. He yelled at me for getting him involved by doing that, and used a reference implying an unnatural relationship with my mother. I knew the Director, who was political, would go out of her way not to appear racist. Her deputy had no such baggage. So when I wrote up the incident, I sent it to the deputy, leaving her out of it. This memo forced a meeting with me, Butch, and several other managers. After denying the entire incident, he proceeded to berate me in front of the others. By this time, they had found his antics to be too distasteful. He wasn't aware of that yet. I was. After showing himself for the lout that he was, he stormed out of the meeting, after which every manager in the room apologized to me profusely. This included his own boss, who sat there dumbfounded while I tore him a new one, for allowing the whole thing to occur in the first place.

The union had sent a representative, who suggested I might need counseling. That was the extent of her usefulness, for which modern medicine still has no cure.

What happened to Butch? He was "kicked upstairs" into a useless "special assistant" position, only to leave quietly about a year later. The details were fuzzy, but I was told there was some impropriety involved, and they gave him a choice. Butch now runs his own very successful art gallery. I am very happy for his success. I am even happier for mine, especially in the knowledge that, along with this incident, at least fifteen years of incompetent and dysfunctional management of our office -- the failings of one paper-hanging pinhead after another -- came to an end.

The big showdown occurred ten years ago this week. I have known little fear of anything or anyone since then. Although a perennial threat since childhood, bullies no longer bother me, even the ones I meet in bars. What's more, nobody at the workplace with a title ever gives me any grief either. I get respect, dammit. Butch made this possible, and I will never forget his legacy, or the great gift he left to me. Should we ever meet again, I just want to tell him one last time... to kiss my @$$.


Unknown said...

Found it!

Garret Girmus said...

That made me smile, especially that last paragraph. Having received my fair share of grief from others, I completely understand.