Monday, April 11, 2011

Well, We'll See How This Goes

That's how I used to feel about Meanboss. (He's the German Shepards, I'm the cat.)

Last week, I had a cognitive behavioral therapy breakthrough of sorts. Meanboss was going to Florida to visit family. Meanboss is absolutely convinced that the only thing stopping us from setting the building on fire and then hunting down and killing all the clients is his presence in the state. Consequently, he is completely insane the day before a trip. He is equally insane when he gets back.

So, there I am listening to him freak the fuck out on Lady Lawyer, practicing being calm. {breathe normally, his anger is not my problem, i am calm} It was working well enough, though I don't have any idea how to control my heart rate*. Then Meanboss smashed the handset of his phone down onto the base so hard the handset shattered- and I had a moment of perfect clarity.

I wasn't afraid, I was annoyed. I felt exactly the same way about his behavior as I do about a small child throwing a temper tantrum. It was absolutely ridiculous that this grown man was acting in a manner I wouldn't accept from a toddler. I wasn't panicking, I was embarrassed for him.

Then I realized something else. Meanboss is nicety nicenicenice in front of clients, which means that he knows this behavior is unacceptable and he is perfectly capable of controlling it. This increased my annoyance. Clearly, I am unworthy of controlled, sane behavior. I am unworthy, in his eyes, of the simple respect of politeness- something I extended to the drunk homeless man who barely missed puking on my shoes Friday night while I waiting for the bus**. ("Would you like a napkin to wipe your mouth?" He did.)

So, we'll see. Meanboss wasn't yelling directly at me, which made achieving perspective easier, but it was definitely a success. I've spent years having panic attacks every time Meanboss twitches, so it was a big success.

Meanboss comes back from his trip today, and his returns are usually worse than his leaving, so we'll see if one success begets more successes.

Calm, I am calm.

*I frequently have episodes of tachycardia anyway, so I'm good at ignoring it.

**Had he actually puked on my shoes, I'm not sure I would have been so polite. I'm not a saint.


  1. Meanboss sounds like my ex. :) Hence the exness. Congratulations on a success. I want to be like the voice in the old Nintendo video game that yells "SUCESS" when you complete a level. You go girl! :)

  2. I was kind of picturing old Mortal Kombat:


  3. LOL! It would also help if when I spell things in ALL CAPS I spelled them correctly. Anyway, working with Meanboss sounds pretty fatal.

  4. Just playing devil's advocate, because I'm someone who goes off on people I'm comfortable around far more than people I don't know well...

    It's not that someone who gets angry and throws tantrums in front of you lacks respect for you. The fact that they act an asshole is largely a function of trust; they trust that you can handle it and that you know it's not personal. Yes, the behavior is deplorable and arguably disrespectful, but I'm fairly confident it's not a lack of respect. Sometimes people get pissed off because they respect a person so much that they expect perfection from them.

    That, or people like us are just douchebags.

  5. Ginx, I think what you're saying has truth to it -- but I don't know that that truth is applicable in a workplace. My bipolar husband, for instance, definitely feels safe to rant (in the symptomatic bipolar sense) at me and his parents because he knows we aren't going anywhere. I will say this, though: he used to do it at his employees. And once it was made clear to him that this wasn't tenable behavior, he learned to stop doing it at them. Now, does that make it all the more frustrating to me in some ways, that he can "control himself" around his employees but sometimes he just plain can't around me or his parent? Damn straight it does. But I can recognize that he is capable of controlling himself when he must, whether or not it's an issue of trusting that I and his parents can take it when he starts ranting like a four-year-old.

    Not to say that Meanboss has bipolar disorder, or any other mental illness. The bipolar connection is just what comes immediately to mind for me, is all.

  6. I don't think it's trust in the sense of Ariadne's husband, who trusts that she understands his illness and is being accommodating, but trust in the sense that he can always find another secretary. To him, I'm easily replaceable. One secretary is as good as any other. Being a secretary is so easy, there is no such thing as a good secretary, in the same way that no one comes out of anyone's bathroom saying, "Wow! That's a nice toilet!"

    Niceboss, on the other hand, realizes that he has someone who shows up, on time, cares about the quality of her work, can understand him when he says, "you know, that case" and can puzzle out his handwriting- and to him, that's difficult to replace and therefore valuable.

  7. I think the ultimate test is how you treat someone who's helping you, but isn't someone workign for you. If they get angry at a waiter, they're a douchebag. If they're polite and patient with people they see as serving them but who are not close to them, then maybe what I said is applicable.

    Obviously I don't know the guy, so I'm just suggesting an alternative theory behind the mechanics. Obviously it doesn't help the situation one way or the other.

    Though he must be nuts if he thinks he can replace PF.

  8. @Bret "Ginx" Alan said:

    Just playing devil's advocate, because I'm someone who goes off on people I'm comfortable around far more than people I don't know well...

    I have a questions about that. I'm not being adversarial here, it's just a curiosity. Why do you go off on people you're comfortable around? What makes that okay? Do you think it makes those people uncomfortable around you?

    Again, please don't take my questions as bitchy. I'm trying to understand.

  9. I had a boss like that. He threw phones or coffee cups. Temps would burst into tears, walk out, and not return. I needed the job.

    I reacted a lot like you did. At the time, my sons were about 4 years old, and I handled his tantrums like theirs. I would just wait until he had calmed down, and then ask, "What was it you wanted? I didn't understand most of that."

    His favorite complaint was, "What the fuck is WRONG with you people???" I had two responses:
    1. Well, my shrink blames it all on my mother.
    2. Would you like my faults listed alphabetically or chronologically?

    After about a year, he realized I wasn't scared of his outbursts, and that he could trust me to do my job right even if he didn't scream, and the tantrums stopped.

  10. Still having trouble getting comments through, but maybe if I keep trying it'll magically start working by the powah of the universe...

    I have a brother. We're pretty much polar opposites, personality-wise. He also shares the trait of "going off" at people he trusts: specifically my parents. The only reason I'm exempt is because I very carefully cultivated a 'neutral' relationship with him: sometimes "taking his side" and trying to explain his position to my parents (even when I disagreed), other times explaining their position to him. As a result, he doesn't know if he can trust me or not. It probably also helps that, aside from the mandatory older brother teasing, I don't talk to him much. Our interests are somewhat dissimilar.

    "I wasn't afraid, I was annoyed. I felt exactly the same way about his behavior as I do about a small child throwing a temper tantrum."

    PF: from my perspective, this is a really good thing! Once I got used to my brother going off at my parents, this was exactly how I started to feel about it. Less "WTH is he doing?!" and more "oh great, here we go again."

    The next step: sadistic amusement. Twist your sense of humour into a pretzel and you realise that a grown man acting like a toddler is really damn funny: they're making themselves look like a complete moron for your entertainment and all you have to do is keep a straight face. Normally you have to load them up with alcohol and provide the pool toys and shaving cream.

  11. yet again, Quasar said what i was gonna say.

    if you can find his idiocy funny, you should be able to handle it better - but i'm more interested in the fact that you realized you're EMBARASSED on his behalf [i can't find things that are mortify funny, even if it's part of the movie or whatever...] so, are you freaking out, thinking about how people would react if YOU did that?is that why the embarassment gives you a panic attack?

    not to do your counselor's job or anything, but it seems likely, which means [to me, 15 years after i dropped out my last semester of a BS in adolesent psychiatry, so grains of salt needed here] that what you *also* need to do is turn off your empathy for him. stop CARING that he's making himself the ass.

    at least, that's how i'm reading it - not being there and all. although i *DO* think it's a good thing, that it's embarassment and not fear!

    *hugs* i hope he wasn't *too* terrible when he came back.

  12. Other folks have already said everything that I would have, so I'll simply observe: Personal Failure has Leveled Up!

  13. LEVEL UP!

    +1 strength
    +1 agility
    +3 calm
    +27 snark

    PF learned new ability: Level 1 Meanboss Countermeasure!
    PF learned new ability: Level 3 Summon Demons of Blogosphere!

  14. hey, don't forget - we minions have leveled with her! and she gained more minions - every level, she gains more minions :)


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