In a past life, and for a very brief period of time, I was a PR manager. And when I say brief, I mean brief – three days to be exact.
Now, I don’t believe in jumping ship at the first sign of trouble, but there were many things about that job – including an incompetent boss – which took me only 72 hours to figure out and bail.
For starters, she was never in. My colleagues told me she spent her mornings cooped up at home and so she often communicated with the team via email.
Then, there were the emails, which WERE ALL TYPED OUT IN CAPS. Everyone knows that’s just rude, and coming from the boss it does say a lot about the culture.
I also noticed people tended to freeze up every time the phone rang. Because of the nature of the business, clients would call our branches, rather than the head office, which only meant one thing when the phones rang: the boss was calling to scream about something.
The other thing I noticed almost immediately was as soon as word got out that she was in the building and on the way up, the radio would be turned off, people would return to their desks and morale would drop.
On the second day of the job, I approached the boss to discuss the company’s marketing and PR strategies, and asked if I could get information about the products and services so I could start drafting something up.
While I can’t remember the response word for word, it was something along the lines of, “Nothing’s been written down, but you can make it up.” Not exactly encouraging advice.
There was also a severe lack of leadership and communication and every member of the team was wound up, on edge and absolutely disengaged. I had joked with one of the other managers that maybe the office was experiencing Stockholm Syndrome. She didn’t laugh.
The mix of a bad working culture, an ineffective boss and the feeling of being thrown into the deep-end prompted me to ask for a meeting with my boss on the third morning. At first, she was too busy, but after I sent a second email which heavily hinted at my intentions to leave, she called me, yelling that I was being very rude and asked that I stay put. A few hours later, she arrived at the office and summoned me.
Instead of having a conversation in her office, she decided to berate me in the middle of the office, where every other employee could hear us. It pretty much cemented my decision to leave.
I was told I was ungrateful, that I lacked initiative and imagination (clearly in reference to my inability to make up products) and that I was never going to find a boss or a company as good to work for.
I told her I’ll take my chances and left.
While I’m not advocating you up and leave your job three days in, poor managers like this drive home the point that the fish really stinks from the head down.
I know it’s not easy to be the boss and be in charge of everything from KPIs to employee wellbeing. But if you’re accepting a role at the top, then you have to be prepared to take on the responsibilities that come with it.