Hot boss, cold boss: This tech pro just had no chance

Two bosses can't control their feelings and miscommunicate, sabotaging their current contract and a potential new one

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Let's try that again

So I was surprised when I got a call saying they wanted me so much I should take all the time I needed to make up my mind. I was pleased, but I thought twice. I had a bad feeling about the work relationship I might have with Boss B. Still, I eventually accepted the job, for lack of alternatives and much peer pressure.

It did not start well. On the first day of work, I followed the directions Boss B had given me but got lost -- turned out she'd omitted a few details. Then I found out the team I was assigned to ran SGML data converters, which were worse than those I had constructed for them while at the software supplier. Theirs produced erroneous output, and they had work processes to manually correct them instead of revising the converters or adding software to repair the output. I built on what I'd learned from my previous job to write proposals for improvement and gave them to Boss B, but she ignored them, and I never could seem to find her to ask about them.

Finally, in a team meeting, an opportunity arose, and I asked for her thoughts on my proposals. She didn't answer, instead shooting me a look that could kill. I didn't press the matter any further. I later learned that the malfunctioning converters were all her work, based on her academic achievements, and that the corporate hierarchy was a very political environment that had her back. They didn't think kindly about suggestions for improvement.

Running these data converters left me with plenty of idle time while they did their work. Bored, I happily accepted work from people in other departments, who gave me tasks in the very project work I had done while with the software supplier.

It didn't keep me from doing my assigned job, but it did get me into trouble. It turned out the other departments had not gotten formal permission from Boss B to give me tasks. Which led to me being fired from her team for not following her orders.

The other side of the story

Before I was fired, however, there was another turn to the twisted tale. I ran into Boss B in the hallway, and she was in a rare talkative mood. Suddenly, she began discussing the meeting with Boss A from the software supplier that had led to the termination of that contract. As she shared more information about that meeting's true nature, her face distorted with rage, just like Boss A's had.

The purpose of that meeting had been a sales pitch, to which Boss B had invited Boss A. During the sales pitch, Boss B asked the potential customer to share their ideas for new software features that would make it more usable for them. Her aim, of course, was to gain the customer's interest and hopefully make a sale.

According to her, Boss A had sabotaged the sales pitch by immediately shooting down the potential customer's ideas, saying they were impossible to implement and refusing to discuss or explain why. Considering what Boss A had told me, I wondered if he had grasped at all the meeting's purpose and that a potential new customer was present. Nevertheless, in the meeting Boss B had disagreed with Boss A, and they both jumped into a heated argument right in front of the prospective customer.

Who, not surprisingly, did not buy the software.

Only the fly on the wall knows what really happened, but it seems like a basic lesson: Communicate clearly and control your emotions. It's just good for business.

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This story, "Hot boss, cold boss: This tech pro just had no chance," was originally published at Read more crazy-but-true stories in the anonymous Off the Record blog at For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.

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