Don’t Be Like Joe

Dennis Friedman

I HAD SOME GOOD bosses and some bad ones over my 35-year career. The worst was Joe. He tried to intimidate you. I once overheard him tell another manager that he likes to ride his employees and dig his spurs into them.

What was so terrible about Joe? It wasn’t that he was tough on employees. It was that he was unfair. You incurred his wrath whether you deserved it or not.

I remember the first time I attended a meeting held by Joe. He started shouting at another employee. He stopped for a second to catch his breath, and then turned to me, pointed his finger and said, “I’m going to get to you next.” It was Joe’s way of using fear to try to get the maximum effort out of his employees.

Luckily, I was in my 40s when Joe was my boss. By that time, I was a seasoned employee who wasn’t easily intimidated. I’d also been contributing to the pension plan for almost 20 years. I wasn’t about to throw that away and quit because of Joe’s outbursts.

After Joe retired, there was a major reorganization within the company. Kevin was now my boss. He was one of the best managers I ever worked for. He was the antithesis of Joe. He showed you respect and treated you fairly. In return, employees gave their best effort. I never heard anyone say a bad word about Kevin. That’s how much he was liked by his employees.

Although I didn’t report directly to him, he took an interest in everyone under his leadership. One day, Kevin pulled me aside in the factory. He said, “I appreciate the outstanding work you’ve done for us. I’m also embarrassed at what we’re paying you. You’re underpaid for what you’re doing. I’m going to fix that.”

What was so remarkable about that conversation: I’d never complained or asked for more money, but it didn’t matter. Kevin supported all his employees. He was there for you.

I had no idea what my coworkers were making. Kevin was in a better position to know whether I deserved more compensation. He gave me a promotion and an 18% pay raise. Two months later, we had our annual review. I was given another generous raise. Within a short period, I was making almost 25% more money.

When the boss I reported to informed me of my new salary, he asked if I was going to buy a new car. At the time, I drove a late model Toyota Camry. But I knew exactly what I wanted to do with the money. Save it. I continued to max out my 401(k) plan contributions. When I reached age 50, I added regular catchup contributions. I also increased my contributions to my taxable Vanguard Group account.

When I look back, the person who had the biggest impact on my financial security was my manager, Kevin. That’s why it’s important to not only find the right job, but also the right boss.

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