After reading many Bad Boss stories, one thing stands out: Work-family tension isn't new.
By far, the worst workplace tales revolve around this - and, no surprise, most of you with tales to tell are female. It pains me that space dictates I can only relate a handful of these (edited) stories.
In the 1980s, Mary and her husband learned she was pregnant. Sadly, problems developed: "The morning after my miscarriage, I got a call in my hospital room from the office manager . . . . who said she didn't like the way I handled [some duties] and wanted to know if I'd be in tomorrow." Her employer? An obstetrician.
A woman whose e-mail was signed "medical secretary" told how her family's joy at the birth of a niece ended tragically, after the newborn's failed surgery. Her doctor-boss gave her a break, but for the funeral, "I was told I was not able to have [that] day off [since] I had taken one day off that week to be with the family on surgery day."
Carol's young son needed his tonsils removed. "When I told my boss I needed to take some time off for his surgery, he was not too happy and told me to ask the doctor to schedule it on a Saturday so I wouldn't have to miss any work!"
An 82-year-old retired teacher recalled how personal days required the superintendent's OK. Called to his office, "he asked my plan for the requested day, the day before our son's wedding. He mulled the answer, removed the cap from the pen, signed it, then added, 'Let it be known that you cannot use personal days for helping out when any grandchild is born!'●"
Even when employers show compassion, they can be quick to pat themselves on the back, as happened to Marcia, who described her four years with "a billable-time company averaging 60 hours per week" as a job with "intense pressure."
When both her parents died within a week, she got time off for funerals and family business, although "my boss pointed out that 'some companies wouldn't have paid you for the 10 days!' Needless to say, that was the last time I worked over 40 hours while I reported to him!"
Few could top Kate's tale about the time her former company came under new management after a merger.
Summoned for a "strategy planning meeting," she and her group found themselves locked in a conference room with an armed guard and a long list of names - in the order they were to be taken out and either fired or retained. Six hours later, she learned she was lucky.
But chest pains gripped her one night, and again at work the next morning. She told her boss, then drove herself to the hospital, where the 37-year-old learned she was having a heart attack. Hooked up to all manner of cardiac instrumentation, she listened helplessly as her cell phone, nestled in her purse across the room, rang and rang.
"Finally a young doctor picked the phone up. My boss said he needed to know something or other, and the young man's face was incredulous. He asked if my boss knew I was being checked for a heart attack. My boss' reply? 'Tell her to call me the second she is done.'
The doctor looked at me and said, 'Whatever is going on in your life, you'd better get it turned around before it kills you.'●''