One of the main advantages of being self employed is that I don't have a boss, although I work for people.
In the words of Bob Dylan you "Gotta serve somebody," whether it's the Lord or the Devil and, as most of us come to realize, it's usually the latter.
The main problem I have found with bosses, is that most of them have been universally terrible. This may be a particular problem in the newspaper industry with its macho culture, a culture that incidentally means female bosses feel they have to overcompensate and be more macho than than the men.
I still have nightmares about one female boss who had a habit of marching around the office, throwing around phone books and yelling "fuckwits, fuckwits, fuckwits."
Which was a nice prelude to another day in the paradise we call the office.
Talking of the office, when we think of bad bosses we think of David Brent in the Office - a cringeworthy and embarrassing boss who is, nevertheless, entertaining. I have had bosses who I would willingly exchange for Brent.
Perhaps the most infamous newspaper boss of modern times was Kelvin McKenzie, the editor of the Sun, whose verbal tongue lashings of reporters in the middle of the newsroom were the stuff of legend.
McKenzie famously printed the direct phone number of Stuart Higgins, a subordinate, without his initial knowledge, billed him as the "Human Sponge" and asked readers to call him to "get things off their chest".
The newspaper industry probably exacerbates the bad boss culture because people are being laid off all the time. This gives bosses the power of economic life or death over employees. I recall the many times we were called into a conference room to be told of a restructuring that represented an "exciting new era," although it would mean the strategic removal of 20 jobs.
Then one day Boss called everybody into the conference room to announce he had been laid off - by his own boss presumably.
More commonly the bad boss stuff goes on behind closed doors and in offices dubbed with phrases such as the "ice room," the "death suite" and the "bollocking room."
At one previous newspaper when a reporter was dragged into the "bollocking room" we would take bets on whether he would emerge with a job. I say "he" because if it was "she" the reporter would be taken into the room to be given a promotion, particularly if she had long legs and a short skirt.
Jayne had long legs and a short skirt. Boss would send emails to me about readers moaning and to Jayne about how he would have to take her to lunch to introduce her to contacts. One day Jayne approached me. All the blood appeared to have run from her face.
"He wants me to attend x conference,"
"He's booked me a room at a hotel,"
"It's the same room as his."
"Not so OK."
At another newspaper, news conferences would become increasingly tense when Boss was in one of those moods.
"So what have you got Macca," (examining his slip on shoes because he hadn't worked out how to tie his laces."
"Blah, blah, blah."
"Is that it?"
"You don't have more for me."
Long sigh that signified my failure as a human being.
At another paper I got into design. One day I designed a page that was a bit different. Creative use of space. Like the Louvre. Sort of.
I arrived in the office the next morning and Boss is glaring at me, holding up my page.
"Good morning C..."
"You are taking the f... piss."
I started to get the impression he didn't like my design.
In America bosses tended to be less 'in your face' but that doesn't make them any cuddlier. There's a rule book for US bosses and it's called The Guide to Passive Aggression. A superficially friendly conversation on the stairwell will often be followed up by a terse email about an issue they could easily have addressed face to face.
I'm not sure why I went on this bosses rant but I think it was due to last night's dream. In it I dreamed of a former boss who had rather skillfully ignored my existence for six months or so really loved me and she was being distant to cloak her true feelings. The final scene as I departed for another job was like a vintage movie as the train pulled away and she sought to drag me to her in a last corporate embrace.
I woke up feeling frankly queasy.
Being my own boss can be illuminating but sometimes the spirits of bosses past creep into my soul and I beat myself up. Will I ever escape from those bad bosses?