Rogue Ink

May 20, 2008

Lousy Boss, or How I Starved a Kitten

Filed under: Entrepreneurship — Tei @ 5:39 am
Tags: , ,

I promised you guys more race relations today, but I’m going to fail you. I figure we’re being a tad gloomy about the Lusty Weevil these days, so I’m writing you a post in my own favorite pub in my old hometown, Albany’s The Pub, drinking a pint at one of the wood tables and discussing my inadequacies as a boss.

As it turns out, I’m a lousy boss.

Allow me to first define ‘boss’. ‘Boss’ usually means ‘clients’. They’re not your real boss. They can’t really tell you what to do. By and large, though, they’re responsible for your paycheck, and they are in charge of the current project, so you do in fact answer to them. Their only differentiation from a normal boss is that they are not responsible for your health insurance. Though they should be. I’m pretty sure the ulcers I have are their fault.

I just became a boss/client myself. Not my usual state of affairs. I actually cannot remember having ever personally hired a freelancer for my own project before. I say this so that as this story unfolds, you will not immediately think, “That asshole,” but rather, “That poor, misguided, inexperienced soul. Oh, well, she’ll learn.”

I’ve hired a couple of people recently to do all the things that I personally do not know how to do. Well. Not all the things. It is not within my economic means to hire someone to do impressionist painting for me. Or make Brazilian-style roasted meats. Or perform the entire works of Shakespeare in an ongoing festival in my living room. We have limited the hires to those things that I do not know how to do business-wise, and unfortunately, due to budget constraints, ‘run a business’ was not something I could afford to hire someone to do.

Which is probably how I wound up being a lousy boss. I’m pretty sure if I had hired someone to be the business-runner for me, he or she would have been a pretty good boss. I, however, suck at it.

Here’s how I found out I was a lousy boss.

My web guys sort of plaintively/firmly got in touch with me the other day. I do not know how they managed to be both plaintive and firm, but that is why I hired them. They are damned good at paradox, and that is good for rogues. The gist of the email, and I am both paraphrasing and exaggerating, was, “Dude. You have disappeared off the face of the earth and though the total of expenses is normally due upon project completion, that is sort of contingent on you continuing to finish the project. Please stop being the Invisible Rogue and pay us. Also, if you wanted to, you know, finish your website, you might find that beneficial on a personal level. Just saying.”

I have sent these letters before. It’s what you’re supposed to do when you haven’t been paid and/or when your client isn’t finishing the project. You’re supposed to send a nice, courteous wake-up call. They are usually to perfectly nice clients, who I know bear me no actual malice and who probably are completely unaware that there is a problem on my end. My letters usually have the following subtext:

“Um, hi. If you don’t pay me, I can’t eat anything other than oatmeal for the next week. FEED ME, SEYMOUR!”

I try not to sound quite that desperate, but my point is I know this problem. This is the problem of having a lousy boss. These are the clients who delay the project indefinitely, who want weird changes, who disappear entirely for weeks so that no work can be done, and who neglect to realize that there is no overhead company paying a salary. The client does not realize (or, in the Alternate Universe of Dipwads, does not care) that your personal welfare depends on this project being completed. No project finish = no rent money. That simple.

I’m that guy. Oh, gods, I’m THAT guy. How did I come to be that guy?

How did I come to be a lousy boss?

I don’t know how to set aside time to do things for myself. I know how to do things for clients. I am the best goddamn Gal Friday in the business. I will break my back to make sure what I deliver is to the client’s liking, that it’s delivered on time, and that it accomplishes what they need.

All of that takes some serious time and energy. Whatever’s left of my time goes to my projects. By the time I’ve finished my clients’ projects, though, I am usually not thinking, “Sweet! I’ll work MORE, but for ME. That sounds like twelve kinds of awesome smothered in special sauce and triple-baked with cheese!”

I am usually thinking, “Sweet. It’s done. Maybe I’ll go see Iron Man for the third time.”

And that’s all fine and dandy when I am the only person working on a project for me. But when I have other people working on a project for me, it bodes well to think of them as another kind of client. I don’t owe them work, but I do owe them the courtesy of remembering that they are now suffering a lousy boss. Unlike the many other times that I have encountered the lousy boss, I have the power to do something about this particular one. Namely, I can stop being lousy.

The consequences of being a lousy boss are dire. It may already be too late.

The second I got the email (which, by the way, was infinitely more courteous than my summarized counterpart above) I realized that I was being a complete loser, and I immediately coughed up the remaining portion of the payment. As a result, I got a quick thank-you from the designer, which included the following sentence:

“Thanks. Now my cats will get to eat this week.”

Yes. That’s right. My lousiness was so extraordinarily lousy that it STARVED KITTENS.

Do not be a lousy boss. The kittens deserve to live.

Subscribe. More guilt trips tomorrow.



  1. You are lucky he has cats. Had he been a dog owner, some guy named Vinnie might have shown up at your door with his head cocked and his eyebrows raised. You would have briefly wondered why this large man had rung your bell, but your curiosity would soon be satisfied as Vinnie explained the purpose of his visit. Vinnie is a man of few words, so he wouldn’t have actually said much, but you’d get the gist of it quickly enough.

    Now I’m not saying that any and every person who owns dogs would have employed Vinnie to jog your purse. But no cat owner ever would.

    Except Doctor No, of course. But he wouldn’t have sent Vinnie either. He would have done something worse.

    Comment by Tony Lawrence — May 20, 2008 @ 10:57 am | Reply

  2. We once had Harry go and hand-collect a way-overdue cheque for $60 from a client.

    On his big-ass motorcycle. In leather. With a deadpan face. Like the mafia.

    There is much to be said for having a biker on your side. 😉

    Comment by James Chartrand - Men with Pens — May 20, 2008 @ 11:20 am | Reply

  3. Kittens live because of you, Tei. Thank the gods. So say us all.

    Comment by Lori — May 20, 2008 @ 11:36 am | Reply

  4. Oh, I love you all. This is a wonderful way to start the day.

    @Tony I am a dog owner and I would totally send Vinnie after someone!

    @James Having never seen a picture of Harry, I have a hard time imagining this. He’s such a sweetheart that I can’t see him as the Vinnie type.

    @Tei You do realize Harry’s kittens were never starving, right? Being a good cat owner, he’d likely go without food rather than force his cats to be hungry. 😉

    Comment by Sandie — May 20, 2008 @ 1:50 pm | Reply

  5. This sounds only like a case of oversight because of how busy you were! It doesn’t make you a terrible boss…until you repeatedly do it and that while never answering the courteous emails. Then you’ll find the dead kitten on your doorstep.

    Somehow, I can’t see you being a lousy boss. Lousy bosses don’t possess a stellar sense of humour (or guilt).

    Comment by steph — May 20, 2008 @ 3:06 pm | Reply

  6. @ Tony: Don’t underestimate the collection practices of cat owners. Case in point, James’ story and my brilliant idea to collect from the deadbeat local and desire to make the guy’s life miserable by forcing him to drive across town to deliver a check. Dog owners might send henchmen, cat owners do the dirty work themselves. 😉

    @James: that guy was still an ass and I wanted to key his Lexus

    @Lori: yes, my cats are happy, chubby little boys.

    @Tei: You’re not a lousy boss.

    @Sandi: Just a visual FYI: I’m 6′ 2″, well built and look pretty intimidating when decked out in riding gear. And you’re right, I would go without before the kitties starved.

    Comment by Harrison McLeod — May 20, 2008 @ 3:24 pm | Reply

  7. This also raises the problem when you are not only a boss but also a debtor, lessee, etc. I think on all counts, you owe your employees/contractor/awesome people who make your world continue to spin round First. (For me this is the all awesome Paola who loves my daughter and changes her diapers and plays with her so I can go to work) You owe them before your landlord, your credit card company, your insurance company (if you’re so lucky), those nagging hospital bills, the federal government etc. But here is the problem. All those other, second people in line have nasty collection agencies and Interest and the power to ruin your credit forever. Your sweet babysitter or web developer does not have the ability to charge you interest. Or sue you. Or destroy your financial future. She should, if the equities were balanced, but she does not. She may have a cool, big, intimidating friend on a motorcycle or a road bike who can stare you down. So are you a good boss, paying the little guys on time and hiding from cronies or are you a diligent debtor, a little late on everything but trying to stay ahead of the interest payments and cronies?

    The obvious answer is Budget. But damn, who would think that eating hospital food for three days in a hospital (when the won’t discharge you) costs more than staying in a penthouse at the Ritz Carlton. Next time I’m giving birth at the Ritz Carleton with a midwife, a masseuse, and room service.

    Comment by The Monsters' Mama — May 20, 2008 @ 5:55 pm | Reply

  8. Smart observation,
    deft analysis,
    great warning lesson,
    beautifully written,
    and a reference to LITTLE SHOP by another IRON MAN fan — too good to be true.

    Comment by GirlPie — May 20, 2008 @ 5:55 pm | Reply

  9. Tony: As Catwoman, I declare that we do not NEED Vinnie. We do our dirty work all by ourselves.

    James: AWESOME. I just go over in leather with two sword hilts sticking out over my shoulders.

    Lori: Thank you. I try to be a savior of kittens. As opposed to, you know. The other thing.

    Sandie: Yeah, I know. But he made me feel all WRONG.

    Steph: Sense of humor, yes. Guilt . . . nahhh.

    Harry: Sweet.

    Taravitch: Um, next time you’re pregnant? Is there something you’d like to mention? Aunteis need to know about these things!

    Girlpie: Little shop, little shop of horror, bop-shoo-bop, little shop of terror, little shop . . .

    Comment by Tei — May 20, 2008 @ 6:20 pm | Reply

  10. I dunno.. when I find out someone owns a cat, I just automatically like them more. I don’t dislike dog owners, but their love of dogs doesn’t cause any positive reaction in me. If you like cats, I like you.. well, until you show me some reason not to, but even then I’d be surprised and hurt.

    Just saying.. it takes a special person to like cats. I mean *like* them, not think “kittens are cute” or “it’s easier than a dog” or “we have mice”. Dogs.. shrug.. dogs are ok, but I just can’t see having something that worships me. I don’t want to be the pack leader. I like the cat’s attitude: “Feed me and so what? If I like you it’s because I like you and not because of the food and shelter. You can take your food and shelter AND your opposable thumbs and shove ’em where the sun don’t shine. Where you can’t even lick yourself, you poor sot. Gawd, humans are pitiful!”

    That’s the attitude I appreciate.

    Comment by Tony Lawrence — May 20, 2008 @ 7:37 pm | Reply

  11. Tei,

    Well-said. Buy, you do know how to make it up to people, huh? That’s why this is the pub. You can let your personal stuff hang out.

    Albany, huh? Where? Is it any good? I’m going through on Friday, on my way up to the great big north country.


    Nice image. 😉



    Comment by Kelly — May 20, 2008 @ 9:42 pm | Reply

  12. Haha. That should say “Boy, you do know how…” Oops.

    Comment by Kelly — May 21, 2008 @ 1:12 am | Reply

  13. Whoa, “now my cats can eat this week”? That’s a little passive aggressive! I know I don’t know much about running a business, and even though, sure, they must’ve been irked by the whole disappearing for a while thing, I would try to keep bitterness out of “thanks we got your cash” emails. But maybe it’s I just that have a scary boss and would never, ever, think of being sarcastic to him. I suppose it depends on the relationship.

    Comment by Sunili — May 21, 2008 @ 1:51 am | Reply

  14. Kelly: The Pub is awesome, but it’s kind of a locals place. Which isn’t to say its awesomeness does not transcend locality, but just that half of the reason I adore it is because my favorite homies hang there. However, it does have one of the best smoke shops in the Bay Area and a back and front porch upon which to smoke things like Cherry Cavendish tobacco.

    Sunili: It’s Harry. He was just joshing me. It’s allowed – he’s way older.

    Comment by Tei — May 21, 2008 @ 1:57 am | Reply

  15. @Tony: Exactly.

    @Kelly: When you write for a living, who needs a photo?

    Comment by Harrison McLeod — May 21, 2008 @ 1:57 am | Reply

  16. @Sunili: No, it wasn’t meant as a slight at all. Tei is a good friend of the Men and we know she can take a joke. We love our little Pen Sister dearly.

    Comment by Harrison McLeod — May 21, 2008 @ 2:01 am | Reply

  17. @ Sunili – Dude. Chill. That sentence was a lighthearted joke. I know this for a fact. In fact, the whole situation was pretty lighthearted. Tei’s a drama queen.

    Hm. King. Queen. Confident, cocky… We could potentially strike up a mutually beneficial world domination arrangement.

    Comment by James Chartrand - Men with Pens — May 21, 2008 @ 2:04 am | Reply

  18. Tei, you’re not a lousy boss but I totally get it! When you have been on the other end of the delay you never want to be “that guy!” Hey, that reminds me, I’m dealing with “that guy” right now, better go dash off an email. 🙂

    Comment by Karen Swim — May 21, 2008 @ 2:59 am | Reply

  19. Harry: YAY!

    James: Damn. You have discovered my dastardly plot. I suppose I’d go halvsies. I thought I’d just get everyone all mad at you for being sarcastic and mean to me, and then I would take over the world, but you are clearly worthy of co-throning.

    I am NOT a drama queen. I am STRAPPED FOR MATERIAL. These are DIFFERENT THINGS.


    Drama queen, my left pinkie toe. Humph.

    Karen: Yeah, give him what for. It totally works. Maybe he’ll write a blog post about how HE’s a bastard.

    Comment by Tei — May 21, 2008 @ 4:59 am | Reply

  20. @ Men With Pens – Haha sorry. Well there you go, I spoke without knowing all the facts. Didn’t realise it was just a couple of guys from Teh Pub 😀 In that instance the kitten-comment is totally the height of hilarity.

    Comment by Sunili — May 21, 2008 @ 8:10 am | Reply

  21. Tei,

    I note you did NOT tell me where it is. Don’t want me stealing yer peeps, huh? I’m Googling them and stealing yer peeps fer spite now, chick. Me, a Guinness, a dark corner, and a few sheets of paper to write for a while… oh, yeah, Albany’s finest will be flocking to me.


    You baited me, so you know I’m gonna say it: I need the photo. 😉

    I’m the one with the phobia, and I managed it, mystery man.

    Comment by Kelly — May 21, 2008 @ 10:40 am | Reply

  22. @ Kelly – You have photos – right on our About Us page 😉

    Comment by James Chartrand - Men with Pens — May 21, 2008 @ 11:56 am | Reply

  23. *grumble, grumble, disembodied arms*

    Comment by Kelly — May 21, 2008 @ 2:12 pm | Reply

  24. Ah, good idea airing the dirty laundry. Or else it stinks. Ha!

    Comment by Ellen Wilson — May 21, 2008 @ 2:47 pm | Reply

  25. Karen: It’s on Solano Avenue in Albany. I don’t know the cross-street, but Solano is about half a mile long, so you’ll find it.

    Disembodied arms? What what? WHAT?

    Ellen: Yes, well. It sort of turned that way, didn’t it? Not my intention. We were supposed to yell at ME. I keep forgetting how plaintive and deserving of sympathy I am.

    Comment by Tei — May 21, 2008 @ 5:08 pm | Reply

  26. Tei,

    Smart-alecks with disembodied arms.

    I know the street, but not the place. One post written in The Pub, coming right up. See me Monday. And you totally just called me Karen, which is probably dissing her. Nobody wants to be confused with me. 😉



    Comment by Kelly — May 21, 2008 @ 6:04 pm | Reply

  27. Kelly: Dude. I fail. There’s so many ‘k’ women running about.

    Comment by Tei — May 21, 2008 @ 9:24 pm | Reply

  28. […] things I do. Harry, who works with James, is one tough cookie, but he’s also a teddy bear. He loves his kittens, and would starve before they did. He has a motorcycle, and has been known to intimidate, usually […]

    Pingback by fiction: a necessary word of explanation « In Other Words — May 30, 2008 @ 3:29 pm | Reply

  29. […] with this little piece of the power and the glory. They didn’t even get mad when became the Lousy Boss. And when I became a wuss, they very firmly and gently told me to stop it. Which I […]

    Pingback by A Love Letter to the Men « Rogue Ink — June 9, 2008 @ 6:06 am | Reply

  30. Teri….Men with pens ARE hateful (wonderfully talented) and judgemental (right)! You are just lucky that they made your site so that they cannot do a drive by on you…:) Great site, sign me up! Tara

    Comment by Tara Jacobsen — June 19, 2008 @ 11:17 am | Reply

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