Lessons from a horrible bossComing up to 8 years ago I was faced with a health scare – 6 weeks pregnant (first time mum – I should have been so excited), I had developed a 20 cm blood clot in my lower leg, I was in agony, I had a job I loved – and I was told I was unable to reduce my hours to part time, as my condition didn’t warrant it. No flexible working arrangements for me. Thanks Mr Horrible Boss.

So what does a blood clot feel like – well initially I thought I had pulled a muscle so I trotted (ok so hobbled) off and saw a physio. When my leg was double the size the next day and it felt like someone was stabbing me with a knife every 5 seconds and I was crying just walking down the driveway, I knew this was not normal. Not that I know what being stabbed feels like – but I can somewhat imagine.

Being someone who hates hospitals, has a huge fear of death and can’t stand seeing anything medical related – boy was I in for one hell of an education quick smart. Sitting at the hospital alone and with a tiny human growing inside of me the tears rolled down my face. Happy tears that I could now do something about the pain, but what would happen to my job, what would happen to my unborn baby – and how would I cope with twice daily blood thinning injections that I had to give myself to reduce the clot and prevent it happening again.

I was told that sitting for long periods could cause the clot to move upwards causing a stroke. A stroke – I was only bloody 30. So I returned to work the next day armed with my injections and junkie safe disposal box, and requested from my manager if I could change my hours to 4 days a week for the remainder of my pregnancy due to my condition. I had already worked out the pay cut and informed them of what it would be (heck I am an accountant after all), hubby and I discussed it and we thought it was a no brainer. Health and safety comes first. Right?

“How wrong could I ever have been to think my employer actually gave a shit about my circumstances.”

Instead the solution was for me to sit at my desk as per normal, with used empty cardboard boxes shoved under my desk to act as a foot rest and if I needed I could take one day a month as annual leave to rest at home.

Now I have not really ever been an entrepreneur at heart, I never really thought about running my own business and I certainly never thought I would ever have staff.

“But being on such an emotional roller coaster as an employee made me realise now that I have the power to never let my staff be in that same situation I was in.”

I never want my staff, who I value and couldn’t survive without, to feel such isolation, disrespect and worthlessness that a severe medical condition is secondary to running a business.

So what lessons have I learnt from a horrible boss??

  1. If you value your staff, take the time to understand their situation. Nobody asked me about medication, if I needed a safe place to dispose of used needles or to inject myself, if I needed to rest, if I was in agony, if they could order me a proper foot rest (instead of the used cardboard boxes I had to keep replacing as the cleaners kept recycling them) – nothing. It was like my problem didn’t exist. Swept under the carpet. Showing a bit of compassion doesn’t cost have to cost anything except 5 minutes of your time.
  2. You have the power to change the rules. Yes Fairwork says a standard full time week is 38 hours – we all know that. But if your staff have medical issues, what is stopping you from changing their hours to part time? Sure, it might mean you need to hire someone to cover the gap – or is there a current staff member who can step up to fill the days required? You are in charge – and you can change things (for the better).
  3. Listen. When I went to my boss and told him of my medical condition, I am not sure he heard anything except “I would like to reduce my hours to 4 days a week”. He didn’t hear about the daily injections, the pain, the agony, the risk of further problems. Listen to the needs of your staff. How can you make sure their day to day work environment is as enjoyable as possible?
  4. Your staff run your business. OK – so not in a management sense – but they keep the wheels turning, they get the day to day work done. So if they are unhappy, do you really think they are going to be putting in 110%….or even 90%. No way – they are probably doing just enough to get by and researching Seek the other portion of their day trying to find someone who will value and support them. The cost of hiring and training new staff is far higher than the cost of keeping current staff happy.

So sure, I don’t run a global empire, I am not listed on the stock exchange (like my former horrible boss), and I only have 3 staff – but hand on heart, I will do whatever I can to make them feel valued, happy and positive about working for me. It is the least I can do.