This is yet another work-related post in a long series of work-related posts. Sorry, sometimes work just has to come out of me, usually in the form of vomit and/or poop.
The boss came to me a few weeks ago and said he wanted a company-only “wiki.” Yeah, just like that famous encyclopedic one. He explained it would be a good place for everyone on the team to document critical information. We’d all benefit by having searchable information at our fingertips.
Even I had to admit that sounded like a logical good idea, if everyone chipped it and actually used the tool effectively.
I should have smelled a rat.
After a few seconds of thought, I came up with a plan and cleared it with the boss. I’d check into hosted products first, and, if I didn’t find any to my liking, I’d see about searching for some sort of open source solution. I already knew that the software that powers Wikipedia is an open source product, but I didn’t know yet what was involved.
I did find a hosted wiki I liked, but it was $5 a month for privacy and no-ads. The boss is one of the biggest pennypinchers of all time, so I ditched that plan and concentrated on open source.
After a quick bit of research, I found a piece of software called Mediawiki, which is the exact same software originally used by Wikipedia. As an open source product, it was absolutely free. I simply had to install it on one of our web servers. And it looked and functioned almost exactly like Wikipedia which I thought was a really good thing. And it didn’t cost a penny to make it private. I simply enabled a server-level password.
I turned the wiki site over to the boss the very next day, explained it was completely free, and that’s when he had a conniption. There was not a single single positive word. It was as if slinging criticisms was the only way he could build to an orgasm. He flung them at me fast and furious like a blindfolded daredevil throwing knives at a woman bound to a rotating platform. Thunk. Thunk. Thunk!
“Why did you put it on that domain name?”
“I don’t like the logo image.”
“Why do I have to create my own account?”
“It shouldn’t say Widget Company. This is supposed to be an umbrella. It should say Acme Corp!”
“I don’t like this.”
“I don’t like that.”
Say what you will about the boss, but he never holds back. For him the criticism of others is like verbal vomit and he never hesitates to hurl. I’ve often wondered what it feels like to so ruthlessly cut down other human beings to cover your own incompetence. Perhaps I’ll never know.
There was an endless litany of other, equally frivolous complaints, until I was so livid I sat at my desk panting like a dog. Fuck that bastard, I thought.
He was, of course, most expertly employing the concepts and techniques as illustrated in my book, How to Destroy Your Employees. Absolutely none of the things he criticized had he ever explained or even told me were design requirements. In fact, the entire project framework consisted of nothing more detailed than, “Me want a wiki.” That was it. That was the grand blueprint. And I had beautifully exceeded that mandate only to be shit upon. The boss apparently wanted a mind reader. Maybe he should hire Miss Cleo.
What came next was beautiful, classic boss. “I guess I’ll have to take care of this myself,” he uttered as he turned his back on me.
The next morning I walked in the door and a shitstorm was waiting.
“Good news,” he began in on me before my ass had even made it to my chair. “I fixed our wiki problem,” he announced in what he probably thought was his sagest voice.
Problem? We didn’t have any fucking wiki “problem.” I had served up a gold nugget in a single day, but that sucked now. Ahhh, only he could deliver. And that was the point, right? To show me I was shit and marvel in his greatness. Wiki out. New solution in. Except the wiki rocked and his new solution sucked.
With that he unveiled another example of his masterful genius. It was a hosted “project management” software that costs $50 a month for the starter plan and put a limit on the number of projects it could handle. I was thinking in misery, “Is this guy nuts?” when the other shoe dropped.
It also did other stuff. The truly important stuff. It allowed the boss to create “things to do” tasks for his employees. And assign them dates. And email him when those “milestones” (yes that is me vomiting some air quotes) were not completed on time by the minions.
Suddenly it was all so clear.
The wiki, which was what he fucking asked for, was weak in one area, and that was in the issuing of tasks and assigning dates. And that was the only piece that was important to the boss.
“And,” he added, “I’ve already issued lots of deadlines for you. For example, the new website launches in one week.”
OMG! That project estimate was utterly insane. Under his leadership the project had floundered for over a year since I’d been hired and a couple of years longer before that. But now he had “project management” software that allowed him to set dates, thus, by his logic, the project would magically be done with a single week.
What factors had gone into that estimate? What work? On what basis in reality? Again, it was nothing more substantial than, “Me want,” and the fact that he feels it is time because the project has floundered for so long. “It feels like it should be done by now so one week feels like a good deadline to me.” It was literally that simple.
It was truly staggering.
That was almost a month ago.
We blazed by that deadline as the list of meaningless shit he wanted grew exponentially. I worked away on his assignments as fast as I could, although most of them were nonsensical and totally irrelevant to making a functioning ecommerce website. We’d have, for example, four hour discussions about “inches” vs “millimeters” and the “philosophy” of the same. And by the word “discussions” I mean to say that he pontificated wisely as I sat miserably, like a clam, counting the number of seconds until his next “deadline” and his words failed to penetrate my impending sense of doom.
Last Friday morning I walked into work and he dropped the bomb. Even though the deadline had been extended and was a few weeks away, the site was going to launch today. “What? Are you shitting me?”
“Why not?” he said.
“We’re not even remotely close to being ready. For example, ALL of the pages say ‘coming soon.’” The boss was supposed to have someone writing content like policies, about us, shipping rates, etc. None of that was done. Not a single piece. Our site was an empty shell full of gaping holes.
“Oh, we don’t need that stuff. We launch tonight. It’s time or this will never get done. Weeeee!” he said with glee.
I ended up working overtime on Friday. Duh. When it was time to go home, he said, “I need you to make a few more changes.”
And here I thought we were ready to launch.
He gave me some text to add, which I did. Then he reviewed that text and said, “I don’t like what it says. Change it again.”
But you fucking provided the text, you nimrod! And thus there was a bonus hour of doing important work like that.
Worse, it was the exact opposite of what he said he wanted two weeks ago. “Maybe the two halves of your brain should get together and actually decide what they want.”
“It’s too bad the site has so many gaping holes,” he finally said.
“Yeah. Typically people decide what they want on their websites before they launch,” I said. “Those holes are the things you were supposed to take care of. Amazing that you never took care of a single one.” I was in a bad place.
I finally escaped his gravitational pull and got out of the office to go find my wife, wherever she was.
And guess what? The boss called me this weekend to complain that there were some glitches. Go figure! We launched a few weeks early than we should have and everything wasn’t swimmingly perfect? Well, holy fuck! Shit me sideways.
Of course those glitches were the biggest dealbreakers of all time. “That’s the one thing I can’t tolerate,” he said about every single one, sounding a lot like me.
To me, this whole thing is reminiscent of what I call The Webmaster’s Curse. At every step in the process you get asked your opinion, and you naively give it. It is never taken. 100 decisions and 100 times you are overruled by the more brilliant people who surround you. Then, at the end of the project, when you are left with a steaming pile of dog shit, those same people say, “God, you suck as a webmaster.” Unbelievably that’s actually how they see it, although this no longer surprises me.
Today I go in to work expecting to be buried alive in pressure (that I eat for breakfast), bullshit, and a myriad of his mind-numbing irrelevancies. It’s hard to feel one’s efforts are so wasted and ineffectual because of such moronic leadership. It sure doesn’t feel very good.