I Don’t Wanna Be That Guy

They say you hate in other what you hate most about yourself.

I recently came off a show where I had one of the worst bosses of my entire life. Besides having the emotional maturity of a four year old (he once yelled at the script coordinator for bringing him pages, when we had just distributed pages the night before; what the hell is she supposed to do about it?), he was also unrelentingly condescending and sarcastic.

For example, someone came in the office and asked for the wireless password. Since I was using a desktop, I asked my boss what the password was. He responded thusly:

“GYWAAAAAAHHHHhhhhhhhaaaaa. [That’s the closest I can approximate his drama-queen sigh of feigned exasperation without using the Klingon alphabet.] You don’t know the password?!”

No, asshole, I’m plugged into the wall. My password is, “I’m plugged into the fucking wall.”

Equally annoying was his little sidekick, a PA who’d worked for him on a few shows. She was constantly telling me things I already knew, or reminding me to do things I’d already done. This was all very annoying, of course, but I dealt with it. I wasn’t going to be working there forever, after all. Besides, she was an idiot, so why should her opinion bother me?

Fast forward to the present. Now, I’m the one with more experience. In fact, it’s the other PA’s first show.

He’s a good guy. A nice guy, too. He doesn’t always know what’s expected of him, but he’s trying hard and asking questions. Pretty much all you could ask for. Things are going great.

Then, today in the copy room, he confronted me. I asked if he had put the bagels and stuff away, and if he had, he should put the cream cheese in the fridge, not on the shelf.

He whirled on me, and said, “Look, you’re not my boss. I don’t need you telling me what to do all the time.” He went on to say that he knows I’m trying to make him look bad, by waiting until our bosses are around when I ask him if he’s done something yet.  (He failed to notice I was asking him in the copy room, when no one else was around.)

He was visibly shaking as he said this, too. It got really weird when he told me that I didn’t know who he knows, and he could make my life a living hell. Plus, he went to military school, so he could knock me on my ass. “Not that I’m threatening, but just know that.”

Which is not to say he overreacted (barring the threat of physical harm). From what he said, this has been bothering him for a little while. Plus, there was an unfortunate confluence of events–

On Monday, our boss gave him a stern talking to, about thinking ahead and picking up the slack, blah blah blah. Totally unwarranted, in my opinion, but whatever. Then, when I was gone yesterday, he told me he had his best day working here, since he didn’t feel he had three different people looking over his shoulder all day.

The truth of the matter is much more banal. When I ask, for example, if he’s checked the mail, it’s not because I want him to look bad for not having done it already. Nor am I checking up on him. I just don’t want to go out to the mail box if the job’s already done. Far from bad mouthing him, after he left on Monday, I defended him to our boss, saying basically, “He’s trying hard.  He’ll learn.”

I told him all of this, of course (except for the part about defending him, which seemed inappropriate to say). I don’t really know if he believed me, but I got out of the room without being punched.

Somehow, I went from being annoyed to being the annoying one. I don’t mean to be obnoxious or condescending, but I always seem to come off that way. I hear this all the time from people. I once had a therapist tell me she thought I was a jerk for the first few weeks of therapy.

So, I’m aware this is a problem. Last week, I even thought about telling him, “Listen, if I’m telling you things you already know, or if I’m talking down to you, or whatever, just let me know. I’m just trying to help.”  I don’t really remember why I didn’t, other than the opportunity didn’t present itself.  Now, of course, it’s too late.

I honestly don’t know what to do about it at this point. So far, I’ve just avoided talking to him, for fear of offending, but I can’t very well do that for the rest of the shoot.

What should I do?

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6 Responses

  1. It is possible he was overly sensitive and mad at himself for making mistakes. How many times are PAs talked about like slack jawed buffoons? Maybe all he has heard is that PAs are the lowest man on the totem pole; can’t be very smart or trusted to do anything complicated. So he walked in expecting to show everyone he was just so naturally brilliant that within a week he would be running the place. Except that never happens. There are always unexpected job requirements, training won’t come close to covering everything, and just because the way you do something works doesn’t mean that’s the way your employer wants it done. Sounds like he was just taking it out on the person he expected to show up and knew couldn’t fire him.

  2. You can’t please everyone. So – just do the right thing in your own eyes, and it will have to be good enough.

    (And if you have to choose who to please, then usually I tend to come down on the side of the guy who signs my paycheck.)

  3. I don’t suppose you could just point him to your blog post without giving away your anonymity, but maybe just sitting him down, buying him a cup of coffee, and telling him what you’ve told us here might help. It kind of seems like the poor kid just needed a moment of catharsis and you were an easy target in that moment. Maybe he feels just as weird about it now as you do. Despite his lack of regard for your seniority, since you do have it, it’s probably up to you if this bridge is going to be rebuilt. Good luck!

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