Monday, August 30, 2010

My Boss, Madam Cruella deVille

In my previous two posts, I gave you some reasons why I love my job.

I wonder about people who are stuck in jobs they loathe. And a lousy boss may be one of the reasons for this. Some bosses are cantankerous, demanding, ridiculous, frustrating, heartless, pernickety (because I like that has a nice sound to it - like vuvuzela! which I mentioned in my post about the W.C. If you want to read about that, click on the blue)

I've worked under a principal of a tuition centre before, who actually walked into my class that was going on and decided to draw, with a marker, on the floor, the outline of each leg of each chair (that's four legs per chair for those who may be math-challenged) in the front row as she didn't want the chairs to be out of position.

I've worked under a boss before, who would yell at his staff (clerk, engineer, it didn't matter) if they fouled up, in the presence of the rest of us, or in his glass-walled room, the sounds of which could still be heard as it was a little office with few staff. I remember appealing to the clerk not to quit (the day he yelled at her yet again), when I found her shaking and quivering outside the toilet. She quit anyway. sigh.

On the other hand, I've had a boss who was out with her little daughter one day, and on admiring a blouse in a window display, she consulted her daughter, "Do you know who might like that blouse?" and the girl who knew I loved handcrafted things and this was one such-looking blouse, said "Auntie Val!", and my boss went right in and bought it for me!

And then I've had a British lady boss who, on finding out from another staff that I was 'spotting' during my third pregnancy, not only insisted I go home, but called me that night to re-assure me, as well as several days after.

So yeah, I've had my share of good and bad bosses.

Right now, I have a great boss, Ms Huda. (And I'm not saying this just cos she reads my blog. Heh!)

She is fun-loving yet serious about her work.

Some bosses are
just. serious.

They are so driven, they see their staff not as human resource but just resource - things necessary to have around to get to where they want to go.

My boss is sensitive to my feelings (I'm personalizing these statements because I don't want to speak for others. They can say what they want to on their blogs, right? (hee.) She cares about what's going on in my life because in my opinion, like it or not, what's going on in people's lives does affect their performance at work.

Some bosses only want to know what goes on nine to six at the workplace. They don't care if you're going through a divorce, showing signs of needing psychiatric help, or if you've come to work with bruises on your body or a black eye. They won't even notice if maybe you've been walking around like a zombie for days because you are harboring suicidal thoughts, or if you're thinking of going on a shooting rampage. I just read of one such boss commenting that he noticed his employee sometimes sat in a drain and talked to himself. Huh? My question is what did he do if he noticed that? This same employee later killed his grandmother, father and two more relatives because he was "hearing voices" telling him to do so.

My boss cares about our health. I've actually worked at a place where even though my colleague had a sore-throat and could hardly speak, was still required to go to work. And this was to teach a class! (I'm not oblivious to the fact that some people will make excuses to take the day off. But really, how often do you think you can you get away with that?)

My boss listens. To frustrations, to ideas, to new ways of doing things. She is not stuck in a rut of we've-always-done-it-this-way-and-that's-how-it's-gonna-be. She lets me breathe. I can be crazycuckoocreative and come up with the zaniest ideas and she will actually consider them!

My boss even goes so far as to care about what my future looks like if I continue to stay on foreverandever amen. She offers suggestions, makes openings, and talks through my plans.

My boss appreciates me.
But boy, do I have a story to tell you!

I have worked in a pre-school before, for a full three days....and then I quit! I had never done anything like that before (quitting), but the Principal (I shall call her Madam Cruella De Ville) was an ornery woman who had the strangest rules and ways of dealing with the kids as well as teachers.

Coloured bamboo blinds at the porch needed to be rolled down in the morning and rolled back up in the evening....which is not a problem, right? Except it had to be this teacher rolls this set of blinds.. that teacher that set, and that arrangement is changed weekly. Meaning I get a different set of blinds each week. How exciting is that? By the way, one of the teachers' names was Orange. Yes, Orange. She was from China. So it was, "Ms Valerene, you will roll up the blue blinds this week. Ms Orange, you will roll up the green blinds..." That's how crazy it was over there, I'm not kidding! And I thought my husband and I were colourful people! (you can read about that here)

Every bead, seed, letter, counter, and block (and there were hundreds) needed to be counted at the end of every Friday. Here are some pictures to give you an idea of what that involved:

Each classroom had a potted plant and each teacher had to take it down to be left on the porch for the weekend. Which is not a problem, right? I can see how a vibrant plant like this one would make me happy when I walked into the classroom, and contribute to my oxygen intake.

Or a plant like this one would surely beautify the class!

But my plant? Did it look anything like anything? NOOOOOOOOO....I have no picture (how would I have known I would start a blog some day?) but this is kinda what it looked like.
. coming....
. wait....
. hold your heart....

All together now.... sighhhhhhh.

I love plants, mind you. I grow them, too (reeally!

But this one? just made me re-think about...euthanasia.
Someone has to put an end to its misery.

I had already noticed on the first day that the maid was awfully quiet, always looking at me from the corner of her eye (to see if she'd find a confidante in me was my guess). And there's a reason for this random sentence you just read.

On that very first day of school for that year, and my very first day at that pre-school, just before the students trickled in, Madam Cruella had shouted at Orange for not showing the new apprentice staff where to put her handbag. She then continued to tick her off in the office, which brought on more drama, where I saw the apprentice run out and drive off in a hurry, with the reprimanded teacher running after her, trying to stop her! What?

On the second day, I saw Madam Cruella and teacher were pissed off (pun punnnnn) with a FOUR year old for peeing on the floor. Said teacher had not allowed the little girl to go to the toilet cos she had asked to, too many times. Oh c'mon, it was a new student and her second day of school! Even F1 drivers need to pee! (see here?)

Then, I was in the kitchen during breaktime, when I heard the maid gingerly tell Madam Ornery Personified that she had broken a glass mug in which the latter's herbal tea was, but that she had saved the drink into another mug. Undoubtedly, that was pretty dumb. But considering she was probably an uneducated village girl from Indonesia who was terrified that Madam Cruella's wasted drink would bring on her wrath, she probably would've thought saving it and owning up might be a better option. Well, Oscar-the-Grouch-Female-Version grabbed a tea-strainer,
poured the drink through it
the strainer, with the shards of glass in it, to me to have a look. Madam Cruella, red with rage, needed empathy. "YOU SEE OR NOT?" she growled. I bit my tongue, held my breath and was starting to turn blue from the effort. Why-oh-why, couldn't it have been Orange who was in the kitchen?

I was staying as calm as possible, all the time wondering why-oh-why did I have to be a witness to the greater crime about to be committed cos that's gonna involve driving into town, standing on a witness stand, taking oaths I don't want to, saying things I have to, trying to recall the time, every word, the twitch, the weapon, the blood, the gore....ARRRGH!

Madam flailed the strainer in front of the maid and demanded to know if the maid wanted her to die (while I was desperately muttering to myself, "please don't answer that, please.don't.answer.that"). Actually, thinking back about it, it was quite funny...and it's funnier in Malay..


Now it's my third day. For some reason, the only 5-year old special child we had in that pre-school, had been strangely 'transferred' to my class that day. While in my class, she had apparently taken a piece of a puzzle and not put it back in its place. When Madam Cruella walked into my class, she noticed it immediately and took the girl by the shoulders and shook her, demanding why she had not put it back! Mind you, this was a special child!

And that was the last straw for me. (I did have a talk with Madam where I 'advised' her before I left, but I'm cutting a long story short).

Now can you see why I appreciate my present boss?

Is your boss the reason for wanting to leave? Or do you have a fairly ok ok boss, not sterling material, but neither is he DespicableMe material.

Appreciate him.

Oh, and Huda? Selamat Hari Raya.

Because of you, I've never had to pee on the floor.

p/s if you're reading my blog, do sign up as a follower if you haven't already. C'mon, don't be shy. And leave a comment here cos I love to read your comments. They will not appear immediately but they will come to me first, then I have to 'publish' them. And I do try to reply every comment, too. If you read "this comment has been removed", it is not because I didn't like it, but I sometimes mistakenly published the same one twice, so I removed the extra one.


  1. I will wait for your book ... of blue dogs, green hands, madam cruella, bad hair days & WC's ... keep it rolling ... am passing you Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat Pray Love to read,hope it inspires you to write - we have to watch the movie when it comes to town in October
    PS : Thanks for the raya wishes - we'll have lemang then (will keep the bamboo for you)

  2. So true...bosses come in all shapes, sizes, and personalities. I had a boss once that called me back into work after I had called in sick because he couldn't find a sub...that day was the worst. I had another amazing boss later who cared about every facet of her employees lives, or at least showed interest...she would have taught my classes herself before calling me back to work if I were sick. She is still me friend to this day, even though I stay home and she quit being a principal to open up a bagel shop in a college town...Yum, bagels!

  3. Glad you escaped the torture chamber! God, I pity those children (and staff). For some reason this reminds me of the Sisters in Charge in CPR...shudder (am I wrong?) lol. Honey, you do have a way with words, love your stories!

  4. Allycat, there were some horror teachers in CPR but some good ones, too. honoured and flattered that you're following my blog!

  5. theresa sacket, phew! glad i'm not alone. will ask my boss if she's planning to open a bagel shop.... :)

  6. huda, so, are you? (planning to open a bagel shop)? i can already foresee some of your customers...Mikhail, Amir, Iqbal, Tammy...

  7. from facebook:

    Theresa Wong September 1 at 5:10am
    cool...i like your is a sweet ,

    yes, Theresa, my present boss does have a sweet smile.

  8. HAHAHAHA!! an val do you remember that old tv show called 'who's the boss'??

  9. Gosh..nvr thought that such person (referring to Ms Crulle) does exist. How did she open the kindergarten when she doesn't have the heart for the kids?

    Thank God for good bosses that I had and have :)

  10. hillarious as usual! i've had my share of mean bosses, annnoying bosses, and bosses that make me constantly want to bang my head against the wall. havent had one yet like your current boss... lucky you!!
    hope that I can be that kind of boss too!

  11. Hi Valerene, always love reading your "writings" =)
    I finally "managed" to sign myself up as your follower! heehee....! =D
    Looking forward to more great writings from u! =D

  12. kev, that's the purpose for this post - so we appreciate our good bosses!

    michelle s, actually thinking back about these incidents they really do crack me up. but it wasn't funny at the time. glad i had a heart to heart talk with Madam, not just disappear.

  13. sorry zoe, don't remember...that's one of the purposes for this blog, isn't it? cos i'm forgetting a lotta things.

    phoebe, yes! you were successful in signing up as a follower, good for you! see? we're all learning something new every day...LOL! i'm still wondering why when i publish the comments, they jump all over the place so it's hard to reply in sequence. aiyah.

  14. Ms Huda looks like a kind soul (bless her!). You're blessed to have her (and her, you!)..
    Good bosses are hard to find (likewise, good employees too) so cherish the good times (maybe write a book on this too! lol!)
    FYI you may find "Good Boss, Bad Boss" a good read - by Robert Sutton ... :)

  15. pattieboo, I think blogging is just not the same as book-writing. In blogging we can put fun fun pictures that says it all. I donno....

  16. from facebook:

    S R Lim
    Val, is your ex-boss really that name? Incidentally, your blogsite is interesting. I wanted to comment earlier, but after seeing so many issues here in FB, I forgot. I'll walk with you if you tell me whenever you have another subject up on your site. Ok?
    September 4

    Lim, thanks. and that's the name of the mean character on 101 Dalmatians, the movie. I think if you sign up as a follower, it will notify you whenever there is an update.