Wednesday, October 12, 2016

How I Survived the Boss from Hell . . . Admire a Great One . . . and Trust the Ultimate Boss!

Whoever dreamed up National Boss Day must have had a terrific boss and never experienced one from hell. I’ve had both. Seems only fitting, since this "holiday" takes place in a few days, that I tell you about three distinctly different bosses from my life. 


One of my worst bosses was a physician – a high-strung, driven man intent on being a success. Though qualified and perhaps even a gifted physician, as a boss, well, let's just say he and Donald Trump have a lot in common.

My stint as one of his medical assistants was short – a matter of weeks—which came to an abrupt end when he summoned me into his back office. Puzzled as to why he wanted to see me you can understand my surprise when out of his mouth came a torrent of expletives and accusations about my ineptness which concluded with "You killed my plant! You're fired!" Though shocked by his words I managed to speak up and state "I didn't even know a plant was behind the door." To that comment, he picked up a stack of patient files and in a rage flung them towards me. Moments later he grabbed his medical bag, threw open the back office door and left.

As he made his exit, I stood there in disbelief. A plant? You’re firing me over a plant? Are you serious? Surely he had more justifiable reasons, but none were ever mentioned. As I bent down to pick up the scattered files on the floor, returning them to the desk (Believe me, if this were to take place today I would leave the files right where they landed and let him face the evidence of his immature behavior.) I didn’t know what disturbed me more: the tossing of the files, the loss of a job, a pitiful looking plant, or a man who was a heart attack waiting to happen.

Thankfully, the finance manager assured me I was not to blame and apologized for what had transpired. I found another job, and over the years worked for employers who were a stark contrast to the M.D.


One of those bosses was John Van Diest, founder of Multnomah Press and currently Associate Publisher with Tyndale House. I was a student at Western Seminary and working part time at Christian Supply Centers (7 bookstores in the Portland, OR area) when I first met John. He was its new director and soon after acquired Multnomah Press (MP). It was a tiny, barely known, publishing company whose name few could pronounce but eventually became known for many bestsellers, like “For Those Who Hurt?” by Charles Swindoll.

The staff was few in number in those days, often working in various capacities. I don’t think any of us had a job title, nor did we care. We were enjoying our work at this young company whose leader knew how to give clear directions, be fair, care about his staff, work hard, and be true to God. I’ve plenty of memorable moments from my years as managing editor at MP, like the time he and his family showed up at my house to surprise me with a Baskin Robbins birthday cake! Here are two other events from years ago:

                                        Memorable Event #1

One day at MP's office complex I was sitting across from John at his desk. To his left was a large window which overlooked a field and nearby neighborhood. As we talked my eye caught a glimpse of smoke in the distance which I called to John’s attention. All of a sudden he stood up and blurted out, “That’s my house on fire!” Seconds later he was grabbing his car keys and running out of the office, instructing someone to call 911. Fortunately, no one was hurt but the first floor of his family's home was damaged when their TV caught on fire.

                                        Memorable Event #2

John and I rarely had disagreements, but one conflict over an editorial issue resulted in my dismissal. Too much time has passed to remember all the details, but this I do recall: After a short period of time, John asked for a meeting at which he was first to apologize. I know my stubbornness contributed to the argument, but it was his humble attitude which enabled us to talk things out and find an amicable solution . . . and that is why I respect this man/boss so much.

Decades have passed since working for these men. I can’t even recall the M.D.’s name nor know whatever became of him. As for John Van Diest, we still keep in contact via Facebook and he continues to be semi-active in Christian publishing, mentoring others plus finding time to write a book or two. His latest is “Miracles All Around Us.”


There is one other boss I need to mention. To those who know him he is loving, generous and fair, but for many years I saw him as a dictator with a lot of archaic rules and rigid demands. That faulty view fed my bent towards perfectionism, something I denied for decades.

It was only when serious health issues emerged did I begin to acknowledge and understand what havoc stress, perfectionistic ways, and a distorted view of God had done to me over the years. Not one to give up easily, I attended a class on stress offered at the hospital, rested more, heeded my doctor's advice and looked for a different type of work (freelance from home). But still my health continued to deteriorate and when my savings ran out everything came to a halt. End result: I was down to $.47 cents and a prayer.

It was a humbling place to land, but thankfully God (The Ultimate Boss) heard me and came along side. Slowly, ever so slowly, he gave me the assist I needed to rebuild my life, starting with replacing my faulty view of him for an accurate one. Then came years of spending time immersed in His Word (the Bible) to get to know him which made trusting him easy. During that season I also saw more doctors, altered my diet, began to swim daily, and eventually was able to work part time at my one-woman graphic design business ... with God as the boss! 

It was the best job I ever had.
Thanks, Boss.

Julie -
P.S. What's the nicest thing your boss has ever said or done for you? 


  1. Hi Julie,

    Thanks for sharing about your bosses - it's the worst when you have a boss who seems hell bent on making your life miserable. It's amazing when you have a boss that helps develop you and invests in you.

    I had a great boss at my last job. He really allowed me the space to be who I am and gave me the room to dream and then make those dreams come true!

    I love how you tied it in at the end to the ultimate boss! I hope your health is faring well!

    Keep writing!

    1. Hi Rachel - Your previous boss sounds wonderful and wise. Love that he contributed to making your dream come true, and now I'm wondering if it had to do with your current place of employment ... or with that sweet baby and husband? Thanks for your encouragement to keep writing as I often question if what I write has value.

    2. My boss now is very good, but the one I was referencing was at the previous job. I ran a University's Office of Communications and I was given free reign to dream and implement programs and projects. It was great! I loved it!

      Your writing definitely has value! Never question it!

  2. Oh Julie! I loved this one...just loved it! I started working right out of high school and I was 17 years and 2 months old. I could type (poorly) take shorthand (fair) understood the principles of bookkeeping and had to take the bus wherever I went to seek a job. Needless to say, prospective employers took one look at me and said, "thanks a lot, but no thanks!" I did eventually get a series of low-paying jobs, one of which was working as the assistant to the children's wear buyer at Lieberg's Department Store, which has now gone out of business. (ha ha ha!) This woman, who had to have been 50 or more (ancient in my eyes) and I shared a horrible little office with children's clothing hanging all over the place overhead. She expected me to learn how to keep up with inventory, apparently by osmosis, as I got no training from her and her ultimate insult to me was, "You are so stupid you'll never get a man!" I quit five minutes before she fired me. Lots of jobs with sexual harassment on a level that's beyond belief. But I got older, got better, went to work at the aerospace company where I met my adorable husband and only quit when we got married and I became the mom to his precious children, 12, 7, 4. God, my real Boss, has been beyond good to me and I, too, had to learn that He is good. Just plain good. Not out to get me, but loves me and hears our prayers. I have discovered my true talents: I'm a good writer, very organized, and am a happy woman in the life God had planned for me all along. Yep, my real Boss is my Heavenly Father.

    1. Hi Deanne - What a cruel comment to say to any employee! I'm glad you quit and got away from that boss but had to face other workplace no-no's. So happy John came into your life and you found a loving environment in which you could flourish and discover the goodness of God. He is the best.


Always happy to hear from anyone who stops by my blog.