Early on a Friday evening I found myself alone in a pub with nothing better to do than hide behind my TES and eavesdrop on the conversations going on around me. The usual crowd were in: office workers - the men in suits and women in fits of giggles; teachers - easily identifiable by the bags of marking and the bags under their eyes. There was an impromptu leaving party and the first cautious rounds of what would be a long hen night. And what was the sole topic of conversation? As you can probably guess, it wasn't the footie, fashion or the FT index. After a hard week's graft, all that co-workers ever want to do is sit in conspiratorial huddles and criticise their bosses.
They mock and they mimic, lambast and lampoon and generally tear to shreds the reputations of anyone who has the temerity to tell them what to do. What I found amazing was how remarkably indiscreet people can be. After as little as a couple of swift halves, they become convinced that every other drinker in the pub (even the saddo lurking behind TES) must be as interested in their bosses' little peccadilloes as they are. They feel the whole world is gagging to hear what a mean-spirited, petty-minded, over-promoted tyrant their particular Cap'n Bligh is. But even when they shout - which always seems like a good idea after the third or fourth round - their invective is unlikely to travel far beyond the bounds of the saloon bar.
Modern technology can change all that. Thanks to the miracle of the Internet, if you have a grudge against your boss you can tell, not just the losers in your local, but the hundred million or so regular visitors to the World Wide Web.
To see how it's done, pop along to the delightfully named mybosssucks.com. Here embittered workers are free to disregard common courtesy, natural justice, or the laws of libel (or spelling or syntax for that matter) as they blow the whistle on the person who is making work a misery. For example, one poor lady clocked-in for the early morning shift to find her boss "wearing nothing except for a letcherous (sic) smile." If nothing else, this rogues' gallery of the bosses from hell might come as a heartening reminder that however lousy your line manager is there are worse ones to be found.
Of course, I have nothing but sympathy for the contributors to mybosssucks.com and loathe the toy-town tyrants whom we allow to inveigle themselves into positions of power. However it's difficult to approve of a site which abuses the freedom of speech offered by the Internet. And I can't quite see why so many disgruntled employees resort to using it. If your boss is a pain in the butt, don't waste megabytes grizzling to the wole world about itI tell the only person that matters: your boss.
You could always quit your job. And, if you want some inspiration on writing your letter of resignation, visit the website with the domain name to die for: kissmyfreckledarsegoodbye.com. But if you are determined to stand and fight, there are plenty of sites you might like to visit before resorting to an industrial tribunal. For example, you could visit virtual-design.com for details on how to create a digital voodoo doll, and for expert advice on where exactly to stick the pins. Or you could choose the more direct approach offered by the obliging coven of necromancers at onlinecurses.com. They provide a comprehensive selection of rhymed incantations. You click on the one that most tickles your fancy, key in your bete noire's email address and it's automatically sent to him.
I doubt if it's likely to do him any more harm than the virtual bomb you could send him courtesy of detonate.cjb.net but it will at least serve as a gentle hint that he is unlikely to be nominated for Employer of the Year unless he makes a serious effort to mend his ways. I'm very conscious that I'm using the masculine pronoun when, of course, a woman in a position of authority can be as unforgivably ghastly as any man. Indeed, I know of one young male teacher who dreads the new academic year not because he can't cope with kids or the curriculum but because a female deputy head seems to be hell bent on turning what should be the happiest years of his teaching career into a living nightmare. He's over six foot and a much-respected rugby three-quarters, but there's no doubt about it: he is being bullied. And, sadly, will continue to be so unless he takes positive steps to do something about it. He needs to confide in his colleagues, alert his union and get as much advice as he possibly can. Fortunately, everything he might want to know, from his legal rights to what psychological weaknesses motivate the typical bully, is available from the National Workplace Bullying Advice Line's wonderfully comprehensive website. Every teacher should bookmark it. Just in case.
For the low down on lousy bosses
If you like the job but it's getting you down www.workingwounded.comIf you're daft enough to believe in black magic try www.virtualdesign.com
www.onlinecurses.comHelp with the resignation letter
www.kissmyfreckledassbye.commain.htmlFor advice on workplace bullying
www.askatl.org.ukissuesbullying_at_work.htm Support for teachers
www.teacherline.org.ukTel: 0800 0562561Redress, The Bullied Teachers Support Network Tel: 01405 764432
For a second opinion, email Arnold at email@example.com