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I know, that sounds like a crazy morning radio crew: but they were my first (and last) bosses in full-time employment. And what they meant to me follows after the jump ...  

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I've mentioned on this site that I went on a spell of eight months being unemployed before I found full-time work again. And so far, I like my new boss - but for me, that has been (miraculously) par-for-the-course. Not only have I never had a boss-from-hell, I've never even had a boss from heck ..... some have been better than others, that's all. Well, before I started this new job - the two most important managers I've had (on a full-time job) have been the first and the last, whom I'd like to tell you about.
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After graduating from college in 1978, I went through a rough transition period: unable to find a permanent job that I could hold (and going through some poor temp jobs) I was finally hired by a food-service company in New York the autumn of 1979. When I was escorted by the personnel manager (into the company controller’s office) he said, "Ed, this is Wally Graham - he’ll be conducting your interview". Nervous as always, I relaxed upon seeing on his wall a poster of Laurel & Hardy from the "March of the Wooden Soldiers" - laughing in each others' arms - with the caption at the bottom: "About Your Raise". Did that ever relax me – and the interview went so well, I hoped not just that I got this job ... but that I could work for this man. I never had that feeling before; it was a good feeling. But weeks went by, so I gave up that thought.

Then I got a call from the personnel manager again: they had gone through a corporate shake-up and had placed the new hire on hold. Was I still available/interested? Yes, I replied, nothing else had come through. And so one more interview with another manager and then Wally offered me the job. Wotta relief; and I looked forward to my first day. That he grew up in Jersey City (as had my mom) only helped us bond; she would often ask me about him.

I quickly saw that my initial reactions were correct: Wally was everything a good boss should be. If I screwed up, he let me have it – in private. If I did a good job, he told others - publicly. He showed me how to write a business report ("Read it out loud" was quite sound advice), how to use my accounting spreadsheets (in those pre-computer days) efficiently, told me to focus on doing the job right rather than quickly, to admit mistakes, to ask for help at the risk of looking foolish, and that if I had to turn in something quick and dirty: to let him know where I had to "wing it" so he would be prepared. Probably obvious stuff, but not something they teach you in Intermediate Accounting or Finance II.

If I handed in something going to senior management with as much as a rounding error, one would hear back about it, no matter how detailed and accurate the report was. Wally would cover for me saying, "Hey, I gave the kid a bad figure" and then tell me, "They’re not going to get rid of me after all of these years". He would then work with me to ensure that I did a final-check on rounded percentages going forward. You can see why my self-confidence grew working for him.

In fact, the reason why I use my real name as my User ID on all blogs came from him: "Always be proud to sign your name to your work, it’s the best discipline one can have". I know that’s not a choice for many of you (fears that your employer, minister, family, etc. might see your work is a real concern) and some just enjoy pseudonyms. But since I am not in a position to have to worry about those factors, I fall-back upon Wally’s words.

Sandy, the tax manager, told me something after I had been there a few months. "Eddie, you’re in a good spot. Wally likes you, and if you work hard for him and are loyal: he’ll look out for you". Two years later, a new hire named Joe went to work for Dom (the accounting manager) whom I got along with but can’t say I overly cared for. Joe told me that – since I was the only employee who directly reported to Wally – "I envy you, pal – you’re Wally’s boy". He did not intend that – nor did I take that – as an insult. He was right, and something I grew to appreciate.

Besides the fact that he was such a good role model: I think it’s the fact that he was my first boss (at a critical time in my life) that made him so special to me. I had lost my father at age 20, and while Wally didn't become a father figure to me: the only way I could describe it would be working for your favorite uncle. (This may not register with female readers as much as I believe it would for men).  I had someone that I could talk about life to; his door was never closed. More than once, he’d pass my desk and say, "Eddie, there’s a new girl in payroll – just your type" and before I could protest he’d add, "I’m working on it for you" before disappearing around the corner. I found myself telling my friends and family members about him, and so when we met they’d ask, "Hey, how is Wally doing?"  And which I would tell them of his latest saying, joke or remark. Not something I’ve done since.

And finally, the most notorious part of him: one could say that Wally corrupted me. My parents never uttered a curse word (or almost any derogatory comment about anyone, for that matter) and they were a fairly straight-laced couple. Warm and loving, yet uncomfortable around sexuality, four-letter words and bawdiness in general. And while my siblings and I are not that way, it’s fairly safe to say that at age 22 I was still a "nice boy". Wally .... ummm... changed that. Wally would recite dirty limericks (often in a call-and-response with Sandy the tax manager next door). He had a file cabinet drawer with adult magazines. And more.

Then came the time in 1981 that I became truly angered at him. Andrea, one of the front-office secretaries, had her tote bag on the floor near her desk one morning when Wally walked by. Apparently, one item in the bag was her copy of Playgirl Magazine (with the masthead just sticking out, if you were looking closely). For a man as bawdy as he was: the words he went on to utter were incomprehensible to me. "Can you believe that?!" he told Sandy. "I wouldn’t let my daughter read that crap!" and so forth.

I was thisclose to walking in and telling-off my boss at age 24: that he was a damned hypocrite, a chauvinist, held double-standards, etc. The fact that I remained employed at the end of the day .... tells you that I thought better of the idea, and kept my mouth shut. But still, I seethed for an hour. And yet, not much longer than that.

Because I then wondered, "Why was I so upset?"  That wasn’t the first example of hypocrisy I had seen, it wasn’t even the worst example.  And then it dawned on me: I was upset because I loved this man. I held him the highest esteem and had never thought he had any flaws. "He’s a human being", I kept reminding myself. And someone born circa 1929 would hold some viewpoints that most of us would find upsetting, to be sure. When I went home, I decided to let go of it and remind myself I still had the best boss in the world.

A few Friday afternoons later he was cleaning out some old files and telling old stories of the company’s products. I called upstairs to a co-worker and said, "Mike, you and Ralph get down here on the double – Wally’s telling stories" and hung up. Mike didn’t ask questions; he and Ralph arrived just when Wally was telling a stem-winder about an old company president (with some appropriate ribaldry) that was the old Wally – and they enjoyed his story-telling as much as I did.

I came into the office the following Monday morning (after a nice weekend) to see a gathering around his office. Wally had died of a heart attack (at age 53) that previous Friday night; a company VP named Joe had said, "Ed, we were thinking of calling you but decided against it". I was grateful they hadn’t spoiled my weekend yet still – in the words of a John Mayall song – "Night came early in my day". His death had - in a way - been more upsetting to me than my own father dying – because my dad and I were close and we told each other what we thought of each other. But other than beginning my first day – I had never thanked Wally for hiring me, nor expressed my appreciation for his guidance ... hell, I hadn’t even sent a Christmas card.  I’ve not repeated that since.

I hope every young person could have someone like him – OK, maybe minus the ribaldry and innuendos that are out of place today (and understandably so).  But working for him was always an interesting fate – I am glad it was mine. And while this wasn't the photo in the poster I first saw on the wall of Wally's office - if you imagine the inscription "About your Raise" underneath this image ... you'll get a sense of the man.

By contrast, I have less to write about Denis Ibey, my manager from 1999-2011 ... which makes sense, because at that stage of my career, I had no need for someone like Wally. Instead, Denis brought me up-to-speed about what my job entailed, worked closely with me for a few weeks ..... and then left me alone. What I needed was (a) to know what situations should I bring to his attention, (b) what situations was I hired so he wouldn't have to pay attention to, (c) to give me the authority to carry out my job, and (d) to be there when I needed help. Much different than my first job. And since Denis spent 1/2 of his life in meetings, sometimes our Friday morning meeting was the only times we spoke. But it was enough. Plus, he would arrange to take the accounting department out for a summer outing (whether to go bowling, play mini-golf or take a boat ride ... and with a drink at lunch).

Then three years ago, when I tore the quadriceps in my right leg (and was out of work for seven weeks) - Denis organized some major help for me. Dishes prepared by several co-workers were brought to my home, then when I could begin working part-time (but was still unable to drive) he organized lifts to-and-fro, and Denis would bring the Sunday newspaper over (as it was on the way to his Sunday running club meeting). You truly don't forget that.

Last year, he was the one who had to tell me that I was in the first wave of lay-offs at our medical center. But he arranged for six month's notice (in order to allow me time to find a new job) and when I asked him about recording time-off for interviews, he just flicked his wrist at me and said, "Just keep me up-to-date". During my last week, the organization announced a voluntary buy-out package (which I qualified for by virtue of my 55th birthday falling three weeks before a deadline) - and he went straight to Human Resources, asking if I would be eligible (which I was). HR had not been of much help to me along the way (it was he who took out the cattle prod on what my severance package would be) and in many ways, he was all I had.

Finally, when I interviewed for my present job and listed him as a reference: Catherine, my new manager, told me that she's often frustrated to request a reference and then simply be .... recited name, rank and serial number. By contrast, Denis was willing to talk to her for 1/2 hour ... and said she outlined the various duties I would have, asking if I had the aptitude for it. She was impressed that he didn't blithely say "Oh yes" to everything, but instead went line-by-line, telling her what I was capable of specifically. All of which left her with a sense that I was up to the job, and I was hired last month.

My new manager and I will have awhile to arrive at some sort of equilibrium and I'll leave it at that. But while for many years Denis and I had a good relationship: the past four years it has become extremely important. He and Wally, you have gathered, have left their mark on me.

And I still think of Denis: last week, it was the Boston Marathon (which he ran for many years) when I know he goes down to cheer on friends in more recent times. And he not only plays in an adult baseball league each summer, he attends the annual Red Sox fantasy camp which takes place just before spring training. And while I don't have a standard photo of him, here is one of him at bat .... just the image I imagine that he has of himself.

                       Now, on to Top Comments:
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From Pam from Calif.:

In the diary by Tom P. - outlining the Obama administration advertisement that could be quite effective about Mitt Romney - this is an awesome comment by blue aardvark.
From ontheleftcoast:
In the front-page story about the second Obama advertisement - Rich in PA notes that the Obama campaign faces a most difficult challenge over the next six months.
From Burned:
In the diary by pollwatcher about the need to coalesce during the general election campaign ... I know it's a huge pie fight diary, but this comment by david mizner was a moment of levity in response to a comment saying DK diaries are responsible for the rise and fall of consumer confidence. I wish we were that powerful!
From BeninSC:
There is a debate happening about the true level of support we have received for the progressive agenda during this administration. There are those who are so angry at the lack of leadership that they won't support the re-election effort, there are those just interested in a fight, there are a lot of truths and a lot of levels involved. Like most here, I support Obama's re-election effort (not least because of its great down-ticket impact.) I would not like to see us 'cannibalizing our own,' but there are elements of the debate I welcome, and without completely agreeing with either, I applaud the conduct of the debate by intelligent, reasonable, caring Kossacks like Gooserock, in this comment, and Dallasdoc, in this comment. I think it's important to have this debate, so the leaders of our party properly appreciate the importance of faithfully representing a progressive morality and agenda.
And from Ed Tracey, your faithful correspondent this evening ........
In the comprehensive diary by Mariken about the way 40,000 Norwegians gathered to sing a song by Pete Seeger called "Rainbow Race" - which the accused mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik (mistakenly) believes is about multiculturalism (when it is more about taking care of our own) - alguien begins a nice thread of people hoping he'll be forced to listen to it in prison.
Next: yesterday's Top Photos (as compiled by Jotter each day) - click on the photo to see the story behind it.

And lastly: yesterday's Top Mojo - mega-mojo to the intrepid mik ...... who rescued this feature from oblivion:

  1) This is what happens when an American Serious by 420 forever — 223
  2) Geo. W. Bush was arguably one the very ... by Yellow Canary — 199
  3) Jesus is Almost Invariably Wrong by Gooserock — 154
  4) But Wind has NEVER been kind to "The Donald" by dmhlt 66 — 139
  5) And Cheney, the biggest war hawk of all, had 5 by wishingwell — 139
  6) The thing that's always infuriated me about by Tamar — 138
  7) Using the Second as the defense? by KVoimakas — 134
  8) Trump targeted by pro-wind farm protesters by Scarce — 123
  9) I was one of the people she could hear outside. by jpmassar — 121
10) Gratz! What a good moment! by blue aardvark — 118
11) The Second Amendment doesn't protect... by JamesGG — 111
12) Cheerie Fucking Oh - Breaking News From UK by Leo Flinnwood — 108
13) he was a fighter plane pilot who was afraid by Tamar — 105
14) I imagine they couldn't wait to get rid by lgmcp — 104
15) Some people are more equal than others.  n/t by DefendOurConstitution — 100
16) Congratulations TT! by One Pissed Off Liberal — 98
17) The pastor was saying to the critic that the by Wee Mama — 97
18) Yes, you can see why the prodigal son only made by Wee Mama — 96
19) I think he was protecting by Steven D — 95
20) Some people seem to think by Steven D — 93
21) and yet that asshole dressed up like a fighter by ninja tortise — 92
22) Best moment since George Galloway testified by DrTerwilliker — 92
23) The Donald doesn't like being laughed at. by IndieGuy — 89
24) Rs are scared because by TomP — 89
25) It was unforgivable -- the rich kid playing at war by Tamar — 86
26) John Stumpf making $19.8M/ yr. by The Eyewitness Muse — 85
27) Awesome! by weatherdude — 83
28) what i wouldn't give by Cedwyn — 83
29) I'm glad to hear this. by Horace Boothroyd III — 83
30) I'm sorry. But most people do not expect that by hester — 82
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