Figuring out how to deal with the boss – good or bad – can be a challenge that some workers never master. But 16-year old XiLin Choi has already learned some valuable lessons.
I first started working part time in middle school as a way to pay my cell phone bill, thanks to my mom's insistence that it would build character and appreciation — she's right, of course. I've had a few jobs since, and have found considerable frustration coupled with a few laughs as well, due to my bosses and their leadership styles.
There was the one who micro-managed, the one who believed that berating brings about perfection, and the one who thought all kids were inherently incapable. But these experiences taught me volumes. When I did run into a good boss, I learned to respect them and to treasure their guidance. I also learned that even when my boss wasn't so amazing, I still had an obligation to do the same, especially outwardly.
Here's an example with a former employer: I planned a doctor's appointment for an upcoming morning and emailed three weeks in advance that I wouldn't be able to work that day. She replied with a terse "Are you kidding?" to which I had no good response. And so I waited a few hours, much like cooling off after an argument, then wrote a lengthy, apologetic email. At the time, it felt like a sort of betrayal of my beliefs, but sometimes a light blow to your ego is necessary in the long run.
Similar episodes occurred in the coming months, but each time, I made sure to think it through before sending a courteous response. And these decisions paid off. When I treated my boss with respect, she began to respond in kind. Slowly, she softened up and began to trust me more, giving me a raise, writing references, and even hiring my brother for the summer.
Good bosses made working even more enjoyable. They taught me how to do office paperwork, run a store, and help customers, along with making the whole experience fun and informative. But from the bosses I didn't get along with in the beginning, I also learned invaluable life skills, and it was all worthwhile.
With a Perspective, I’m XiLin Choi.
XiLin Choi is 16 and attends high school in Palo Alto.