The Twelve Bastard Bosses of the Zodiac

Adèle Lang and Andrew Masterson

St. Martin's Griffin/Thomas Dunne Books


Recent surveys suggest that more and more people are choosing to leave the workplace voluntarily. Women in their thousands are fleeing from middle management positions and deliberately having children. Real men in their droves are risking ridicule by downing picks, shovels and Valium in order to watch daytime soaps. Even laboratory rats are organizing elaborate escape plans by volunteering to go first in deadly shampoo tests and then applying to undertake law degrees.
There is a very simple explanation for all of this. It’s called a fire sign. Which, more often than not, makes it a boss. Because, as a rule of thumb, you have to be a complete and utter ball-tearing, egotistical, insensitive prick to get the top job in the first place.
The essential problem for hapless and harried employees is that Fire Sign bosses take their title too literally, turning it into their job description as well. They all believe it’s their birthright to nag, bully and lord it over anyone who’s earning less than them.
Fire Sign bosses are easy to spot. In fact, you’ll be able to hear them stomping at a brisk pace down the corridor in their jackboots, issuing orders at the top of their voices. The minions following close behind will be one of two kinds: no-brain numbskulls, because they won’t answer back; or slavering sycophants, because all the honest, straight-talking employees have been sacked. Or have left in favor of experiencing 36 hours natural labor. Or honestly believe that feigning an addiction to sleeping tablets in order to justify watching The Young and The Restless is far better than pretending to enjoy working for a total bastard.

March 21–April 20
You, along with the rest of your colleagues, are huddled under your desk, the only one in the office surrounded by sandbags. The Prozac has settled in nicely, the chamomile tea bags are on emergency stand-by, and some whales are warbling reassuringly through your Walkman. For a few blissful moments, you actually start to relax. Indeed, your hands seem to have stopped shaking long enough for you to contemplate picking up a pen and partaking in a little light paperwork.
That’s when it happens. Again.
A door slams, a window shatters and a short fuse explodes. Unrepeatable words whistle down the corridors, followed by ground-to-air missiles masquerading as staplers, wastepaper baskets and a fifteen-thousand-dollar photocopier. And they all land in the general whereabouts of your work station.
Fortified by the tea bags that you supplied, and taking the rest of your Prozac with them, your so-called brothers-in-arms bolt for more protective cover, via the air-conditioning vent, and through the secret tunnel that you’ve spent the last six months painstakingly digging using a couple of unfurled paper clips. Sadly, you are forced to stay put since you don’t have time to file down the industrial-strength steel chain that attaches your ankle to the leg of your desk.
And so a ballistic bastard boss comes storming toward you, and you alone, mustache bristling, eyes bulging, waggling a flimsy white square thing in a manner so singularly terrifying you will probably never be able to look at an 8½ × 11 piece of paper in the same benign and trusting way again.
Oh, shit. It’s your holiday application form. You’d forgotten about that.
Having worked for 365 back-breaking, nerve-racking days in a row, you had, surprisingly enough, thought it quite reasonable to request a weekend off to engage in a quick nervous breakdown, a rapid rehabilitation program and an incredibly speedy recovery.
As always, your Aries boss disagrees. Loudly. And with a lot of what a defense lawyer in the military would term physical gesturing.
“Where’s your sense of duty?” you’re asked, while being hauled out from under your makeshift bunker by the nostrils.
“Where’s your dedication?” you’re quizzed as you and your desk ricochet off well-worn walls, a completely rooted photocopier and a bewildered maintenance person who’d just come in to water the plants.
“And what’s all this New Age garbage about a so-called mental illness? Don’t you know that it’s all in your bloody head?” your Aries employer bellows, giving you a whopping great thump in it to prove a point.
To add insult to injury upon injury, you are then told to grow a backbone. Easier said than done, you think (though daren’t say out loud), given that your current one is being violently sanded back as you’re dragged along the heavy-duty nylon carpet, desk following in agonizingly slow pursuit, toward your Aries employer’s office.
Due to stringent publishing censorship laws, we’re not allowed to give a blow-by-blow account of what happens next. However, we can say that the tensest moment involves a copper pot, a Bunsen burner and a small rat, and that the bloodcurdling screams to follow can be readily heard throughout the office, up to and including the air-conditioning vents.
Cut to several hours later, after you’ve raided the first-aid kit—only to find it’s run out of Band-Aids, Alka-Seltzers and Ben-Gay—and dragged yourself and your decidedly clingy desk back to your place of work. Your Aries bastard boss bursts out of the executive den waving another white square thing. Of course, you immediately think it’s the worker’s accident compensation claim you’ve just submitted. All at once, what’s left of your teeth start to chatter more than usual (your office is always freezing, the boss keeping the air-conditioning at a constant minus 37 degrees, after reading that warm temperatures slow down staff productivity), and, in an extremely amateurish but nonetheless totally sincere attempt to avoid a fate worse than death, you try hanging yourself from the chain attached to your leg.
As it happens, your mercurial boss is actually clutching a white flag, and is here to invite you for a conciliatory cup of coffee in the staff mess. As part of the truce, he’s even willing to unshackle you from your desk, albeit temporarily. While self-reflection is not in any Aries employer’s vocabulary—along with most other words in the English language containing more than four letters and one syllable—none of them like to think their employees think badly of them.
Naturally, this sudden détente places you in a dilemma: Your psychiatrist recently advised you to cut down on caffeine because it plays havoc with your nervous system. However, if you don’t sup from the congenial cup, you’re likely to be accused of being churlish, mean-spirited and hostile.
What Amnesty International, the Red Cross and Rush Limbaugh would all rate as crimes against humanity, your Aries bastard boss will decree mere crimes of passion. “Sorry, old thing. Things got a bit out of hand back there, didn’t they? But we’re both adults, aren’t we? Let’s forgive and forget, shall we?” Having wisely learned such questions are not actually meant to be answered, at least not in a truthful way, you do your best impression of an ace UN mediator refusing to kowtow to the unreasonable demands of an African fascist regime and nod furiously. Really, you have no choice, not unless you want to cop another barrage. And besides, you want your boss to stop shaking your hand, the one that’s just been hastily wrapped with a couple of tea towels since the bandages, plaster of paris and finger splints were also missing from the first-aid box.
When you’re under an Aries thumb, it’s not work. It’s war. The sort of war that renders you stuck behind enemy lines in a labor camp run by a psychotic Vietnam vet who saw Platoon one too many times as a youngster. What you call a 15-minute lunch-break, your Aries employer calls death by firing squad. What you call leaving the office of an evening, your boss calls going AWOL and doles out the appropriate disciplinary action, which also happens to be death by firing squad, though this time, without the last request. (NB: It is no small coincidence that prospective dictators of small nations use Aries-run corporations as prototypes. Nor is it a random twist of fate that most Aries bastard bosses were, or indeed still are, volunteers with the Army Reserve.)
Aries bastard bosses don’t get to high-ranking positions through privileged connections or gratuitous ass-licking. Oh, no. They steamroll, bulldoze and bludgeon their way to the top with all the subtlety and grace of an armored tank set on automatic pilot. And once they’ve acquired a taste for demolishing the opposition, they’re not about to stop. No matter that the office accountant keeps telling them staff turnover is appallingly high.
Make no mistake. Aries employers like a committed worker, which is what they usually get within a relatively short period of time. Find yourself under the employ of one of these slave-drivers and you’ll start actively lobbying two of your nearest and dearest to sign you away for a bit of R&R in a maximum security psychiatric ward. You’d even take it out of your annual leave, if you were ever allowed some. Unfortunately, your nearest and dearest aren’t talking to you at the moment because they feel you’ve been neglecting them for the past 365 days. Which, to be fair to them, is quite correct insofar as you’re not allowed to place social calls during working hours.
But for all your tireless efforts, you will never, ever be able to pacify your boss. All Aries employers work under the assumption that if they want something done properly, they should have done it themselves. For once, at least, you silently agree. It would have saved you three sleepless nights researching, writing up and then hand-binding a 72-page document for tomorrow’s marketing meeting. It would also have prevented the public flogging currently being staged in the staff mess because your current Aries boss has spotted a speck of blood on page 12. “Can’t you be trusted to do anything right?”
While your document is being used as a lethal weapon, you console yourself with the thought that at least you won’t have to drink that dratted cup of coffee since it was knocked flying about the same time you were.
After venting the executive spleen and rupturing yours, your boss will glance at the clock, realize it’s been at least 15 minutes since you were last seen at your desk, and tell you in no uncertain terms to get back to it. And, “by the way, why are you lying on the floor in a bloodied heap like that? Don’t you know you’ve got work to do?”
How to Get a Raise.
Getting a raise out of your Aries bastard boss is relatively easy. Ask for one. That should be enough to send your employer through the roof and you through the nearby office partitioning. “Hasn’t it been made clear enough? You’re not worth it, no matter what that quack shrink the company has employed says. You’re god-damned lucky you’ve got a job.” Face it, a less lenient boss would have you out on your ear rather than hold you by it because you’ve had the gall to ask for more money.
How to Get a Promotion.
There are no promotions to be had in an Aries organization, only demotions. From your employer’s point of view, you’re a good-for-nothing useless waste of space who isn’t fit to lick the latrines clean. (Which is what you’ve currently been assigned to do, after your worker’s compensation accident claim was finally acknowledged.) The closest you’ll get to rising through the ranks is when you’re winched up by the scruff of your neck during the routine early morning office drill for mentioning the pay raise again.
How to Get the Bastard’s Job.
If you manage to overthrow this unholy terror, you’ve certainly earned your stripes. However, it takes more than one plucky employee to oust an Aries bastard boss. In fact, you’ll probably need to stage a coup. And something tells us you’re not going to be able to rouse the troops while they categorically refuse to leave the air-conditioning shaft. At least not until the Prozac runs out.
BOSSTROLOGY: THE TWELVE BASTARD BOSSES OF THE ZODIAC. Copyright © 1997 by Adèle Lang and Andrew Masterson. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.