Tuesday, January 16, 2018

When bosses are horrible, keep your integrity

There is a 2011 movie showing on cable right now called Horrible Bosses. You shouldn't be treated horribly if you're eager to do a good job.

I discovered, when I was young and just starting out in the world, that it was really easy to stand out from the crowd by doing just a little bit more than what I was supposed to do. I actually enjoyed doing more.

At a music firm where I was hired, I produced a record series of our shortest selections in a set I called "Just a Minute!'' It was designed for early-morning radio shows when the timing got tight. So when a new boss was hired from Columbia Records, I suggested to him another idea I had for a series. He said he'd get back to me. A couple of weeks later, he called me in and said, "Jim, let me show you why this idea of yours won't work.'' And he did.

A month or so later, he called me back in and said, "Jim, let me show you my wonderful new idea.'' He did. He showed me my original idea done up as his own.

I said, "How did you ever think of that?

"It just came to me,'' he answered.

When I left that job, I wasn't sure what I wanted to do. I had worked in radio for many years at little stations in New England and I had built up some success. When I first went to New York, I discovered a small station in Woodside, Queens. I sent a tape of a show I had done in Boston, and they offered me a job.

I did that show for a year or so and then the station was sold to a group that moved it to the old CBS building on Madison Avenue.

I called the place and asked to speak to the manager. I asked if he needed a part-time weekend announcer. He hired me without an audition. That manager left and a new person came in and offered me the morning show. Nobody was listing to us in the morning because we played uninterrupted, beautiful music. He told me to just start talking. Be myself. And maybe the ratings would go up. They did, and before long the show was No. 3 in the marketplace.

I began to do the Arthur Godfrey approach to the commercials. I said I liked the product if indeed I did. I talked personally about it and commercial advertisers that had only been on the top stations came to us.

At the height of our success, the manager who built up the station was fired. The owners sent in yet another new person to take over. He wanted me to go up in a hot air balloon as a promotion. I didn't do it.

I was in the studio one day and he came in, closed the door and jovially told me his good news. He could secure as a sponsor a famous diet-food company — the one where they send breakfast, lunch and dinner and you eat the stuff and lose weight. They wanted me to say on the air that I was on the diet plan and had lost 27 pounds.

I told him that would be lying.

He said everybody in the radio business did it.

I also told him I was thin. I told him I wouldn't do it. And I used the word "integrity.''

He got furious with me and his face got red and angry. He pulled his fist as if to strike me. I said, "Go ahead. It'll be the last thing you ever do as a manager.''

He walked out.

That movie Horrible Bosses has a plot in which three young men work for insane employers. Eventually, trying to deal with the daily misery in their workplace, they decide to try to kill the bosses responsible.

I don't recommend that. But having been in their shoes once or twice or more, it sure made the movie interesting to watch.

Jim Aylward of New Port Richey was formerly a nationally syndicated columnist and radio host in New York City.

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