The request seemed reasonable, one supervisor to another. Agreeing to handle the matter, I asked to speak with one of my charges, for a brief, informal chat.

We worked in an H shaped building, in the left top as one reads the letter. Another department had the lower left, the horizontal bar served as mini-cafeteria and restrooms, and the other vertical was home to the processing unit, supervised by a friend.

Her staff objected to one of mine standing outside the employee entrance md-H, where in the wake of the recent ban on inside smoking, he would occasionally park and puff. The services staff worked on an hourly basis; all but one of my staff was salaried. They did not get smoking breaks, but my smokers (not me) did take a moment to engorge on carcinogens.

My instruction to him was easy to follow. “Please don’t stand outside the door. With all the window space, people see you and since they can’t do what you do, it pisses them off and they go grousing to their supervisor. Go to your car and smoke. Drive around the block, I don’t care. Smoke out of sight.”

Okay, he agreed. After all, it was a reasonable request. A couple of weeks later, he did it again.

On another occasion, my only non-salaried employee came to me requesting time off. It seemed her aunt had passed away, and she would like three days to drive there for the wake and funeral. Not a problem, take the three days.

My department consisted of two branches. One handled personal lines insurance, the other commercial – I supervised the commercial folks. Six months before, the counterpart to my employee in personal had a similar bereavement leave request denied, except I did not know this when allowing my assistant the time, not that I would have denied had I known…

Not content with the time off, my assistant marched back to the one denied, and rendered her best nana nana boo boo, I got the time, and you didn’t routine. So my boss mentioned it to me, no biggie, but be aware she flaunted it in the face of the other, who then baitched to her supervisor.

An excess of brainpower, common sense, or righteousness are not things I claim as assets. Yet recalling these incidents, and others I’ve witnessed but thankfully had no involvement with, I wonder why employees will flaunt such things, why some filter doesn’t trigger an ‘If I don’t bother to walk another one hundred feet, if I do gloat, maybe my supervisor won’t let me do my thing anymore?’

Both incidents made me laugh at the time; it seemed crazy I’d extended such courtesies only to have it come flying back in my face. It certainly didn’t change how I supervised, although years later, after self-employment for a decade and my meltdown and when I went to work for the state, it did change my desire to manage people to no thank you.

Way back then, they were a good team, productive in every way. Our results were excellent, and for the most part, we kept a positive culture. Yet every now and then, something dumb like this would happen, and even now, some 25 years later, it still leaves me giggling and a tad dumbfounded.