At The Mercy of a Toxic Boss: PART 1 of 4

Working under someone is never smooth sailing to many that get the privilege of doing so especially those getting employed for the first time or after a long time of unemployment. My good friend Oyonde (not his real name) was a very happy software developer to get a lucrative job opportunity at a firm near the city where he worked. At first, he had been working part-time as a consultant. Operating between two jobs was not easy especially if one had to be there physically.

Oyonde liked the second place where he was consulting and going there in the afternoon. He told his manager there that they should consider him moving in as a full-time software developer. Unfortunately, they did not have a plan then yet. They approached him months later with the real deal. Not only would he be paid slightly higher than in his current place, but he would be the highest-paid employee at his new workplace. They also agreed to give him a loan to buy a laptop something that he felt was more than a generous offer.

He went for the laptop he had on top of the list of his most coveted machines as any other developer would. For sure no developer lacks this kind of a list even if he or she has one of the best machines that any developer would want to have? Over on Jumia, he found a refurbished at almost half its retail price and placed an order for it. Days later he would go to collect it and have the next employer pay for it via M-Pesa (our local mobile money service). He was ready to start his next job which he thought would turn his life around.

Just like any other developer, Oyonde did not see the need to relocate from where he stayed because getting to the workplace on time was not a top priority to him. On the third day, he was getting called and being asked if he was told the time to report was 8:00 am? In his former workplace, nobody gave a damn if he arrived there 9, 10, 11, or even 12 provided on Friday stand-ups he presented what he had worked during the week. He was used to working at night when he was done with his supper then sleep for like four to five hours before waking up to do a few lines of code in the morning. He would then prepare to go to work depending on the time he finished with the morning code.

There were days when Oyonde slept earlier like 10 or 11 pm just to wake up at 3 am to do his coding. He would go to bed like 4 or 5 hours later and wake up like 3 hours later to go work where he would get like 10, 11, or even midnight depending on traffic. Getting to work at exactly 8 am was affected by things to do with rush hour traffic when the fair was very high but into the mid-morning, the fare dropped. Now in this new workplace finishing the first week was becoming a hard nut to crack he was being required to be sited at his desk by 8 am and leave for home anytime after 5 pm.

“I am a developer and I don’t just work during the day alone but also at night,” He said to his manager the fourth day when he was called to explain about his reporting time and departure time from the office.
“So what does that mean?” came another question.
“It means I work more than everybody else here. When am at home after I have eaten supper I code, when I wake up I code, on weekends I code too” he replied.
“Okay I understand that but here we will be doing things differently. You will be doing everything from the office and if you want to extend after working hours you can do so. We could arrange to have you taken to the house even if its 11 pm.”

In his mind, he felt the encroachment of his time because this would be happening to him from Monday to Saturday, four weeks a month, twelve months a year. This was going to be draining to have Sunday as the only day to relax worse still to be coded from the office alone. Going to the house to sleep and change only and waiting to come code in the office was something that would need a painkiller to think over. It was at this moment that he knew he f**ked up accepting this job and he never knew how long he was going to hold up in it without bringing his bullshit along with it. Only time would tell.

“Besides you are not supposed to go home with the laptop” this one almost choked him up.
“B-b-but I thought the laptop was mine and I could carry it around as I wished” he managed to protest.
“No it’s company property, my friend, keep it in the drawer of your desk,” the manager said as he left him there scratching his head. He couldn’t believe that the manager and also the human resource manager were doing this to him. This was the same man that had been friendly to him during the hiring process in the phone calls, chats, and even physical meetings.

Into the second month, his salary had come uncut which meant there was no loan for the laptop being deducted. It meant he was going to save to buy his laptop that he would be able to carry around and use whenever he wanted. He was now being required to give reports daily on our telegram group that he, his manager, and other directors of the company were part of. In the report, he needed to take a photo of notes of what he had done in a day in a notebook and also attach a screenshot of the UI changes. His manager was an old ways guy who despite embracing new ways like Telegram and Trello was still deeply rooted in note-taking in a big black book. It was going to be hard to work with this kind of person who never accepted to be corrected by his junior.

This manager of Oyonde happened to be a born-again Christian going to the same church as Oyonde and besides, he was an evangelist when not at work. But in the one month that they had worked together he had seen otherwise in the man. One time he called him names over the phone when he called him to ask for clarification on something. It was least expected of him to abuse him and shout to him demanding respect.
“Oyonde don’t be foolish! I demand respect!” were the words he used on him over the phone. The working relationship was getting toxic and he never knew how far it would go. There was one particular day when he didn’t have much to report on because the task was quite an uphill one and it had also rendered the previous one a bug. The system was already being used by part of the staff and that was a challenge on its own.

Oyonde worked as directed and after the second month, he was able to buy his laptop which he would be able to carry home and use while at home. He needed to do other kinds of stuff on his laptop like video editing that he loved, playing games, studying, and trying out new programming stuff. All that any other business could not be done at work. The workplace was like a noisy place where only the sound of the heavy machines reigned. Besides the noted that when he went to bask in the sun his boss and fellow directors thought he was not very serious with work. The system was needed like yesterday and he was relaxing and not looking disturbed. Even he was not allowed to get sick at all because he was to come to work all the time and anything like being sick was like a cheap excuse to not be at work.

“Excuse sir, I bought my laptop and I would like to return this laptop that I was given” he began saying as soon as he was back in the office with his new laptop.
“What do you mean you bought your laptop?” the boss thundered at him. He was used to that whenever he said something that didn’t please his boss. His anger rose faster like boiling milk.
“I realized this laptop is a company asset and I can only use it here in the office which to me is more of a punishment as a developer” he explained. “So I decided to buy my own that I can move around with it as I please”
“Now that you bought it does that mean well for the project?” he went on.
“Of course it does?” answered Oyonde.
“Am asking you, do you buying the laptop mean you will work on the project faster?” the boss asked again. He was used to asking the same question more than once with different wordings. “You should have consulted first before making such decisions. This laptop was in your JD!” he was almost shouting at poor Oyonde who wasn’t in a mood for a fuss.

Christmas came and just like any other company this one gave its employees a short leave but the leave was not even a week as expected. It was to start from 24th December to latest 28th December. Oyonde knew he would not be coming until after 1st of January. He had a wedding to attend to on the 28th which was a Saturday and thereafter since it was far upcountry he would not want to struggle with exorbitant fare then coming but till on the 2nd. His boss was already calling him to know when he was to be back something that greatly gave him discomfort. It was his first time this had happened to him.

Into the second week of January it was raining one morning and poor Oyonde despite having an umbrella was rained on from the thighs to the feet and on reaching the office at 9:30 am he had to take off his shoes, socks, and trousers too because they were pretty much socked. Boss came in gumboots from his car half an hour later and was not happy that he had been late that morning. He could not believe it.

“This is not the first time you come in late,” he said to him.
“But it was raining I don’t have a car like you how am I supposed to be outmaneuvering this thick rain?” Oyonde almost felt like crying.
“Our drivers come to pick our trucks at 3 am I don’t see why it should be a problem with you to you be an early riser?”

In his mind, Oyonde wondered how a software developer was going to be compared to other workers like the driver and the security officer whose work was pegged on the number of hours per day they reported. He could not help remembering that at some point the boss had been pushing him to stay late in the office like him. The area was always getting colder and colder through the evening and Oyonde feared catching a cold or even pneumonia so after 5 pm he would extend and little before making his way to the house where he makes himself warm.

In a chat group on a telegram was another place of torment for Oyonde because when a day ended without him posting any daily reports it was like he was not working. His boss and fellow directors could not understand how someone of his expertise had spent a whole day fixing a bug.
“You are supposed to fix the bug quickly and move on with your work as planned! We hired you because you are an expert don’t make us regret doing that kindly!” was one of the director’s comments one day. None of them understood the complexities of programming save for his boss who was a computer science graduate now turned to a businessman. “You can involve me in your code because I used to write code some time back!” he once told him.

“We expect that you deliver the work we give you on time without delay or excuse…” began a paragraph of authority on the group chat. Oyonde read it not once or twice but multiple times. He felt irritated and provoked to anger. He wrote everything he felt he could say about the whole toxic work culture he had been experiencing there. His boss could hold back a fiery reply which he threw back at him and one of the other directors threw a stopper comment there which would see Oyonde fired the next week without any benefits. He felt relieved once more and for once he felt he should be celebrating but then he had bills to pay.

Software Eng | Elite Cyclist