How to write for an impossibly picky boss

Here’s how to deal with a loud-mouthed, self-proclaimed “perfectionist” boss who reads at a seventh-grade level, and who thinks everybody else prefers his brand of simplified Esperanto.

I was standing in the middle of the newsroom—an open-area office with about 115 people—having a disagreement with my boss. He started to yell: “How dare you question my judgment!” he screamed. Behind his back, we called him the Tartan Tornado or McBagpipes because he was Scottish, opinionated, loud and relentless. I quickly suggested that we adjourn to his office. Not to prevent embarrassment to me. But to prevent it for him. Because he was wrong.

Although this exchange occurred more than 25 years ago, I remember it as if it were yesterday. He was a terrible boss. But he was a bully and bullies are relatively easy to deal with if you react to their tantrums with a cool, calm demeanor.

I thought of McBagpipes recently when I received an email from reader Dennis Roberts (I’ve changed his name for obvious reasons.) Here’s what Dennis wrote:

“I work for a large corporation. Over the past several months, I have learned that my boss and I have different expectations for the writing process and what defines the “voice” of the author. In your words from your blog, I don’t have the permission to write a bad first draft (of course, I’m not talking punctuation and typos).

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