Being a good boss

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Cheryle Jackson waits for the start of a debate against Alexi Giannoulias and David Hoffman in the race for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate in 2010. (Chris Sweda, Chicago Tribune / October 12, 2009)

On the first day of my first real job, a new colleague volunteered to take me to lunch.

She pulled me away from the office to issue a warning. Over salad, she explained that my new editor had a tendency to treat the women who worked for her poorly while fawning over the men. "Poorly," of course, was not the word she used.

A decade has passed. And when I think back on that boss, I can recall only one scene in which I sprinted to the bathroom in tears.

What comes to mind immediately, however, are the moments of encouragement and guidance from bosses and mentors, whether delivered at the office, on bar stools or over more lunches.

As three others attest to here, we've all been there.

Judy Gold

Partner, Perkins Coie LLP

Industry: Legal

Bad boss story:

To turn around a set of documents, Gold was once forced by her boss "to stay up all night at work on my birthday. I had to miss a concert. I'm pretty sure it was Bruce Springsteen. But it turned out that night, my house had a fire, and I was saved." Happy ending aside, Gold said, "My boss didn't care that it was my birthday. He didn't care that I had Bruce Springsteen tickets. I don't even think he cared that there was a fire."

Good boss story:

Gold said she has had too many good bosses to count, and the best treat colleagues like a family. Small gestures count. She once had a boss who helped her clean out her purse, which she described as "the abyss." Another gave her the earrings off her ears after Gold complimented her on them. "I still have the earrings."

Her "good boss" mantra:

"It's just like a marriage, where one shouldn't go to sleep angry. With an employee, you shouldn't go home angry. In my own life, I have this over-the-bridge rule. As you're on your way home, and you cross one of the bridges of the Chicago River, it's done. When you get to the other side, you've got to leave it behind. Just let it go. Forget about it. And I actually do it. It's over the bridge. And I tell others 'Don't take it over the bridge.' It needs to be the water under the bridge."

Cheryle Jackson

Vice president of government affairs and corporate development, AAR Corp.

Industry: Aerospace

Bad boss story:

Jackson worked for a boss who was open about pitting employees against each other. He seemed to relish stirring the pot "openly and behind the scenes, and then watch them go at it and try to outdo one another." Admittedly, it toughened her up. But no matter how strong or smart you were, no one could thrive in that environment, she said.