I’ve had one job or another since minimum wage was $4.25 (and for my first, I made less than that under the table at one of your favorite neighborhood snowball stands). So like most of you, I think about the nature of work and labor a lot. Anyone who’s ever had to punch the proverbial clock has also undoubtedly encountered their fair share of tyrants over the years. By “tyrant” I mean some immediate authority figure, many of whom are actually quite skilled at their craft or business, but are insufferable in their approach through some combination of fear and manipulation. I’ve labored under tyrant professors, tyrant restaurateurs, tyrant carpenters, tyrant movie directors and their tyrant subordinates, and on and on.

One thing I’m glad to observe is that management style seems to be on the retreat. One reason is that people, in the immortal words of Twisted Sister, are just not gonna take it anymore. In the old days you’d grumble about it off the clock with your co-workers, or cry in your car, or stare catatonically at a wall contemplating what you’d just been through (the verbal undressings, racist rants, panic on set, and so on). But these days, workers are walking away from that shit (when they can), or calling it out publicly. The U.S. is far from a worker’s utopia, and some of the bosses have just gotten polite with their savagery—think Lumbergh from Office Space, m’kay? Or most of the characters in Succession. But the days of wanton tantrums and maniacal personalities are fading.

Some of these people that I’ve worked under I still have a begrudging respect for—after all, you can learn a lot under a tyrant, even if some of those lessons are the equivalent of touching a hot stove. I try to remember that nothing about their bullshit was intrinsic or even helpful to the art or craft they were trying to manage. It’s kind of like the alcoholic songwriter who thinks they need the drink to fuel their vision, only to find it was holding them back all along.

In the end, tyranny is never sustainable, and if you truly care about something, be it your restaurant or movie or some magazine, you have to understand this, and manage accordingly. And I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge, as someone with a minuscule amount of authority myself, that tyrant poison can creep into your blood if you don’t check it. One thing I’m always appreciative of is how the culture of ANTIGRAVITY would never allow tyranny to reign for long. When the system is working, we’re all bound by the mission—not the money, obviously—and we see the dedication in our peers and collaborators and want to match that. Humans, I do believe, intrinsically value labortheir own and each other’s. And the satisfaction that comes with a project completed has no equal. The trick is to make sure everyone involved feels invested and respected. Indeed, All Bosses Are Bastards, but the good ones meet and exceed their team’s time and effort, and set the standard for work ethic and mutual appreciation. It’s a culture that takes perpetual vigilance and discipline, every single day. —Dan Fox

Illustration by Laura Frizzell

May 2023 cover by Ida Floreak

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