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9 Great Bosses Worth Working Overtime For

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Bosses get a bad rap. From Ebenezer Scrooge to C. Montgomery Burns, pop culture generally portrays the top brass as greedy, egomaniacal, or hapless. But among all the horror stories of big shots run amok, let’s not forget the extraordinary leaders who’ve used their influence to make life better for their employees—or even for society at large. In honor of National Boss's Day (celebrated on October 17th this year), here are 9 executives, entrepreneurs, and CEOs who actually deserve that "World's Best Boss" coffee mug.

1. THE EXECUTIVE WHO MODERNIZED BASEBALL

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Jackie Robinson is rightfully celebrated for breaking baseball’s color barrier, as well as being one of the most dynamic and talented players to ever take the field. Robinson’s opportunity, however, was in part due to Branch Rickey, one of the most innovative and nontraditional executives in baseball history. After a short-lived stint as a player, Rickey eventually found his true calling working in the front office. During his career, he was instrumental in a huge number of baseball modernizations, including the use of batting helmets, pitching machines, statistical analysis, and the concept of minor league affiliate teams.

Rickey understood that diversifying the game would require an extremely gifted player who also possessed near-superhuman restraint. He saw in Robinson the ideal combination of ability and temperament to withstand scorn and threats—in his words, "enough guts not to fight back"—and helped Robinson prepare by ruthlessly taunting him. Robinson’s massive success paved the way for black players to join the major leagues, and Rickey continued to be a civil rights advocate, declaring that "ethnic prejudice has no place in sports." Later in his career, his championing of Puerto Rican superstar Roberto Clemente helped lead to a new wave of superstar Latino players joining the league as well.

2. THE MESOPOTAMIAN FOREMAN WHO PAID WORKERS IN BEER

It’s impossible to say who the very first boss was—the concept of paid labor predates the earliest written records—but evidence from modern-day Iraq proves that 5000 years ago, at least one boss paid his workers in beer! This particular tablet contains the symbols for "rations" and "beer" as well as cuneiform writing describing how much was paid to a particular laborer, which essentially makes it an ancient pay stub. While we don't know this specific Mesopotamian employer’s name, or what project he was overseeing, raise a glass to this proto-boss who didn’t need currency to make sure his team was well compensated.

3. THE A-LISTER WHO'S AN ACCESSIBLE ALTRUIST

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Famed for her extensive charity programs, it’s no surprise that TV producer and star Oprah Winfrey is also a generous boss—it’s easy to find stories of her inviting employees over for dinner or even taking her entire production company on a Hawaiian vacation. But her staff loves Oprah for more than just her direct benevolence. "[Oprah’s] so inspiring because she’s not just a boss," says journalist and TV host Lisa Ling. "Everything you do, she asks, ‘What’s your intention behind it?’ You never find that in television. Oftentimes the only question is, ‘What is it going to rate?'" Another former employee, producer Janet Lee, praises Winfrey’s ability to relate and connect with her staff. "What was amazing with her was that the company really grew and grew every year and we had more people and more departments and she remembered everyone’s name. I always thought that was amazing."

4. THE PHARMACIST WHO PUBLISHED HIS BUSINESS ACUMEN

Fan Li, later known by the name Tao Zhu Gong, was an ancient Chinese military strategist. Born in 517 BCE in the feudal state of Yue (in modern southern China), he earned a reputation early in life for shrewd battle tactics and implementing psychological aspects into warfare. Later in life, Fan Li became a successful merchant-pharmacist and decided to share his accumulated wisdom for posterity. His philosophies were published as "Golden Rules of Business Success," which emphasized the importance of organization, vigilance, and character judgment to merchants. The "Golden Rules" was one of the world’s earliest books on business and leadership, and continues to be published in various forms [PDF] to this day.

5. THE COACH WHO MIXED CONTROL WITH COMPASSION

Few names are as revered in the sports world as football coach Vince Lombardi, often remembered as a tough-talking, no-nonsense authority figure. His on-field success is indisputable—he led his Green Bay Packers to five NFL championships in nine years—and was frequently attributed to his "tough disciplinarian" demeanor and rigorous practice habits. But while Lombardi was no stranger to a blistering harangue, he was also known among colleagues to espouse empathy and tolerance. One example: multiple former players agree that the coach fully accepted gay players on his teams and ensured they were treated with respect by other players and coaches. In fact, despite his stone-faced reputation, this 2014 Vice column suggests that "Lombardi's emotional connection with his players wasn't just a part of [his] character, but one of the major reasons for his success as coach."

6. THE PURITAN MAMA WHO KEPT THE PRESSES PRINTING

Ann Smith Franklin isn’t even the most famous person in her family—that would be her brother-in-law, founding father Benjamin—but her story is fascinating nonetheless. Along with her husband, James, Ann helped establish the first independent newspaper in New England, The New England Courant. After the Franklins were accused of libel (and James briefly imprisoned) for daring to criticize the government and religion, they decamped to Rhode Island and began printing a short-lived weekly newspaper, the Rhode Island Gazette. James's death in 1735 left Ann as the sole provider to their four children. She continued to operate the printing press, and when small jobs proved to be an insufficient way to earn money, she boldly negotiated a contract to become the official printer for the Rhode Island general assembly. She taught her children the printing business, and with her son James Jr., originated the Newport Mercury newspaper, a descendant of which is still published today. Ann Franklin eventually outlived all of her children, and in 1762 became the sole editor and publisher of the Mercury, and the first American woman to run a newspaper on her own.

7. THE FLIGHT DIRECTOR WHO REFUSED TO FAIL

By NASA [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

After serving as an Air Force pilot in the Korean War, Eugene Kranz was a key player in NASA’s fledgling Space Task Group. Kranz helped develop procedures for early space flights and was quickly promoted to Flight Director in 1964, in which capacity he oversaw a number of historic missions, including the Apollo 11 lunar landing in 1969.

In response to the Apollo 1 disaster, he issued the "Kranz Dictum," which challenged his entire team to be "tough and competent," and more responsible for their actions. But it was the nearly disastrous Apollo 13 mission which truly cemented his reputation as a leader for the ages. Facing enormous pressure and uncertainty, Kranz kept his cool and refused to panic as he worked to save the lives of the three astronauts aboard—"Let’s solve the problem, but let’s not make it any worse by guessing."

8. THE TECH GURU WHO DRASTICALLY RAISED SALARIES

Dan Price, founder, and CEO of tech startup Gravity Payments, made headlines in April 2015 when he announced that he was raising the minimum wage at his company to $70,000 per year. After years of trying to keep salary costs low, Price had a change of heart due to conversations with struggling employees, as well as a 2010 study by Daniel Kahneman that found personal emotional well-being was higher in employees making $75,000 per year. He helped fund these raises by cutting his own salary, from $1.1 million yearly to the same $70,000 figure. The story went viral, and Price found himself simultaneously praised and pilloried in the media (unsurprisingly, Rush Limbaugh predicted the "socialist" decision would be a failure). But a year and a half later, Gravity’s revenue keeps growing and Price recently bolstered his reduced salary by inking a $500,000 book deal.

9. THE PRODUCER WHO'S A PHONE CALL AWAY

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Fans of Grey's Anatomy, Private Practice, Scandal, and How to Get Away With Murder know Shonda Rhimes as an award-winning writer and producer, beloved for her sharp dialogue and diverse, multidimensional characters. But within the industry, she’s also widely praised for her availability and fierce allegiance to her colleagues. She’s known for her "No Assholes" policy: she’s highly selective about who she employs, and often works with a recurring cast that’s been described as "a de facto repertory company." Her actors hugely appreciate Rhimes’ loyalty and direct approach. Jessica Capshaw, who plays Dr. Arizona Robbins on Grey's Anatomy, has said, "The most important thing for me has been having proximity to a boss that cares when you have thoughts or concerns or questions and addresses them in a mindful and kind and generous way … Shonda is current with us. She's an email or a phone call away."

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This AI Tool Will Help You Write a Winning Resume
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For job seekers, crafting that perfect resume can be an exercise in frustration. Should you try to be a little conversational? Is your list of past jobs too long? Are there keywords that employers embrace—or resist? Like most human-based tasks, it could probably benefit from a little AI consultation.

Fast Company reports that a new start-up called Leap is prepared to offer exactly that. The project—started by two former Google engineers—promises to provide both potential minions and their bosses better ways to communicate and match job needs to skills. Upload a resume and Leap will begin to make suggestions (via highlighted boxes) on where to snip text, where to emphasize specific skills, and roughly 100 other ways to create a resume that stands out from the pile.

If Leap stopped there, it would be a valuable addition to a professional's toolbox. But the company is taking it a step further, offering to distribute the resume to employers who are looking for the skills and traits specific to that individual. They'll even elaborate on why that person is a good fit for the position being solicited. If the company hires their endorsee, they'll take a recruiter's cut of their first year's wages. (It's free to job seekers.)

Although the service is new, Leap says it's had a 70 percent success rate landing its users an interview. The rest is up to you.

[h/t Fast Company]

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11 Behind-the-Counter Secrets of Baristas
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Being a barista is no easy task, and it’s not just the early hours and the don’t-talk-to-me-unless-I’ve-had-my-coffee customers. While people often think working at a cafe is a part-time, temporary gig, it takes extensive training to learn your way around an espresso machine, and most baristas are in it for the love of coffee, not just to pay the bills. Mental Floss spoke to a few baristas working at the New York Coffee Festival to learn what exactly goes on behind the counter, and why you should never, ever dump your extra coffee in the trash.

1. THEY REALLY LOVE COFFEE.

One of the biggest misconceptions about the profession, says New York City-based barista Kayla Bird, is “that it's not a real job.” But especially in specialty cafes, many baristas are in it for the long haul. Coffee is their career.

“It's a chosen field,” as barista Virgil San Miguel puts it. “It's not like you work in a coffee shop because it's a glamorous job,” he explains. “It's more like a passion.”

2. THEY GO THROUGH A LOT OF TRAINING.

“Being a really good barista takes a lot of studying,” explains Jake Griffin, a wholesale representative for Irving Farm Coffee Roasters who has worked in the coffee industry for almost a decade. “It can take a few years. You have to start to understand origins, production methods, where your coffee came from.” You have to go through an intensive education before you start pulling espresso shots for customers, so it's possible that the person taking your order and fetching your pastry isn't even allowed to make you a drink yet. “They have to be what we call 'bar certified' before they're even allowed on the machine,” he says. “Usually people start off in our cafes in various support roles, then start to go to classes and go through the training program.”

3. THEY’RE PROBABLY PRETTY WIRED.

Sure, baristas take full advantage of all that free coffee. And if they work in their company’s training programs, their whole job is to drink coffee. But it has its downsides. “I taste—at minimum—ten shots of espresso a day,” John Hrabe, who trains baristas at Birch Coffee in New York City, says. On his busier days, it might be as many as 20. You get used to all the caffeine, he claims—at least until you take a few days off. “Then when you go on vacation and you're not working ... everyone's like, 'Why's John so tired?’”

Other baristas who have worked in the field for a long time say the same. “I’ve been doing this for 15 years, and I used to have five or six coffees a day,” Michael Sadler, who helped develop the barista education program at Toby’s Coffee, says. “Now I do two,” he says, both because of the caffeine-induced anxiety and the withdrawal headaches he would get on his days off.

4. OR THEY’RE DRINKING … SOMETHING ELSE.

Like any job, there are things that go on in coffee shops that the boss would definitely not approve of. According to one barista who has worked at both a corporate coffee chain and specialty cafes in Delaware and New York, coffee shops can get pretty rowdy behind-the-scenes. “If you see a barista with a lidded cup behind the bar, there's probably a 50/50 chance: It's either coffee or beer,” he says. “You never know.” And it’s not just the booze, either. “I’ve been a part of secret menus that have cannabis-infused coconut milk,” he explains. “I had a pretty good cappuccino.”

5. THEY GET ANNOYED WHEN YOU SKIP THE PLEASANTRIES.

You don’t want to hold up the line telling a barista your life story at 7 a.m., but even if you’re in a hurry, don’t forget to say hi before you jump into demanding that large coffee. “Walking up to somebody and saying 'Almond latte,' when they just said 'How are you today?' is probably the biggest thing you can do to get on a barista's bad side,” Toby's Coffee's Sadler says. “It's like, exchange pleasantries, then get to business.”

6. IF YOU’RE NOT NICE TO THEM, THEY WON’T BE NICE TO YOU.

Not everyone is super perky in the morning, but if you can’t be civil, you’re better off making your own coffee at home. At some places, if you get snippy with the employees, you’re going to get worse than furtive eye rolls between baristas (though you’ll get that, too).

“Be nice to your baristas, or you get decaf,” warns one barista. While it varies from cafe to cafe, multiple baristas told Mental Floss that it happens. Rude customers might get three letters written on their cup: “They call it DTB—‘decaf that bitch.’”

There’s a less potent way a barista can get back at you, too. If the hole in your coffee lid lines up with the seam of your paper cup, you’re going to get dripped on. And sometimes, it’s not an accident. “When a barista puts the mouth on the seam, they want it to leak on you,” a New York City-based barista explains.

Others are a little more forgiving of rude patrons. “I like making them the best drink that they've ever had, just to kill them with kindness,” one coffee shop employee says. “I don't want them to be like, ‘She’s a bad barista.’” Just to be safe, though, it's better to be nice.

7. THEY PROBABLY KNOW WHAT YOU WANT BEFORE YOU DO.

“The longer you work in coffee, the more when someone walks in the door you read their personality type and say, I know exactly what you're going to drink,” Jared Hamilton, a self-described “espresso wizard” at the Brooklyn-based chain Cafe Grumpy, says. When I ask him to predict my drink, he proves his skills. “What you're going to drink is like, an alternative milk, flat white or cappuccino. So maybe soy, probably almond. Nonstandard. You don't want a lot of milk, just enough.” He’s not too far off—my go-to is, in fact, a non-standard, some-milk-but-not-too-much drink, a decaf cappuccino, though I drink regular milk in it. He points to another festival visitor who is dressed in business attire. "That guy right there, he drinks espresso all day," he guesses.

Depending on the coffee shop, the barista might know what customers want more than they do. Dominique Richards, who started her first barista job in Brooklyn three months ago, says she has to order for her customers around a third of the time. “Usually if someone's looking at the menu for more than 30 seconds, I jump in and say, ‘Hey, what would you like?’” She then asks them a few questions, like whether they want hot or cold coffee, and goes from there, often recommending lattes for people who are just getting into specialty coffee. “It's kind of a learning experience for the majority” of her customers, she says.

8. CUSTOMERS CAN BE REALLY PARTICULAR.

“People treat cafes like they're [their own] kitchen,” according to Cafe Grumpy’s Hamilton. “My favorite thing people do is when they walk in and they rearrange the condiment bar. Then they order, then they go use the condiments.” Apparently, some people are really particular about the location of their sugar packets. And if you throw off their routine, watch out. One of his colleagues describes a customer who threw a fit because the shop didn’t have a cinnamon shaker, demanding a refund for both her coffee and her pastry. (They eventually found some cinnamon for her.)

9. YOU SHOULD NEVER, EVER DUMP EXTRA COFFEE STRAIGHT INTO THE TRASH.

Even if you ask for room for milk in your drip coffee, the cup is still sometimes just a bit too full. It’s tempting to just pour a little into the trash can, but whoever has to take out that garbage is going to pay for it. “Please don't pour it in the garbage,” Bluestone Lane barista Marina Velazquez pleads. “Because at the end of the night, it ends up on our feet.” If the shop doesn’t have a dedicated container for you to pour out your excess coffee, take it back to the counter and ask them to dump a bit in the sink. Your baristas will thank you.

10. MAKING ESPRESSO DRINKS ISN’T A ROTE SKILL.

When you’re waiting in line, it may look like baristas are doing the same thing over and over for dozens of drinks. But in fact, every order presents its own challenges.

“There's probably not an appreciation for how much a coffee can vary,” explains Katie Duris, a former barista of 10 years who now works as a wholesale manager at Joe Coffee. High-quality coffee is “really dynamic as an ingredient,” she says. Baristas “have to make micro adjustments all day long. You have to change the grind based on the humidity in the room or a draft or how much coffee is in your hopper—if it's an espresso machine—so they're tweaking all day long … good baristas are making adjustments all the time.”

11. IT’S PHYSICALLY TAXING.

Making espresso drinks all day long can wear you out, and not just because you’re on your feet all day. There are also repetitive stress injuries to consider. “There's physical wear and tear on your joints when you're a barista,” Birch's Hrabe says. He’s worked in coffee for 11 years, and says that tamping espresso shots (compressing the grounds before brewing) day after day has given him tennis elbow. “It's totally common for baristas,” he says.

In short, baristas are probably doing more work behind the bar than you give them credit for, whether it’s dealing with customers or actually making coffee. “Being a barista is fun, but it's hard work,” Bluestone Lane's Velazquez says. “Everybody should be a barista at least once. I think it teaches humility.”

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