Life Lesson #9: Gas Station Manager Syndrome

I received this distress signal from a reader:

Dear Mrs. Judge Mental:

I recently joined a community service organization, and the person in charge is driving me batty! Here I am VOLUNTEERING my time and talents, and the leader of the group is a total control freak, bossing everyone around. If things don’t improve, I’m afraid a mutiny is in order! Help me!

“” Beat Up in Boston


Dear Beat Up,

Gentle Reader, thank you for your letter. It’s very likely that the person you describe has a case of Gas Station Manager Syndrome (GSMS).

GSMS is a phenomenon by which a small-minded person comes to be in charge of an insignificant thing, causing him to behave like a pompous jerkface. Gas Station Manager Syndrome is a serious epidemic affecting our community.

GSMs discount all opinions that are not their own, grab onto their tiny corner of the universe, and choke the living daylights out of it.

Cases of GSMS have been observed in families, schools, churches, workplaces, civic organizations, and political committees. You could find yourself face to face with a Gas Station Manager when planning your wedding, at a PTA bake sale, or while helping the community. You’re bound to run into Gas Station Managers, whether you’re stuck working with one on a school project, planning your church’s rummage sale, or running for political office.

Symptoms of GSMS include:

  • Swelling of the head
  • Delusions of grandeur
  • Excessive titles
  • Uncontrollable eye rolling (in observers)
  • Obsession with small details
  • Inability to shut the hell up
  • Ignorance of rules of basic courtesy
  • Debilitating self-importance
  • Irrepressible urge to be in control, regardless of qualifications

Those afflicted with GSMS often invent the thing they seek to control. The GSM will create social clubs, charities, political parties, or committees to promote her point of view. Once a group of followers is gathered, the GSM assigns tasks to members then takes all the credit.

GSMs discount all opinions that are not their own, grab onto their tiny corner of the universe, and choke the living daylights out of it. Eventually, their friends and cohorts become so dissatisfied with the bossy, self-important, glory-hogging Gas Station Manager that they quit the group, stop supporting the charity, or start voting for the Green Party.

The only way to successfully combat a true Gas Station Manager is to show everyone that the emperor has no clothes.

She’s the chairman of a committee and doesn’t know Robert’s Rules of Order? Study up! Then make her look stupid.

He wants all the credit for your work? Do a piss-poor job, and he’ll take all the blame.

She wants to be the president of the PTA even though it’s her first year in the district? Let her face the TV cameras when the treasurer makes off with all the fundraiser money. You’ll be there to watch her get hers, then you can stage your coup.

Alternatively, you can tell her what a self-righteous piece of dog mess you think she is, preferably in front of a gathering of her loyal followers, and follow up your tirade by starting your own rival group. Then you can manage a gas station of your very own. Good luck!

About Mrs. Judge Mental

Mrs. Judge Mental, Your Professional Life Coachâ„¢, is a noted expert in absolutely nothing. She is, however, ready to solve your problems using only a foot of dental floss, a toothpick, and Wikipedia.

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