9 Great Bosses Worth Working Overtime For

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iStock

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, here are 9 executives, entrepreneurs, and CEOs who actually deserve that "World's Best Boss" coffee mug.

1. THE EXECUTIVE WHO MODERNIZED BASEBALL

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

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."

14 Retro Gifts for Millennials

Ravi Palwe, Unsplash
Ravi Palwe, Unsplash

Millennials were born between 1981 and 1996, which means the pop culture they grew up with is officially retro. No matter what generation you belong to, consider these gifts when shopping for the Millennials in your life this holiday season.

1. Reptar Funko Pop!; $29

Amazon

This vinyl Reptar figurine from Funko is as cool as anything you’d find in the rugrats’ toy box. The monster dinosaur has been redesigned in classic Pop! style, making it a perfect desk or shelf accessory for the grown-up Nickelodeon fan. It also glows in the dark, which should appeal to anyone’s inner child.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Dragon Ball Z Slippers; $20

Hot Topic

You don’t need to change out of your pajamas to feel like a Super Saiyan. These slippers are emblazoned with the same kanji Goku wears on his gi in Dragon Ball Z: one for training under King Kai and one for training with Master Roshi. And with a soft sherpa lining, the footwear feels as good as it looks.

Buy it: Hot Topic

3. The Pokémon Cookbook; $15

Hop Topic

What do you eat after a long day of training and catching Pokémon? Any dish in The Pokémon Cookbook is a great option. This book features more than 35 recipes inspired by creatures from the Pokémon franchise, including Poké Ball sushi rolls and mashed Meowth potatoes.

Buy it: Hot Topic

4. Lisa Frank Activity Book; $5

Urban Outfitters

Millennials will never be too old for Lisa Frank, especially when the artist’s playful designs come in a relaxing activity book. Watercolor brings the rainbow characters in this collection to life. Just gather some painting supplies and put on a podcast for a relaxing, nostalgia-fueled afternoon.

Buy it: Urban Outfitters

5. Shoebox Tape Recorder with USB; $28

Amazon

The days of recording mix tapes don’t have to be over. This device looks and functions just like tape recorders from the pre-smartphone era. And with a USB port as well as a line-in jack and built-in mic, users can easily import their digital music collection onto retro cassette tapes.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Days of the Week Scrunchie Set; $12

Urban Outfitters

Millennials can be upset that a trend from their youth is old enough to be cool again, or they can embrace it. This scrunchie set is for anyone happy to see the return of the hair accessory. The soft knit ponytail holders come in a set of five—one for each day of the school (or work) week.

Buy it: Urban Outfitters

7. D&D Graphic T-shirt; $38-$48

80s Tees

The perfect gift for the Dungeon Master in your life, this graphic tee is modeled after the cover of the classic Dungeons & Dragons rule book. It’s available in sizes small through 3XL.

Buy it: 80s Tees

8. Chuck E. Cheese T-shirt; $36-$58

80s Tees

Few Millennials survived childhood without experiencing at least one birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese. This retro T-shirt sports the brand’s original name: Chuck E. Cheese’s Pizza Time Theatre. It may be the next-best gift for a Chuck E. Cheese fan behind a decommissioned animatronic.

Buy it: 80s Tees

9. The Nightmare Before Christmas Picnic Blanket Bag; $40

Shop Disney

Fans of Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas will recognize the iconic scene on the front of this messenger bag. Unfold it and the bag becomes a blanket fit for a moonlit picnic among the pumpkins. The bottom side is waterproof and the top layer is made of soft fleece.

Buy it: Shop Disney

10. Toy Story Alien Socks; $15

Shop Disney

You don’t need to be skilled at the claw machine to take home a pair of these socks. Decorated with the aliens from Toy Story, they’re made from soft-knit fabric and are big enough to fit adult feet.

Buy it: Shop Disney

11. Goosebumps Board Game; $24

Amazon

Fans that read every book in R.L. Stine’s series growing up can now play the Goosebumps board game. In this game, based on the Goosebumps movie, players take on the role of their favorite monster from the series and race to the typewriter at the end of the trail of manuscripts.

Buy it: Amazon

12. Tamagotchi Mini; $19

Amazon

If you know someone who killed their Tamagotchi in the '90s, give them another chance to show off their digital pet-care skills. This Tamagotchi is a smaller, simplified version of the original game. It doubles as a keychain, so owners have no excuse to forget to feed their pet.

Buy it: Amazon

13. SNES Classic; $275

Amazon

The SNES Classic is much easier to find now than when it first came out, and it's still just as entertaining for retro video game fans. This mini console comes preloaded with 21 Nintendo games, including Super Mario Kart and Street Fighter II.

Buy it: Amazon

14. Planters Cheez Balls; $24

Amazon

Planters revived its Cheez Balls in 2018 after pulling them from shelves nearly a decade earlier. To Millennials unaware of that fact, this gift could be their dream come true. The throwback snack even comes in the classic canister fans remember.

Buy it: Amazon

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10 Great Gifts for Teens

Fjallraven/Polaroid
Fjallraven/Polaroid

If it’s been a few years since you were a teenager, you might be feeling at a loss when it comes to finding the perfect gift for the teen in your life. But you don’t have to worry—we’ve culled the internet to figure out what’s cool these days, and we found 10 items to suit any teen (and any price point).

1. Fjällräven Kånken Mini Classic Backpack for Everyday; $70

Fjällräven/Amazon

Fjällräven’s Kånken backpack was originally introduced in 1978 as an affordable and comfortable bag for Swedish schoolchildren, but it recently took off as a trend among American high schoolers and college students. With 43 different color options, chances are you’ll be able to find the perfect trendy backpack for the teen in your life.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Hydro Flask Standard-Mouth Water Bottle; $30–$35

Hydro Flask/Amazon

Hydro Flasks aren’t only trendy, they’re sturdy and environmentally friendly. Plus, they keep hot drinks warm and icy drinks cool for an absurdly long amount of time. The standard-mouth water bottle is currently available on Amazon in 17 different colors, but the brand also offers tumbler cups and coffee mugs depending on your niece/nephew/cousin/friend/child’s preference.

Buy it: Amazon

3. Polaroid Originals OneStep+ Bluetooth-Connected Instant Film Camera; $140

Polaroid Originals/Amazon

Teens can kick it back old school with this Polaroid camera that hides some surprisingly contemporary features. Using a special app, users can fine-tune their camera settings to suit their personal tastes. Plus, this camera makes it possible to capture two scenes in a single frame, so it's that much easier to create uniquely artsy Polaroid pics.

Buy it: Amazon

4. 4th-Generation Echo Dot with Clock; $60

Amazon

Tech-wise, the fourth-generation Echo Dot is almost identical to its third-generation predecessor. But the updated spherical design seems poised to make the Echo Dot a worthy contender for traditional alarm clocks—the speaker face shows the time and it even includes a tap-to-snooze function for drowsy sleepers.

Buy it: Amazon

5. Bubble Tea Kit; $38

Uncommon Goods

Part of the reason bubble tea is so popular is that it’s customizable—and what could be more customizable than making it yourself? This kit, made by an Atlanta-based couple, comes with two reusable straws and enough supplies to make up to eight servings.

Buy it: Uncommon Goods

6. Mixtape Card Game; $20

Uncommon Goods

This party game challenges players to find the perfect songs to suit specific prompts. Some cards might prompt players to use Spotify or Youtube to search for the songs with the best guitar solos, while other cards call for participants to play their “favorite slow dance love jam from junior high.” This game is sure to be a hit at any high school sleepover or house party—or, in true 2020 style, at any digital hangout or Zoom meeting.

Buy it: Uncommon Goods

7. Giant Flour Tortilla Throw Blanket; $18-$35

Mermaker/Amazon

This goofy double-sided blanket turns any human into a giant-size burrito, and it comes in four different sizes to suit any height. One reviewer even went so far as to say that “once you wrap yourself in it, you will be convinced that you are a burrito.”

Buy it: Amazon

8. The Cup of Destiny; $22

Shelter Harbor Press/Amazon

Here’s a prediction: Your hunt for the perfect gift is almost over. This kit is ideal for the teenager who is fascinated by the supernatural and loves exploring new ideas. Included, you’ll find a 96-page illustrated instruction book along with a cup and a saucer marked with patterns and symbols.

Buy it: Amazon

9. Wreck This Journal: Now in Color; $9

Penguin Books/Amazon

This journal is not intended to be pretty. It’s made for messiness and exploration and a little bit of chaos. Artistic-minded teens will love filling out pages that prompt them to catalog various stains or poke holes through the paper. Reviewers say it’s not only a source of creative inspiration, though—it’s also a stress reliever. And considering that the middle-school and high-school years aren’t exactly known for being relaxing, this journal could be a welcome reprieve from the daily pressure of managing homework and a social life.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Therapy Dough; $15

Uncommon Goods

Some teens focus better and relax more easily when they have something to fidget with. If the teen in your life fits that description, this therapy dough may be the perfect gift for them. Each 4.5-ounce container is infused with essential oils like lavender, eucalyptus, orange, or pine, making relaxation smell delicious (and all natural!).

Buy it: Uncommon Goods

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