JournalismPakistan.com March 11, 2013
One of the flaws in this imperfect world of ours is that most of us have bosses. There are mini bosses, immediate bosses and mega-bosses, people in command positions who run our lives and become arbitrary barometers of our abilities, to the point where we seek their approbation and respond with Pavlovian conditioning to the pleasing of the boss.
That wouldn't be such a bad thing if bosses deserved the status. But many of those placed on the pedestal have had that elevation thrust upon them and are scarcely to the manner born. The combination of singular positioning and the absence of merit in it makes the exercise of the power correspondingly aggressive.
We then have bosses who are sons of bosses, bosses who happen to be born before us and have been uplifted by the calendar in what is pleasantly called seniority and we have bosses who have been seconded by the caprice of Fate and believe there is some divine intervention in what is actually mere playfulness.
Naturally, being unfit for the job of running other people's lives such bosses are compelled to conceal their shortcomings under several guises. They either become autocratic, mean spirited or simply use the historic precept of divide and rule, spreading disaffection, fear and mediocrity. Favorite sons and daughters are strategically positioned and guile, slyness and other such surrogates replace ability and talent.
So, okay, what's the problem, we know all bosses can't be sterling silver, some of us get the wooden spoon and we learn to live with it.
The problem is that since most us want to aspire to such positions and become bosses ourselves, we fall in line and reduce our own abilities, electing to play safe by playing the game. The boss becomes our speed limit and gradually, like air leaking out of a puncture tyre, we also deflate.
That is the true danger of serving a bad boss. We cannot afford to earn his antagonism by shining brighter so, whether consciously or otherwise, we dim our beacons and march shabbily to his drumbeat.
We hear ourselves say deadly self-defeating things. The worst of these being, 'As you rightly said, Sir."
That sentence epitomises our surrender as definitely as handing over the flag and survival now becomes the priority over the pursuit of excellence.
There is a whole bag of excuses to explain away the sloughing in our own compromise, after all where is the guarantee that the next boss is going to be a wonderful fellow, may even be worse, and we have bills to pay and send kids to school and a house to run so what if we have to turn into celluloid dolls and please the boss by agreeing with him.
As you so aptly put it, Sir, fawn, snivel, grovel.
Unfortunately, the seamless circle begins to spin faster. As subordinates feed this false imagery to the second rate boss he begins to believe in his virtues and becomes even more monstrous and the staff then discover when they wake up one morning that they are now also second rate and that once shining core of talent is a distant speck.
Was that person really me? Is that second rate person really me? And did I have to give this plastic Caesar my ambition so easily?
(The writer is a Senior Editorial Advisor of Khaleej Times and the paper’s former Editor. He has also been the Editor of Gulf News, Gulf Today, Emirates Today and Bahrain Tribune)
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