Most people when they become Manager or Boss, they change, they are transformed. Some change for better and some change for worse. Power brings out the best in some and the worst in some. It is an interesting process to observe – good becoming bad or bad becoming good. Sometimes it is fun, sometimes it is very painful.
When a person is promoted, s/he feels that s/he is managing the show – mind you, the WHOLE of it! The concept of Management differs from person to person; it also changes according to work culture. Some manage resources, some mange people, some manage work, some manage their own position at the cost of others, and some manage just the Boss - both in positive and not so positive sense!
It is not that only the Boss manages the subordinates, the process is also the other way round. I once observed a very interesting phenomenon of how people manage their Boss.
This boss, let us call him ‘A’ was a very authoritative person, I am sure, he still is. (Did not I say that for some people power brings out the worst?). He was a sort of ‘know all’ person. Generally the typically famous institutes have expertise in producing such ‘know all’, though, in fact he wasn’t from a typically famous institute. He was intelligent no doubt but always showed it off.
People need to survive, so they are forced to follow moods and wishes of the boss. The best policy to adopt is to become a ‘Yes Wo/Man’. People have no other option, because of many reasons beyond their control. We the Indians are really tolerant and we are taught to ignore people to some extent. When it crosses limit, people leave places. That is why the saying: “People do not leave the Institute/Organization, they leave their Boss”.
Anyway, here was a small group (just 10) of middle aged people (all men), all normal human beings. They had to constantly listen to A (their boss) – his boasting, his arrogance was irritating, but the subordinates somehow managed to survive his onslaught.
Once the subordinates had some demands, nothing personal but all related to work. Something like say filing cabinets and a change in canteen menu (just examples. I cannot share the real demands as I need to protect the identity of those involved in the incidence.) . ‘A’ declared, “Noting doing”.
Fortunately or unfortunately, A’s Boss was present during the discussion. He must have just attended a seminar on ‘Participatory Decision Making’ or something of that sort; he insisted that “Let the subordinates decide what they want. Let them make a priority list, and then we can decide based on the available resource.” Both A and B left the group to finalize the demands.
I was observing the group of subordinates closely. Some of them were my friends, and I had no stake in their demands, so they were freely discussing the agenda in front of me. In fact they wanted me to listen to them and help them. In a disciplined manner, they started creating a ‘wish list’. I was stunned with some of their demands, as everybody knew those would be never accepted by their management. Some of the ‘wishes’ were indeed irrelevant and childish. Even an outsider like me realized that those were not going to be fulfilled.
If something is happening in front of me, I cannot keep myself aloof from that. I voluntarily intervened and reminded them about the futility of putting such demands to the management – for example, (again a fake example) an additional cup of tea during the day or an additional weekly half day off the work.
They laughed at my intervention. Someone asked me “to have patience and see the end result”. It was ultimately their workplace, their boss, and their life, so I wisely decided to keep quiet. One of them gave me a paper on which only 5 demands were written. He winked and asked me “to wait and watch”.
The ‘wish list’ was completed. The Boss “A” and his boss “B” both arrived. One representative of the subordinates started presenting the list. When the first three demands were rejected by “A”, B became bit sympathetic towards the subordinates. He openly asked A to be little more considerate to be more sensitive to the needs of his workers. A was pressurized and accepted next two demands.
Then A realized that something was going wrong and bluntly rejected few more demands. Again B intervened and the group got next two demands sanctioned. It was like a game – which I did not understand at all. I am too straightforward to play such games. I guess I know not only what I want but what the other is capable of ‘giving’- and I ask for only that. But here something strange was happening. Apparently the group of subordinates was enjoying the process and A was getting more and more stressed.
The discussion ended. B was very happy to have ‘participatory decision” – may be that was so unique moment at that place! A was happy with himself. A had ultimately rejected more demands than he had accepted. Apparently he had rejected all critical demands and accepted trivial ones, so he was the winner. The group of subordinates was happy too. That rather puzzled me.
After formality of a cup of tea, when both A and B left, the group gathered around me and started laughing merrily. I was confused. I asked, “8 of your demands were rejected and only 5 were accepted, how come you are all happy?”
The one who had given me a piece of paper, asked me to read it. It was amazing. The five demands, which were listed on that paper prior to the discussion, were all approved. That was the reason the group was so cheerful. But how did they do it? What was the trick?
One senior person from the group said, “Sister, we knew which one Boss would reject, so we deliberately added those demands in the list.” Now this was beyond my comprehension. Slowly I realized that the group had cleverly mixed ‘possible’ demands with the ‘impossible’ demands. Another one added, “If you corner your boss to agree with yourself, his ego gets hurt. So you should always create a space where your boss can stamp his authority. Bosses unfortunately need the ego fodder more than normal human beings. By providing that fodder to him, we managed to get what we wanted.” Third one elaborated, “Even when our demands were right, if Boss had to accept it all, he would have felt defeated. Now he thinks he has won the battle. However, creating the impression of his win, we have gained what we wanted.” Fourth said, “Nothing wrong in fooling the boss, but never let him know that you fooled him.” Fifth smiled and advised me, “You should give your boss an opportunity to say ‘NO’ to you, and in the process you force him to say ‘YES’ unknowingly.”
A great strategy! An example of collective intelligence! Rare understanding within the group! A real humble way of winning the boss without making him realize that actually he has lost it! It showed thorough planning! It demonstrated diplomacy skills and tangible shrewdness!
That was a grand lesson in ‘Managing the Boss”.
(But it seems that I have not learnt anything from it!!).