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Jun 16, 2007

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The Boss is Always Right

The Boss is Always Right

In many places of work, there is only one rule – “The Boss is
Always Right” or “The Boss is Never Wrong”. What if we know
that the Boss is wrong? Well, simple ... refer back to the rule.

All around us, we see and hear of double standards and
inequality. The recent case of celebrity heiress Paris Hilton
being released after three days in Los Angeles jail sparked
fierce debates on the seemingly unequal treatment for the rich
and famous. While we belong to that lot of people who were
neither happy nor sad that she had to serve her remaining term
of sentence, we were unduly perturbed by the fact that citizens
did not enjoy equal rights to fair play and justice. The
questions to ask are whether an ordinary woman who commits
the same offense would face similar punishment, and whether
the Sheriff would likewise order an early release. In all
likelihood, the answers to both questions - “No”.

Story:

The Animals and the Plague

The Boss is Always Right
(Illus by Milo Winter)

Once upon a time a severe plague raged among the animals.
Many died, and those who lived were so ill, that they cared for
neither food nor drink, and dragged themselves about listlessly.
No longer could a fat young hen tempt Master Fox to dinner,
nor a tender lamb rouse greedy Sir Wolf's appetite.

At last the Lion decided to call a council. When all the animals
were gathered together he arose and said:

"Dear friends, I believe the gods have sent this plague upon us
as a punishment for our sins. Therefore, the most guilty one of
us must be offered in sacrifice. Perhaps we may thus obtain
forgiveness and cure for all.

"I will confess all my sins first. I admit that I have been very
greedy and have devoured many sheep. They had done me no
harm. I have eaten goats and bulls and stags. To tell the truth,
I even ate up a shepherd now and then.

"Now, if I am the most guilty, I am ready to be sacrificed. But I
think it best that each one confess his sins as I have done. Then
we can decide in all justice who is the most guilty."

"Your majesty," said the Fox, "you are too good. Can it be a
crime to eat sheep, such stupid mutton heads? No, no, your
majesty. You have done them great honor by eating them up.

"And so far as shepherds are concerned, we all know they
belong to that puny race that pretends to be our masters."

All the animals applauded the Fox loudly. Then, though the
Tiger, the Bear, the Wolf, and all the savage beasts recited the
most wicked deeds, all were excused and made to appear very
saint-like and innocent.

It was now the Ass's turn to confess.

"I remember," he said guiltily, "that one day as I was passing a
field belonging to some priests, I was so tempted by the tender
grass and my hunger, that I could not resist nibbling a bit of it.
I had no right to do it, I admit—"

A great uproar among the beasts interrupted him. Here was the
culprit who had brought misfortune on all of them! What a
horrible crime it was to eat grass that belonged to someone else!
It was enough to hang anyone for, much more an Ass.

Immediately they all fell upon him, the Wolf in the lead, and
soon had made an end to him, sacrificing him to the gods then
and there, and without the formality of an altar.

Moral:

The weak are made to suffer for the misdeeds of the powerful.

Quotable Quotes:

“One's belief that one is sincere is not so dangerous as
one's conviction that one is right. We all feel we are right;
but we felt the same twenty years ago and today we
know we weren't always right.” ... Igor Stravinsky

“Even the frankest and bravest of subordinates do not
talk with their boss the same way they talk with colleagues.”
... Robert Greenleaf

“Of one thing be certain: if a CEO is enthused about a
particularly foolish acquisition, both his internal staff and
his outside advisors will come up with whatever projections
are needed to justify his stance. Only in fairy tales are
emperors told that they are naked.” ... Warren Buffett

“The kinds of people we employ are not afraid of taking
risks. If someone mucks up, they don't get a bollocking
from me. They know they've mucked up and they redouble
their efforts.” ... Richard Branson

“Executives can get away with having a clean desk. For the
rest of us, it looks like you're not working hard enough.”
... Scott Adams

“If this is justice, I am a banana.” ... Ian Hislop

[browse collection of quotes and quotations]

Lessons in life:

Those who have read the book “Animal Farm” by George Orwell
will be familiar with the initial commandment that the animals
enacted after they chased out the humans from the farm -
“All animals are equal.” As time passed and the pigs (who were
their leaders) learned the human ways of life, this
commandment evolved into “All animals are equal, but
some animals are more equal than others.” Perhaps we
humans started out with that innocent belief too, when we
first crafted the constitution. Over the years, we have hit
reality i.e., that there will always be a group of humans - those
with power and authority, wealth and fame – who are
“more equal” than the rest of us.

The same sort of preferential treatment is played out in office.
Bosses can have personal chats on their mobile phones for
hours, but all eyes are on the workers if their phones ring.
Bosses arrive late, leave early and take long lunch breaks, but
workers have to watch the clock. When Bosses make mistakes,
they frame them as the company's mistakes. When workers
make the same mistakes, their careers are on the line.

It can be argued that these bosses and managers have earned
their rights to be treated differently. However, isn't it also true
that their remuneration and incentive package would have
taken care of these perks and benefits? Here, when we speak
of favoritism and preferential treatment, we are referring to
things that are done outside of these contracts, the unwritten
and unspoken words.

Should we then not tell the Boss when he is doing something
really wrong? The approach is important. Telling the Boss
outright and backing your claims with well-researched and
well-documented proof is a Career Suicide. It only shows that
you have been planning this assault for some time and no
boss will take that kindly.

What you should do:-

1. Wait for the opportune moment

Just as there are stormy days and fair days, human moods
change. Have a 'weather-check' of the Boss with his secretary
or personal assistant. Also, even dictatorial leaders will
sometimes ask for opinions or suggestions, just to be seen as
being open even though their minds may be sealed and locked.
Take this chance to highlight your concerns.

2. Be tactful in your speech

No matter how serious the fault is, never reprimand your Boss.
Give him a face-saving exit. For instance, words like “Boss,
your idea is great and will certainly boost our bottom-line. I am
wondering if you had a chance to look at our report on what
our competitors had come up with. That report was on your
desk last month, but we admit that on hindsight we should have
arranged to brief you on the numbers and sources.” Quite
obviously, it is a slap on his face for not reading the report, but
put it in this manner, it gives him an opportunity to blame his
tight schedule for not being able to pore through the complex
figures in the report.

3. Give actionable suggestions

A bulk of the time, we criticize for the sake of criticizing. Any
negative feedback that contains no suggested actions to remedy
a situation is as good as a scolding. Do that to a Boss and you
can be punished for insubordination. Throw in some workable
solutions, let the Boss stamp his authority by deciding on which
approach to take. His pride in thinking that he made a decision
to curb a crisis will override any unpleasant feeling he might
have against you for raising a negative feedback.

4. Stay clear of emotions and personal attacks

If you are angry about something, scream at your home pillow
and lash out at the bathroom mirror. When you report to work,
do not bring these emotions along with you. Be calm and factual
when you speak to Bosses about mistakes they have made.
Avoid using unnecessary adverbs and adjectives like “very
grave mistake”, “absolutely ridiculous”, “utterly unthinkable”.
If you sense that the issue is getting hot, find an excuse to
postpone the meeting and give each other a cooling-off period.

5. Praise publicly but blame privately

Any situation that is unpleasant should be discussed in private.

6. Report to Boss's boss

There is a natural inclination to bring the matter to the top, the
Boss's boss. Unless it is a fraud that you have uncovered and
you are prepared to look for another job, you should be slow to
climb over the Boss's head. While the CEOs, executives and
chairman at the helm often leave their doors open for any sort
of feedback, chances are they will be understanding to people
in their 'inner circles'. Afterall, word will spread and a
reputation for taking drastic disciplinary actions may
jeopardize their own career. As well, by taking any action, they
are admitting that they have failed in their supervisory duties
over your Boss, something which will again look bad in their
own resumes.

Finally, to survive in a work environment, always bear this in
mind - “We are right, but the Boss is always righter.

Related Articles:

Bosses who want their way
Autocrats, dictators, and dominant bosses
Learn the Art of Saying NO
Conflict Resolution at Work
My Boss is an Idiot

Books worth reading:

It is not just bosses who we have to contend with but anybody
from office, home, streets and the internet. Difficult people
are lurking everywhere and Drs. Rick Brinkman and Rick
Kirschner have the creative solutions in their book Dealing
with People You Can't Stand: How to Bring Out the
Best in People at Their Worst, which you can adopt to
improve your communication skills in the most difficult
situations.

Crucial Confrontations is a well-researched bestselling book
on the skills that are needed to resolve touchy, controversial,
and complex issues at work and at home.

© Business Fables and Management Lessons

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

the fox acts alot like sathur the fox in my book "that pewny race that claim to be our masters"
LOL

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