A Boss By Any Other Name…

Today when N got down to writing a few lines about his boss, memories of my own managers came back to me. I do not think there are many people who get to work under 10 bosses in a span of five years. Maybe that is a side effect of working in an advisory role. Now I feel I have seen the entire spectrum of bosses- from ‘Devil Incarnate’ to ‘Fatherly Figure’. It has been quite a roller coaster working with each of them, & in the process, I have figured out my own way to deal with them. In a few cases, I have been successful; in others, not so. But then, hey, when did I say I am perfect? I am An Ordinary Girl!

The Backstabber: The title is self-explanatory. This is the boss who will be all sugar in front of you, & behind your back, will plot to completely ruin you. Your dilemma will be that you cannot confront, because you have no conclusive evidence of her having said/ done evil to you. Also, with that holier-than-thou attitude that she carries, you will doubt yourself if your assessment of her is correct. Well, at times, it is best to go with intuition. If your heart says she is wrong, she is. In that case, the best is to develop a line of sight with the higher-ups to ensure all your effort is noticed for the right reasons; & not for reasons the Backstabber is portraying.

The Little Monster: This boss is lazy, incompetent, makes your life hell & attempts to sabotage your career. Is this not everybody’s nightmare? So why have I not named it The Devil Incarnate? It is because The Little Monster does not achieve much in His battles. & why is that? It is because His laziness, incompetence & attempts to sabotage are widely-known, even by His own bosses. & thus, The Little Monster gets discredited. But your life is nonetheless awful because every waking moment, you are filled with dread. Your work gets no substantial review. If something goes right, The Little Monster takes the credit. If something goes wrong, you get the blame. You are expected to toe the line. You are not spared scathing remarks of how GFN you are. (Good for Nothing my friend!) So how do we tackle this? I am afraid you just grin & bear it. Abusing Him behind His back helps. Aiming darts at His picture has been shown to lessen stress a bit. You can indulge in bitching because pretty much nobody likes Him, but then, you never know. There may be a mole somewhere! So vent your emotions in private. & pray you get a new boss soon.

The Devil Incarnate: Take The Little Monster, subtract laziness & incompetence, & add dollops of cleverness, selfishness, apathy & ill-will. & you have the Devil Incarnate! This boss is very smart & very clever. She knows exactly what to say where. She knows exactly how to get her work done. She can come up with the brightest of ideas. She can deliver the best of works. She is clearly the ‘star on the block’. BUT! But she is heartless. She is selfish. She cannot think beyond herself. According to Her, She is perfect. If anybody questions her or disagrees with Her, She vows to extract her revenge. & revenge is simple- She utterly destroys the said person. It may not even be a direct remark on her; even if it is remotely connected to her, you are finished. She is a sadist. She knows your troubles & weaknesses, & she exploits them. She is unethical. She is unapologetic. She can kill with a smile. She is a nightmare. Well & truly! There is no way to deal with this boss. You can align to her completely or you can run. Run fast & far- where she cannot reach you!

The Doer: This must be every employee’s delight-The boss who does everything Himself. The Doer is typically one who has just been promoted to a people manager level, & you are pretty much His first team member. He is still grappling with the execution vs. delegation line. He wants to do things Himself, but there is frightfully too much to do. So He delegates some bit to you. But He has to review your work now, which He is still learning how to. So you sit back & enjoy the show, with not much to do. But is it rosy? & more importantly, is it right for you? I do not think so. It is difficult to sit idle for extended periods of time. It is even more difficult to write down ‘sitting idle’ in your appraisal form. For the self-righteous, their ‘learning’ goes for a toss. So how do you deal with this? You are kind-hearted & you ask. Yes, you need to be kind-hearted towards The Doer who is still figuring out the mysterious ways of being a manager. You need to be patient with Him. He will learn; we all do. But at the same time, you need to make Him learn. How? By asking- asking for work, asking for bigger bites, asking for more responsibilities. Initially, it will be difficult for Him to let go but He will come around. Remember, He is not doing this out of spite, but because till a few days back, He Himself was a cog in the wheel.

The Hit Man: I have come to love these bosses. The Hit Man is the one who is an out & out professional. She is smart & efficient & to the point. She knows exactly what She wants & will drive you crazy till you deliver that to Her. She dresses sharp & has a personality nobody can match. You love her & you hate her. You love her because she brings out the best in you. She teaches you ways that you had never explored before. She gives ideas that had never occurred to you. She makes you work hard, & then parties harder, with you. You hate her because your version control reaches 40s & 50s when she is the reviewer. You forget the difference between dawn & dusk. You cannot remember the last movie you saw or when you last hung out with friends. You yearn to ‘get a life’. But, when it ends, you are proud of what you have delivered. Your eyes twinkle & the Hit Man gives you all the credit. This is the boss you admire & want to be like, but will never want to be like!

The Father Figure: If the Hit Man did not give you sleepless nights, & you managed to have a life under Him, then He was, in all likelihood, the Father Figure. This boss makes you do good work, extracts the best from you, ensures you learn, hones your strengths & makes you work on your weaknesses. The Father Figure will give you your work-life balance. He will encourage you to take leave & recharge after the hard work you have put in. The Father Figure is such that you do not mind sharing your personal life with Him. Indeed, you have the comfort to even discuss your personal troubles. That you may choose not to do so is a different matter. He is a boss, mentor, friend, philosopher & guide. You are lucky if you get one such boss in your entire lifetime.

The Joker: By the title, it would seem a boss who would make you laugh. Now, wouldn’t that be desirable? But no, I mean joker in a different sense. This is the boss who will make a mockery of herself, & worse, of you. The boss who thinks it is funny to be self-deprecating can be an embarrassment because she does not know when she is crossing the line. The worst part is she will make a mockery of anything you say/ do/ feel/ think. You will realise, with time that it is futile to say/ do anything in front of her, & you will start working without sharing your anxieties. Stop sharing anything with this boss- go to office, do your work, & go back. For this boss, no matter how hard you try, you will never be able to respect her.

The Paranoid: Again, the title is pretty self-explanatory. This is the boss who gets mini cardiac arrests about anything & everything. The Paranoid will frustrate you as she will micro-manage & will pant with anxiety if something is not going the way She imagined it to. You will start with frustration, move to self-doubt, & then end with being a mother hen. You will have to soothe her frayed nerves. You will have to tell her that if A does not happen, the world will not end. Whether what you say makes a difference or not, depends on your counselling capabilities. Apart from counselling, the other thing you need to do is pray!

The Slippery Eel: This is the boss who will be good in all respects except one- He will never take a stand- neither against you nor for you. He will give you good work to do, make you deliver what is required, & will give credit too. But if there is a discussion, He will never openly speak up. He will go with the majority opinion. & He will be truthful about it to you. He will tell you He wanted X, but since everybody else felt Y, He went with Y. For you, this boss will be spineless. According to His own assessment, He is appeasing. So how do you deal with Him? Well, you make the case for yourself. You ensure the higher-ups are well-informed about you. The situation is pretty much like the one with The Backstabber. Only here, there is no malice involved. Deal with The Slippery Eel the same way you deal with The Backstabber.

The Smart Cookie: This boss is pretty much like the Hit Man. The only difference is you will not admire The Smart Cookie because whatever she does is for herself. She has no interest in you, your work, your learning & your life. Her only & only interest is herself. She will ensure you get the best work because it puts her in good light. She ensures you deliver your best because she will get the credit of being a great manager. She ensures you learn because she wants to be known as ‘the manager who cares’. You will have the best days of your life under this manager. You will have work-life balance. You will have the best work, all the opportunities & the visibility that you need. But underneath it all, you know it is not about you. It is about her. This thought is not meant to deter/ threaten you. It will only make you aware that you cannot take anything for granted. If, tomorrow, The Smart Cookie has no use for you, she will drop you like a hot potato. So, be on the lookout, always!

I am sure there are many more kinds of bosses out there. I am yet to experience them & as & when I do, I will jot down my observations here. If you are a team member, do share your own boss experiences. If you are a boss, are you able to identify yourself in one of these? Or are you a different type altogether?

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