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The Boss is Calling – Understanding the Psychology of Bossism
That day or evening when you were enjoying that party with your family and friends, you received a call on your mobile and the screen was showing, “Boss is calling”. What did you do? Did you answer the call or did you let it ring? Did you call back after a while or did you send a message to him to check if there is anything urgent? Your response and the way you might react on these situations will be based on the type of boss you have and your relation with him or her. Bosses cannot be good or bad. They just oscillate between being good and bad based on the type of boss they have. It’s like holding the one end of a rope in your hand and swinging in the air; you can see the effect in the whole rope till the very end of the other side. In the same way the behavior of your boss swings between goodness and badness.
Believe it or not; accept it or not but in the corporate world, everyone has at least one person that he or she is accountable to or that he or she is reporting to until and unless the person is an owner of the company (in case of private limited company). In case of public limited company, the CEOs and the Managing Directors are answerable to the Board of Directors. Hence, always remember that even your boss is having a boss. No one has been spared. The way you are analyzing your boss in the scale of good, bad or horrible, be sure that even your boss is analyzing his or her boss.
In this article, we are making an attempt to understand and discuss the factors that affects the behavior of a boss; psychology involved and how one can become a good boss.
Few facts about your BOSS
Before we proceed with our discussion lets understand a few facts about your boss; this will help us to understand the psychology and behavior of your boss.
1) Just like you, your boss is also a human being and he has own emotions, aspirations, fears, insecurity, issues and problems.
2) The basic motive for any individual to become a boss is to control. He wants to control and manipulate people under him in the way as his boss wants to control his behavior and his movements.
3) Bosses can have any designation or position be it Captain, Team-Leader, Head, Manager, Vice-President, Director or CXO. The fact that he is on you and you are under him is good enough a proof to determine that he is your boss and you are his sub-ordinate.
4) Your boss is not only accountable and responsible for his performance, deliverables and targets but also that of yours.
5) Few of the roles of any bosses are to –
c) make decisions (not only for self but for the whole team and take the responsibility);
d) manage (resources; time and people);
e) train (pass on his knowledge by way of training his sub-ordinates)
f) lead (set examples and being a role-model);
g) coach (so as to improve and performances of his sub-ordinates) and
h) mentor (pass on his legacy and experiences to the younger generation)
Your boss plays (or at least expected to play) all these roles in the span of his professional career and as he moves up in the hierarchy. However, many bosses in many companies are too content with their role of controlling, manipulating and influencing that they do not even think beyond it.
First time bosses
No one is a born boss. Yes, even at the school time you might have seen people who bully around; your class-representatives; school-captains etc but it is very different when you start at a corporate level. Doesn’t matter what you have done at the school or college level but in the corporate world you begin a new inning, which in many cases last for 30 or 40 years.
You begin your career and as you experience you new things and learn more about the dynamics of working in a corporate world, you also begin to curse your boss. You start thinking that your boss is an idiot who doesn’t know anything. You feel that he is bias; he doesn’t like you; he might harm your career and growth (which at times can be true also but not always). You keep on moving from one company to another in the search of a boss who thinks like you (not even thinking that had that person continued to think like you he would have stayed at your level and would not have reached the position where he has reached now).
…and then one day you get promoted as a team-leader. Just like a beggar who got lucky in the lottery draw of one billion dollars, not knowing what he should be doing with that money; now even you don’t know what you should be doing with your position. And then you remember your all bosses in the past and try to emulate their behaviors and process. You also try to force your decisions on your subordinates. You begin to enjoy the sufferings of others. You feel proud and respected when see your subordinates working late in the night. You begin to treat your subordinates in a same way as your bosses in the past used to treat you.
First time bosses are the most horrible. They feel insecure. With the power that they have gained for the first time, they become arrogant. They begin to feel that they are the best manipulators and can do anything. They begin to dominate. In short, they begin to do everything that they used to hate at one point of time. Now, their thinking process changes and they begin to think that their subordinates
a) are not hard-working
b) don’t listen to them or respect them (no attention for detail and disobedient)
c) in their absence talks bad about them
d) are planning something against them
e) are not as efficient as they are
The process continues
Welcome to the world of sandwich type of work-life!!! The promotion that you got in your last appraisal making you the team-leader after defeating three more contenders is just a beginning of this sandwich type of work-life. The sooner you grow-up, understand things and become matured, the better it will be for you and your growth. Going forward and as long as you will exist in this corporate world; you will always have one team under you and at least one boss above you.
In order to grow up in the hierarchy, you must always perform better than your subordinates and also push your boss up in the hierarchy, so that you can occupy his position. You must be a good boss for your team and a most reliable subordinate for your boss. It is not easy. Most of the bosses succumb here. It is at this position that you find that your boss is bad 8/10 times and not vice-versa.
Positive and Negative Motivation
We always learn. We learn the style of bossism. We learn how to handle pressure and how to meet deadlines. We learn from our bosses, our peers and our counterparts in other companies. Same thing can motivate few people in a good way and some others in a negative way. Some people, when they see some bad habit or behavior or work-style or management style in their bosses they emulate that style and practice it then when they reach at that level but there are also some other type of people who, when they see such habit or behavior of practice, promise to themselves that whenever they will reach at the level where their boss is, they will not do the same thing.
It is up to an individual to select or create his style and decide what type of boss he wants to be. No one can be 100% good or bad and there will always be shades of grey.
My experiences and my bosses
While I was preparing for this article, I just scanned through the internet and I found that there are ten’s of thousand’s of article about bad-bosses. The way it was presented, for a moment I felt that all bosses are bad and if all bosses are bad it means you are bad, I am bad and everybody around us is also bad because at some level we all are bosses or had been at that position once in our career.
In my career, I have worked under several bosses (five to be more accurate) and the goodness and badness in my bosses has varied from 9/10 times good to 8/10 times bad. But, all my bosses have at least one quality that I liked in them.
My first boss – my coach and mentor: He was not only my boss or manager but also my guide, coach and mentor. Fortunately for me, in spite of having so many levels in the department, I was reporting to my VP. It was a great combination of experience and energy (excuse me, what I said, energy?? In fact he was more energetic and in that regards can easily give competition to people half his age. Even at his age, he used to work from 8:30 AM to 9 M). If I was impulsive then he was patient. Sometimes we used to think about the same thing, at the same time without anyone knowing about it. Not that we never had differences or he never scolded me but now I know that behind every such discussion that we had, the intention was not bad. He wanted me to learn new things and understand the dynamics of corporate world. He was very caring, though he might not have said so even one single time. I think the one reason we had such a cordial relation was our levels in the organizational hierarchy. Between us we had around 7-8 levels and I would have taken at least 15-20 years to reach his level; hence there was no competition between us. He was the type of boss who can never say that I know everything. He always followed that in every one of us there is always a scope to learn new things. He was always willing to learn new things.
My second boss – intelligent bully: I think my corporate honeymoon was over with my 1st boss. My second boss was a bully. He was just a terror to have around. If he is under pressure, you cannot even make a guess how he might behave in the office. In the office, most of the time we used to see him in the smoking zone or playing cards on his computer or chatting with his friends. It is not that he was not intelligent or knowledgeable but I think he was at a stage of his career where his philosophy was to take the things lightly and pass on the pressure and tensions to the sub-ordinates.
My third boss – caring dumb: He was the type of boss who was very caring. Even if you call him in the middle of a night for some help, most likely he will come to bail you out. He was someone who can take you to parties; drink with you and get drunk. He was just a fun loving guy, someone we all like to have. But, when it comes to decision making, there will be no discussion, no debate, no brainstorming, just one way and that is his way. He used to get floored when people used to say good things about him; respect him and admire him. Later on we got to know that beneath his caring behavior and nature he was actually hiding his dumb personality. He was having zero or minimum possible knowledge of the industry and the corporate world.
My fourth boss – lazy and fearful: One thing that I like about him is his patience. I don’t know why but he always used to think that the pressure of the whole company is on his shoulders. He used to think that everyone around him is competing with him. It used to take months for him to get one file move from one table to another. He was the one who can create rift between two people to get his way. I am still not able to understand why he was like this but I don’t think that he can ever be in a strategic leadership role.
My fifth and the present boss – an entrepreneur with heart and emotions: My professional life, it seems to have come full circle for me. My present boss is a younger version of my first boss. Between us there is a mutual respect and mutual admiration. Sometimes we also agree to disagree with each other but that is always a way to a healthy discussion. He is caring. He is one among those few bosses who knows what they are looking for. And most importantly, he is the reason for me to be here. Common thing between us is that we both love challenges and we have similar dreams; a dream to be number one in whatever we do.
There is nothing personal against or in favor of any of my boss. I have learned from all my bosses. I love to emulate some of their behaviors and styles and I prefer not to follow some of their approaches and practices. It took the influence of all my bosses for me to be what I am today.
Becoming a good boss
In this section, we are not trying to preach anything rather we are trying to share and highlight some of the behaviors that might make you a good, admirable and respectable boss.
1) Always be ready to learn new things. We are not experts and we can never be. There is always a scope for improvement. Hence, no point in saying, “I know”. One must accept the fact that they cannot master everything.
2) Accept your faults. Just the way we cannot learn everything, we cannot be expert in everything hence accept your mistakes, faults, errors and even blunders.
3) Subject matter expertise. It is very important to be master of your own domain. This will get you respect and admiration not only from your team-members but also from others in the company and industry.
4) Be matured and be constructive. You cannot become a good boss if you are working as an open-ended pipe. If there is a pressure or if you have tensions or things are not good between you and your boss, try to absorb that. You will not gain anything by passing that tension or pressure to your team. Be assertive rather that than being direct. But in case of appreciation and recognition, pass that directly to the team.
5) Be true to your team. For you to get respect from your team, it is important that you always be true to your team. Do not take any decision about the team by keeping your team in dark.
6) Get your team in confidence.
7) Always be ready for competition. Once you are at this level, you will be challenged by everyone around you, sometimes even from within the team, so be prepared for that. Do not try to diffuse the competition but be ready to take it head-on. At your level you need to prove again and again to your team that you are best suited for the role.
8) Walk the talk. Don’t just make plans and share your vision but also work towards getting the things done.
9) Take responsibility and accountability. Always take the responsibility and accountability of each of your team-members, their work and even their behavior.
Having read so many articles and journals about bad bosses, I just thought that there is a need to share something which is unbiased and transparent. Bosses are not good or bad it is the way they react in certain situations or handle some other situations that makes them good or bad. Bosses are not God and they do make errors, mistakes and even blunders. The higher they are placed, the higher is their responsibility and accountability.
I hope this article will give an insight into the psychology involved in the behavior of that person, whom you call as your boss and think at least twice before taking his calls after the office hours.
I am looking forward to have your feedback and comments.
Take very good care of yourself.
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