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Cosying up with the boss – A different take

May 6, 2008

You know what I’m talking about. You’re buddy-buddy with the boss, always doing lunch together, meeting up after work for drinks or badminton, even occasionally catching a movie together. You can reel off about his favorite this and favorite that to your colleagues.

Yes everyone’s suspicious when someone gets too close to the boss. Everyone’s afraid of being treated unfairly. You can of course quote many examples where bosses are equally nice or nasty to everyone and still end up being unfair, debunking the theory that equal treatment must lead to fairness.

Now let me throw in a curve ball.

In case you haven’t noticed, the relationships between parent and child, teacher and student, customer and supplier are not what they used to be. Company hierarchies are getting smaller and flatter. People are moving in smaller, tighter units, no longer hemmed in by strong central authorities. Work culture is changing. If you’re finding it hard to connect and get along with your newer colleagues, you could be suffering from a workplace generation gap.

If the workforce was an organism, you’ll swear it is mutating as you sleep.

When big and wieldy tries to turn into small and nimble, you’re gonna have to re-invent some things. A company’s ability to manuever in fast-changing markets, take a competitive hit and quickly reconstitute requires exceptional bonding skills. People skills are no longer a pie-in-the-sky theory for sods. Business survival could depend on it.

You may have noticed that Jobstreet-type companies have mushroomed. They are responding to increased workplace attrition. Every defection costs a company money in retraining, lost time etc. and when they discover too much money is pouring down the drain, they will do some soul searching. The smarter ones may trace it down to people issues – specifically on how staff relations have affected the bottom line. Will it bring on a new age of openness between boss and staff? Including having lunches together and after-work activities? I don’t know but I do know that cohesion has a price.

Now I’m not suggesting that bosses should get involved in part-time romantic affairs with their staff. I am suggesting that the old-school arms length approach that many bosses love to take (as a show of authority?) could slowly turn against them. Power and authority don’t serve organizations like they used to. Everything is changing.

Authoritarian managers will hate to hear this but some day, I think bonding skills will become a precondition to leadership positions. Yup. its not a new requirement but I think this time they mean it.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. May 6, 2008 11:53 am

    As a boss, you can keep everybody in your team at arm’s length, you can be assertive and tough, you can even sometimes get rough (to a limit). You have to show yourself as fair and square. You can’t afford to play favorites. You don’t need to be buddy buddy with anybody. But as soon as the wolves (from other depts or from upper levels) bare their fangs at anyone without justification, that’s when your standing makes or breaks. The rank and file will then judge you from there. You should defend them like you would your own kid brothers or sisters. If you’re one who value your own ass more than theirs’ you can kiss your reputation goodbye. No amount of bonding will keep them holding your behind if it stinks. That’s my verdict.

  2. Damien permalink*
    May 6, 2008 12:51 pm

    That’s a fair assessment. A protector-protectee relationship can yeild strong loyalties to the protector when the environment is hostile. My own Singaporean experience was rather different. My boss was an Israeli-American who gelled the team not as a protector but as a mentor who prodded us to think. Being a small company of 30 ppl there were no internal sharks to want protection from. The ceo would make us coffee sometimes from a coffee machine he brought from his own house. Given the circumstances of our industry, the comradery worked very well for us. In fact we got top 5 highest revenue per headcount in ’05-’06 in that industry.

  3. May 6, 2008 2:10 pm

    Aahh… that’s testimony to the beauty of human interactions. We each have our own perceptions from our own experiences. Add them together we have 2 points of view. Hope to read more. Where are others? I also uploaded my previous comment to my blog, hoping to get more feedback.

  4. Damien permalink*
    May 7, 2008 9:56 am

    My topics aren’t popular so I don’t expect many visitors. Furthermore I’m new. I do appreciate your comments though. Hope to see more of it.

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