Friday, October 15, 2004

The boss from hell

For the last couple of weeks, I've been going to a client's office with my husband. The client company has just installed Pete's new software and he has been assisting them with the changeover. My job is to help transfer data from the sales and purchase ledgers from the old software to the new. I also help with the training of the staff. But this is not work that takes up the whole day, so I've had a lot of time to observe what's going on around me.

For starters, there are laminated, home-made notices tacked on almost literally every open space, all of them signed "Steve".

Above the printer, this: "Ensure that you take out the EXACT amount of paper required for the day." And this: "Return all unused paper to the stock room."

Above the fax, this: "Do NOT use the fax as a copier. If you want to make copies, use the copier in my room." And this: "For every fax sent, write down the name of the sender and the recipient, the time and number of pages. Send the list to me at the end of the day."

Above the kitchen sink: "Do not wait for the janitor to wash up - dont hesitate to take your turn".

On each employee's desk: "Courtesy, hard work and responsibility are the mottos (sic) of this company and help make the office pleasant".

And above everything else, in large black lettering: "New company terminology: Henceforth, all employees will be known as Team Members, the Managers as Team Leaders, senior managers as Executive Officers and the Managing Director as Chief Executive Officer. All internal memos and correspondence shall reflect the changes."

It didnt need a genius to figure out that there was a control-freak around! And it didnt take much longer to conclude that the employees in this office have the bad luck to work for one of the very worst bosses I've EVER seen. And I've seen some bad ones, believe me.

The man in charge is Steve, the son of the founder who has retired in all but name. From all accounts, he was a good employer; unfortunately, his son inherited all the money and power but none of the humility, good sense or the people management abilities of his father.

Steve is the sort of man who has to have everybody obey his orders unconditionally and immediately. (He sneaks around and makes surprise visits to check this for himself.) He's unable to delegate, constantly interfering in everybody's work, petty-minded to a degree, contradictory and arrogant. His white-collar employees have the ability to work independently and well, and have done so under his father, but Steve has made demoralised them and made them insecure to the point that they have almost given up doing anything of their own accord. And he accomplishes all this havoc in the softest voice imaginable.

I might sound like I'm exaggerating, but I'm not. In the two weeks that I've been going there, several incidents took place which have made me very thankful that Steve isnt MY boss! Once, he switched off the office refrigerator on a Friday night, after the others had gone home. He didnt want the staff to use it for anything other than the day's snacks or food - that is, he didnt want them leaving food in the fridge over the weekend, or using it to store groceries for home, however temporarily. Of course, by Monday, whatever food there was in the fridge was unfit for consumption, the carpet in the kitchen area was soaked, and the fridge sported a new laminated notice reading "Food is NOT to be stored in the fridge beyond the day's requirement".

Another time, Pete and I found the staff frenziedly searching for the minutes of a meeting that had taken place with Steve a few months ago. According to UK government health rules for employees, they are obliged to take a break during the day, although employers are not obliged to pay the employees for that break. But at the staff meeting, Steve had apparently said they would still be paid for the break hour.

So, when he made a sudden announcement that they would be docked the hour's wages, the office manager protested that he was going back on his word. True to form, though, Steve denied having given his word at all.This was why they were searching so diligently - and sure enough, the minutes showed that Steve was a bare-faced liar. Not that it did the staff any good to be proved right... because the next day, they received an official circular saying that it was now a company policy decision to dock an hour's wages every day, with the added extra that any visits to the doctor or clinic during office hours, if lasting longer than an hour, would be deemed as "time off without pay" .

Talk about a petty boss.

There are a few dozen other rules that he imposes, ostensibly for the employees's own good, and in keeping with health and safety regulations. However, all the staff are made blatantly aware that Steve considers himself above all rules - whether the company's own, or the government's. He regularly parks his big Land Rover right by the double-yellow lines near the entrance to the office - exactly where parking is prohibited because vehicles would obstruct the 18-wheeler container lorries that regularly make their way in and out of the company's warehouses.

Could there be a worse example of a boss? I dont think so, but I'm willing to hear anybody out! Personally I'd rather have a good boss and bad pay, than the other way around. If nothing else, having a good boss increases your chances of better pay! A bad boss is like a vampire - good for sucking all the juice out of your happiness and work satisfaction, but not for much else.

I've had my share of bad bosses, but I've also been lucky enough to work with one or two who were truly inspiring. I will mention the man who was my boss in my very first job at the Indian Express - Mr C P Seshadri, affectionately and universally known as "Master". He was the backbone of the newspaper for over half a century, and I was privileged to have learnt the art of editing under his guidance.

However, I'm more than glad nowadays to be more or less my own boss. I've never worked for a better one and I suspect there isnt one better to be found!

1 comment:

None said...

good one shyam! bad one steve!