Keeping the boss happy has always been considered an important trait in our times in order to rise in the ranks of service. In developing countries like Pakistan where the monitoring mechanisms are weak and there are massive cover-ups, a very dangerous breed of people has emerged over a period of time who utter only those words that sound like music to the ears of the boss.
Such individuals invariably sink organizations while they manage to jump the ship at the appropriate time. In the USA where the bottom-line is closely watched dissent is always considered important. Courses and workshops are designed around ‘Effective Confrontation”. Employees are taught to take on the boss for course correction to avoid costly mistakes by organizations and institutions.
Dissenting voices are encouraged, reviewed and recorded to come up with backup plans in case of failure. Pervez Musharraf is very bitter that because only he is being tried under Article-6 of the constitution while his law minister who prepared the draft of his second emergency and the Prime Minister (PM) under whose advice he implemented the illegal act, both went scot-free.
The ‘Maharaja’ had a favourite horse which no one was allowed to ride, violation carried capital punishment
While his PM is seen in a Rolls Royce in London the poor commando was found roaming in a wheelchair in Hyde Park, both in the same city. What an outstanding performance by ‘Boss Pleaser’ Mian Shaukat Aziz and repentance for those who surround themselves with such people.
While the second capital city of Pakistan sits on deadly fault lines, it is also infested with a lethal breed of ‘Boss Pleasers’ who manage to find their way in every government, several comparative lists have been published of such individuals yet they remain an-ruffled. When the first usurper was removed from the Presidency by his Commander-in-Chief General Yahya Khan he called a meeting of the cabinet.
It proved to be the proverbial ‘king is dead, long live the king approach’. Qudratullah Shahab a very well respected bureaucrat and intellectual who was Ayub Khan’s Principal Secretary (PS) told the new Viceroy that you will now be showered by praises like your predecessor was, but please don’t take them too seriously. He asked to be excused as he could no longer be a part or witness to this ‘Boss Praising’ exercise that had been the norm in the Presidency for over a decade.
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As a child, I was nurtured with two opposite viewpoints regarding dealing with the boss. My grandfather (paternal) believed that one should be his own boss, in other words, no employment only entrepreneurship and business should be pursued while my grandfather (maternal) said that boss has to be handled as he has authority and power to help or harm you.
Handling certainly did not mean pleasing all the time. As a young professional when I enrolled in the ‘Effective Confrontation workshop both the above viewpoints were very helpful. While I was trained in ‘Boss Handling’ techniques, I always remained prepared to go way by becoming my own ‘Boss’. In the land of the pure, I offered this workshop but there was very little interest which indicated that there was no inclination in ‘Boss Handling’ as ‘Boss Pleasing’ was the prevalent norm for short cut rise and accelerated promotions.
Trouble starts when the bottom line is not watched, by pleasing the boss one can secure his/her position but the job does not get done. In Quality Management ‘Deming Cycle’ or PDCA Cycle (Plan Do Check, Act) is used. After a plan is formulated, it is implemented then checked and then improvements are enacted. The entire exercise is carried out to please the customer and act on his feedback.
When the first usurper was removed from the Presidency by his Commander-in-Chief General Yahya Khan he called a meeting of the cabinet
While in a commercial enterprise users/buyers are the customer in democratic state voters have this role. The elected legislature has to be effective and supreme to protect the interests of the public whom they represent. The viceroys in India were appointed by the ‘British Parliament’ and they remained accountable to them. Unfortunately, the Viceroys of Pakistan reported to no one, they could abrogate or amend the constitution at will with the support of the colonial judiciary and bureaucracy.
So the boss on the top had to be pleased which then trickled all the way down, a culture of ‘Boss Pleasing’ was developed in which the net customer was totally ignored. There was no need to please or even count the masses. A breed of ‘People Teasers’ emerged. ‘Boss Pleasers’ toil to please the boss not to serve the public or produce results. The democratic government of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (ZAB) which called itself the ‘Awami Hakumat’ tried to focus on the welfare of the masses.
The 1973 constitution is a hallmark of this era. Since 1977 it has been downhill mainly because of Viceroy Zia’s era that refuses to end. Without an effective legislature, the ‘Boss Pleasers’ will continue to dominate with disastrous consequences for the nation. There is no one in the corridors of power to fight for the rights of the voter/customer.
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There is an interesting story on ‘Boss handling’ of the ‘Ranjit Singh’ era. The ‘Maharaja’ had a favorite horse that no one was allowed to ride, violation carried capital punishment. One day the Prince dared to ride the forbidden horse. He was arrested and brought to the court to be sentenced and punished.
Ranjit Singh was fuming in anger at the defiance of the heir to the throne. Before banishing the next Maharaja he asked his ‘Wazir’ for an opinion. It was a tough call which was handled very smartly. He agreed with the ‘Maharaja’ but in his closing statement he said, “How dare he ride in defiance of orders as if it was his father’s horse”. There was complete silence in the court. ‘
The message was delivered, a life was saved and the situation diffused. It was ‘Boss Handling’ at its best. ‘Boss Pleasers’ have outlived their innings, they have proven to be ‘Public Teasers’. If the masses have to be served a culture of effective confrontation and differing viewpoints has to be encouraged, to produce results.
Instead of sensing the mood of the boss the focus has to be shifted on the bottom line. Results speak for themself for which boss handling not pleasing should be encouraged and appreciated, those who have the courage to differ usually have the ability to deliver which progressive nations do not overlook.
Dr. Farid A. Malik is Ex-Chairman of Pakistan Science Foundation. The article was first published in The Nation and has been republished with the author’s permission. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.