Keeping in touch with reality, as the Boss

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

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So you finally made it to the top of the food chain, and became the Boss, with subordinates waiting to carry out your every command to the hilt.


The good thing is that you now get that parking space you had always coveted, and have the platform to wield your power for the greater good.

The tricky thing is that as the Boss, everyone hops around you on one toe, knowing that their livelihood is tied to which side of the bed you wake up on.

This explains why every blazer you put on is “awesome”, and every suggestion you moot is “perfect!”


Which is not entirely a bad thing, if you want paid mercenaries working for you; whose loyalties are tied to their pockets and the pay cheque you provide every month.

But if you are preoccupied in building a long-lasting brand and having employees with real loyalties, whose interests align with the interests of the Organisation, it is important to be able to constantly and continuously “feel their pulse” in getting them to deal with you and/or the organisation genuinely.  

How do you stay in touch with reality?

 1. Leverage on your past
Remember when you were THE junior, doing all the grunt work and not getting recognised? Wishing you could speak up, but really could not speak up?

Remember how you felt, when you felt undervalued, when you felt you had so much to give, but the platform was not being provided?

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 Guess what? You are now the superior. And the futures of other humans are in your hands.

It would help to see your own actions and reactions through the lens of your subordinates, remembering how you reacted when your bosses acted the same way in similar situations.

Remember also that just like the former you, subordinates also have aspirations and dreams. Give them opportunities for actual growth, and watch their optimal potentials unfold, their loyalties deepen and their concerns more easily aired.

Never assume that anyone is content with being mediocre.

2.      Earn their trust
Employers and employees alike make the mistake of thinking that it is only the employees who bear the burden of emitting trust.

However, in this day and age - where jobs are fluid - and considering the cost of hiring and retaining human resources, it is also important for employers to cultivate a reputation of trust with their employees.

This does not imply a relationship in which hard-edge decisions in the interest of the Organisation cannot be taken. Rather, as the Boss, you should be proactive in genuinely discussing concerns affecting an employee with the affected employee, and explore with them possible available options.

It is equally important for the Boss to be genuine about a particular adopted position. This would necessitate that where an employee’s immediate interest conflicts with immediate availability of resources (or other interests of the Organisation), you as the Boss should be frank enough to disclose these challenges preventing the actualisation of the employee’s interests, and give a reasonable timeline for reconsideration of the issue, by which time the conflict may have been resolved.

This fosters an environment of open channel of communication, and makes it possible for you to continue to stay on top of things.

3. Don’t do favourites

Granted, in most environments, there is a natural predilection of people to (certain) other people.

As the Boss however, it is advisable to refrain from random exhibition of specific fondness for certain subordinates, over other subordinates. This is because it is important for all employees to be assured that they have a level playing ground at the workplace, and your (perceived) objectivity as the Boss is key to making this happen.

Pronouncing a favourite defeats the notion of neutrality, and is counterproductive, as non-favourites automatically interprete this to mean being shut out of decision-making. It is thus difficult for them to air their views or observations regarding the workplace, or their own interests.

This is particularly the case where such observations pertain to the identified favourites, in which case the other employees may - albeit, wrongly – presume that you would not be objective enough appreciate the nature of their concerns, thus, creating an obstruction to the channel of communication and ultimately affecting the Organisation negatively.

4. Rewards over sanctions

An organisation devoid of disciplinary measures is setting itself up for failure. As a matter of law, there are often for some form of internal disciplinary measures, to regulate employees’ conduct within the workplace.

However, a boss’s primary inclination to fostering optimal productivity should not be by resorting to sanctions. The existence of sanctions simply ensures that the employees meet the minimum required of them, but does not guarantee that they actually invest themselves in going beyond the expected, in promoting the Organisation’s interests.

By adopting a rewards-centred method however, employees are better motivated to go that extra-mile - beyond given expectations - in fulfilling their duties. Such rewards could range from simple recognition and a pat on the back for work well done, to moving them to that coveted office with a breathtaking view, or an outright promotion. Whatever the incentive is, the employee is more inclined to be loyal.

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This in turn will ensure that when there are genuine stumbling blocks to achieving desired outcomes, the employee is more likely to be open in discussing these obstacles, and taking the lead in finding solutions to the challenges.  

There is no singular fool-proof method to ensuring that as the Boss, you stay on top all the happenings in the office. But with putting in a little effort to really understanding what your subordinates are (not) saying, it is possible to have a reality check every now and then, and ensure as much as possible that both the interests of the organisation and your subordinates are aligned.



(This post was originally published on LinkedIn Pulse by the same author)

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Picture Credits (in order of appearance)

Sandra Bullock as the Boss in "the Proposal" -

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  1. I have sha taking note. When I become a bigger boss, I sha now know what to do.

  2. Good write - up. Very objective and straight to the point.
    Question on the first point - Leverage your past - What if when I become the boss, I now understand that my way of thinking as a Junior was naive and was not really going to add value and that looking back, not being able to air some of my views was better for me?

    1. That's a great perspective!

      You know this now, but the junior doesn't. Thus, some discontent is born in them, without them realising at that point that the discontent is needless. Which is why it is equally important as the boss to listen to the things NOT being said, feel the pulse on underlying issues, initiate discussions where necessary, lay to rest possible perceived (but wrong/naive notions), and sometimes even wear the "mentor" hat.