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Johannes Moreelse: Democritus (c. 1630)
"If nobody's Boss, it works better."

Anyone who's ever had a Boss has experienced what it's like to work for a complete idiot. This principle counts double for anyone who's ever worked for them self. The hierarchy wobbles top-heavy. If an organization has a cadre of best and brightest, why position them on the head of the pin rather than on the business end, the foundation? A Boss attempts to fulfill a Utopian mission, one rooted in directing others' actions, one doomed to endless short-coming. Nobody told this twenty-five year old budding business executive upon accepting his first supervisory assignment that he would most probably never get the hang of it, that he'd instantly become the most clueless one in the whole damned organization and that he dare not admit it, even to himself. He'd hang in there, pantomiming his own performance while writing performance reviews for people who's contribution he could not have possibly replicated or very deeply appreciated. The more successful subordinates were insubordinate and managed him.

And so it's been through all of my professional life.
I finally became sort of cynical about the whole concept of Bossing, under the semi-sacred tenet that 'You're Not The Boss Of Me.' I grew comfortable with accepting that some deference needed passing, that I could not thrive if I was constantly and publicly second-guessing the designated Guesser In Charge. I became more skilled at semi-secretly subverting the system, whatever it was, in the interest of helping make it work. I could and would border on insubordination, for I never believed in subordination as a workable strategy for managing anything, but I became ever stealthier, sneakier. Everyone seemed to know that the Boss was nobody's Democritus, that he/she had not been blessed with superior insight or knowledge, that she/he was not universally smarter, regardless of their college, yet respect seemed to insist upon a outwardly civil deference. This seemed a small price to pay for continuing domestic tranquility.

When I became my own Boss, things went from weird to worse, for I expected myself to maintain a constant awareness somehow meta to myself. The buck certainly slowed down as it neared my office, but seemed to hesitate to stop there. Little seemed clear. My strategic intentions got tangled up with my tactical pretensions and often left me hanging. I'd sit myself down for serious conversations and lose the thread, much as I did when speaking with my technologically superior subordinates back when I was their Boss. A growing schizophrenia took its toll. I finally found that I had to fire myself with cause because I could not resolve the inherent contradictions within my roles. I realized that I never was anybody's Boss, and never could be. I radically flattened my internal hierarchy. I even stopped wearing ties.

This world might be round, but organizations seem remarkably flat, however tradition argues that they ain't like that. Sure, those at the top take the lion's share of the profits, but for most, salary exerts little meaningful influence. They do not hang up their soul as the price of admission and cannot long suspend their native genius. The Boss understands, eventually, that they have little influence over anything. She/He relies upon each person's good judgement to question their Boss' judgement without become a flaming asshole about any of it. There is stage set and there is performance and the stage set serves as either distraction or irrelevance, and never makes that much difference in the quality of a play. The quality of the play insists upon how the performers present their parts, not how precisely the playwright prescribed them. Each must make their piece their own while attending to every other one on the stage as well as to their audience. Not even the stage manager has much influence over any individual's performance. If nobody's Boss, it works better.

©2020 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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