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Bosses or Crosses. ?

If only you can imbibe and imbue all the best you see in all your bosses, you will rise to becoming the best boss, yourself.

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‘Hey Jug, Jug ..”  called out my friend, the Factory Manager Shyam, on returning home. Wagging its tail, all excited Jug his pet dog scampered up to him . Shyam blasted the  choicest of abuses, and Jug grinned  gleefully, for he never understood a word. This was a daily routine.. Well, Jug was named after Jagdish - his big boss in the office, a rather stern fellow of the old school, where bosses cloaked in tiger skin took pride in  howling at  subordinates. Shyam founded a new coping method, by naming his pet dog after the boss and giving it all back, every evening. 

Like ones parents, we don’t get to choose our bosses. one learns to deal with them.  They come in varied shapes and personalities, and no matter how many self-help books you read on how to manage a boss, having a good boss is indeed a true blessing, that enriches your life and career just as a bad one makes you feel crucified to a cross.  And in between, you will have many also-rans to contend with.

Much has been written on  leadership types of bosses.  JobMonster lists 21 types, the titles are self-explanatory…  

1. The Martyr Boss

2. The Screamer Boss

3. The Fearmonger Boss

4. The Manipulator Boss

5. The Bumbler Boss

6. The Clueless Boss

7. The Old-Schooler

8. The God Boss

9. The Teflon Boss

10. The What Boss?

11. The Paranoid Boss

12. The World-on-his-shoulders Boss

13. The Buzzword Boss

14. The Buddy Boss

15. The Two-minute Boss

16. The Patronizing Boss

17. The Idiot Boss

18. Lone Wolf Boss

19. The Perfectionist

20. The Eccentric

21. The Great Boss


You would have experienced some of these, or hybrids and faced your own challenges. There are no easy fixes, but here are some good practical insights that may help. 

 “Today’s youngsters quit their jobs, mostly due to a bad bosses than the job itself’ says Shaily Gupta, HR Advisor who was CHRO with PWC and Deloitte, Singapore. In youthful startups  ‘you often see a 25 year old boss managing a 23 year old, with little maturity differential’ this is a new conundrum the youth face. Shaily  is a veteran with 30 years’ experience and recounts her early times, with a tough and most demanding boss. She fondly remembers the humane side  where he once  picked up a bottle of cough syrup for her , as he had seen her coughing in the meeting. Empathy and humane touch points of a boss are the most endearing – at all times and all ages. 

Bosses are not made in heaven,  they too  trudged along their own career paths with their own experiences. Shubha Narayanan, a leading OD Consultant in Singapore who works with many global Cos says “Bosses range from  ‘highly secure’ to the ‘most insecure… That sense of ‘security’, manifests in the quality of their relationships with their subordinates”. !.. Every boss is a subordinate too, in most settings. Their personalities and leadership styles are shaped the styles of the bosses they worked for.  In some companies there is an ‘infectious culture’ that has a rub on effect on all its managers. Indeed, figuratively bosses ‘bring the entire village along”..i.e their whole life experiences to office. 

Looking at multicultural settings, relating with a boss from a different culture, can add new twists. Attitudes and motivations can differ with culture. Shubha shares about western bosses “who do take work with a bit more humour and light-heartedness, than the seriousness of an Asian boss”. They live and let live, and manage better work life balance. An Indian, Japanese, Singaporean or Chinese, would deal differently - with a much stronger cultural imprint of following convention, and find it harder to break loose from precedence and believe in doing things the ‘right way.  

Asian bosses place a greater ‘loyalty premium’ on relationships with the team, than westerners – who  take disagreements and debates, not necessarily as symbols of dissent. ‘Speed of thought, overtakes the diversity of thought” and impacts the quality of discussions in some Asian settings says Shubha.  

Style vs Substance : In dealing with bosses, there’s a common refrain that ‘the bite is not as bad as the bark’.  Being discerning, developing the habit of sifting and sieving through styles of communication, to the substance is an art. In hindsight, I have learnt some of the best lessons from the most difficult and tough bosses.  

Paying Forward : We are familiar with ragging and bullying in colleges, and often when you start with a relatively younger boss, there is this tendency to mete out, the treatment he received from his  boss. It’s a form of perpetrating the pain. It also works positively, there are bosses who pay forward in mentoring others as they themselves were helped. It’s part of the deal, and need to take in the stride.  

Managing Adversity & Glory :  Great lessons are learnt, when closely perceiving the artful bosses, handling times of crises and glory at work. It has tutored me at first-hand how to walk through both these extreme situations in career with equal confidence and ease. It’s like learning fire walking, with a confident master

Being Yourself : Mr R Gopalakrishnan, an exemplary leader and mentor, to many including me, talks in his book ‘What the CEO Really Wants From You’  about  ‘Authenticity’ as a core strength, albeit hard to define. Trying to mimic, what the boss expects without being real can make you a good charlatan and may give you a brief moment of glory, but sooner than later - doom awaits.   Being real and true to yourself, in myriad situations  makes you ‘natural’ and enduringly ‘consistent’. 

Trusting Relationship : The ultimate truth, is about a strong and trusting  relationship you assiduously build with your boss. Learning to disagree without being disagreeable helps. It does take a lot of effort, a good deal of patience, tact and balancing,  but once trust is built it lasts long. 

If only you can imbibe and imbue all the best you see in all your bosses, you will rise to becoming the best boss, yourself.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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boss corporate magazine issue 22 Oct 2020

K V Rao

The author is Resident Director - ASEAN, Tata Sons

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