If you ever experienced working as an adult, you probably had a share of stories about bosses. There are good ones who have their own way of helping you perform your job as best as you could. Others call them the ‘Leader’ types; to the extent that managers and leaders are greatly polarised. On the other hand, there are terrible ones who are labelled as ‘bossy’, ‘controlling’ and at worst, ‘do-not-know-anything-so-they-delegate-everything’. In the same manner as ‘Leaders’ are recognised, they are known as ‘Managers’ and/or ‘The Boss’.
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The image of a boss or manager depicted above is the one we tend to associate with Kevin Spacey in the movie ‘Horrible Bosses’. Aside from other aspects such as large desks with titles, suits/uniforms, office space, furniture and other benefits; we generally see the difference among staff and managers inevitably as part of their job descriptions. In a nutshell, the staffs do all the leg work while the managers seat all day in their respective offices without any need to exert themselves. This is what we can say with the overall dynamic, based on what we SEE. While there is certain truth to all these, the problem is we judge from what we see. And it is almost always that what we see is limited by our ‘position’.
A perfect example of this scenario could be found in engineering and other technical fields. As an engineer, I had a chance to work with different people from various fields besides technical ones. When I was younger, I tend to garner more respect for technical people. There is this certain type of conditioning that engineers go through which makes them hold their stature in a higher regard than what is necessary. Today, I do otherwise.
Most technical people suffer from “Engineering is hard, everything else is easy” syndrome. Now wait, I did not invent this up. I borrowed the term from Guy Kawasaki; as his term is right on point. It describes exactly what goes through the mind of most engineers. As I learned new things outside my field, I get to appreciate others more than I ever did in the past. Especially now that I am switching roles often, wearing many hats from technical work to managing my business.
I remember a time when I was in a conference early this year. The speaker cracked a joke about how managers do not know anything but to give orders. The whole crowd of engineers laugh their hearts out. You can see how many of them can relate to the story. Not quite of a good sight. Coming from an engineering background, I understand how important technical matters are. But as I move to a different role, I began to see a different picture. Something I did not have when I was starting out. The things that we produce as engineers, almost always end up as parts of a product(s). And a product is ONLY a part of a business. Having a product does not mean you have a business. Yes, engineering is hard but so does everything else. Everything is important.
Now, since we agree that everything is important, how come this does not seem to reflect on your payslip? As the saying goes, “You are paid in proportion to the value you deliver in the market.” So does this make the staff less important than the managers? The short answer is NO. But here are some of the reasons why:
SUPPLY AND DEMAND
This timeless law of economics plays a large role in almost every aspect of our daily lives. In a typical corporate office, there are only few positions available for managers compared to staffs. This dynamic makes the ‘few positions available’ more valuable due to scarcity. Naturally, many among the staffs aspire to rise to such levels. This competition further increases the value of the ‘few positions available’. The demand is low but the supply is high (and will always be high). As a staff, one might think that his or her role also has high demand. While it could be correct, from the company’s standpoint, it is not always the case. And once you decide to leave, there is always another guy waiting by the door.
With this line of thought, one solution would be to make yourself more valuable; by developing new skills, by assuming more responsibilities, by showing that you can be accountable in making tough decisions, etc. If you continuously improve yourself, you will inevitably fill more than enough space to aid you in moving to the next step of your career or to other avenues that would open up in the process. Once you are able to do things better and more efficient than what others can do, you will never come short in finding demands for your capabilities. Since it is a fact of life that we are not born equal, only few people ever reach the top. How all these came to be? Well, let us take a brief look at history which we will go through next…
One characteristic of humans that help them advance and grow is found in their social nature. People flock and form groups to strengthen one another or to help them accomplish certain interests. This phenomenon could be observed ever since man walked into this earth (one of the things we share in common with primates).
As societies advanced, different norms and values developed with it. Looking at forms of government, the most common are monarchical or aristocratic in nature. Tribes have their leaders or chiefs which happen to be the strongest male and thus more valued than others; the one who could protect them from the threats of early human habitation and from other groups as well. As time passes, population grows and tribes developed into states and kingdoms where the aristocracy was established. Hence, the noble blood and royal families began to exist. Finally, there goes democracy, the youngest among forms of government.
Have you ever questioned the value of the monarchs, aristocrats and other political leaders? They might call you an anarchist. All we know is that monarchs are of nobility and in a republic, the leaders are chosen by the people. But in a corporate office, it is not of democracy, it is aristocracy. Everyone is merited by their abilities and skills. People are selected among the best of the bests.
Certain groups differ from one another, i.e. in a similar manner that religious groups differ from political groups. Although groups have glaring differences (at least in the surface), they share much more things that one could imagine. After all, no matter what the group or however it is organised, the fact remains that people are the ones in its core.
This phenomenon others call as office politics. I am not in position to change this underlying dynamic; but what I do is try to understand it and be more realistic. I suggest you also try to see things this way. One must not expect things to change for him or her. With the desire to seek understanding of things around us, we could hope to live with them in a more harmonious way.
I sincerely hope you got something new today. Thanks for dropping by.