Being a Boss
College did not teach me how to be a boss, neither my BA or my MBA. The Army and Blue Cross (BC) gave me many examples of bosses ranging from good to very bad. The Peter Principle seemed to work; The Peter Principle is a management theory which suggests that organizations risk filling management roles with people who are incompetent if they promote those who are performing well at their current role, rather than those who have proven abilities at the intended role.
My worst supervisor at BC got promoted because he was a good, hard-working senior auditor. BC had classes for newly promoted supervisors and higher but they were optional so he and most seemed to skip the classes. BC lacked sensitivity if not common sense as they also had people from India reporting to a man from Pakistan which lead to internal problems and eventually at least one lawsuit.
I decided that I would treat people how I wish to be treated. If I wanted them to work overtime then so would I. I admit there was often kidding back and forth (if not rude and sarcastic). In today’s world I would be in deep crap if not fired from BC. One black African man called me bewana and I called him spear chucker. A black lady referred to me “as passing”. After she transferred to corp. when we saw each other during the BC years she continued to call me bro and I called her sis. (listeners may have gotten confused). My reputation for being rude and sarcastic drove one older Filipino gentleman, who was a new auditor to ask if I did not like him as I had yet to insult or tease him as I did the others. I soon fixed that.
My first meeting of my HHA audit team was an example of my approach. I was the only white person and the group consisted of Indians, Pakistanis, Africans, Filipinos, and Afro-Americans. I started the meeting by slapping the table and announcing that I was not prejudice but that I hated everybody. Years later, Assad Hussein, then a HHA CFO, recalled that comment and stated that it calmed the nerves and got everyone to relax.
At B&N, Inc., I did finally learn to call only one fellow employee “dear” and she still does not like it. (Even if it is Nancy.) I like to think that over the years I treated all the people at B&N, Inc., as I would have wished to be treated. They were a close part of my “circles” (see blog of 10/29/13) and still are. The laying off of people in the hard times and the termination of one for cause gave me sleepless nights and headaches.
I think I was not, and am not a good boss in the sense that I don’t practice Human Resources as taught by the books or as explained by Nancy who has a degree in HR/Organizational Behavior and who practiced HR for many years as a Manager or Director with hospitals and HMOs. But then I like to think that is not such a bad thing. I love my circles.