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About LIFE

Good Boss. An oxymoron?


Let’s be honest. Does such a species really exist in the world? If so, how many times we have come across such people in our professional lives?

boss

Well, you will come to know by the time you finish reading this post as I look at my #professional life in retrospect and the #managers I have worked with.

The “Benevolent” Boss

My first job was with a well-known #agribusiness #conglomerate and I joined the company as one of the 30+ #management trainees. During the #training period, I got hand-picked by the Vice #President (Marketing) to join the Marketing team at the #Corporate Office. There I met my first ever #boss who never behaved like a typical #manager at any time. On my first day I reported to him, I still vividly remember the warm and pleasing welcome he extended to me – a 20+ year old, fresh #graduate. In terms of #managerial #cadre, I was at the bottom of the #hierarchy and he was a General Manager of a division. That was my first learning from him to #respect people irrespective of their cadre, levels, etc. He taught me ‘how to work’ which he used to say would help me wherever I go. One day, he asked me to finish a task but I did not do it. When he came to know about it, he politely with a bit of humor said, ‘if you are looking for an assistant to do this job for you, it’s going to be me’. But his words made me realize my duties and on that day I learnt not to assume anything but to get clarification if I am confused. Since then I never used to leave left any #job unfinished, if it falls under my #remit.

The “Magnanimous” Super Boss

The Vice President (Marketing) I mentioned earlier was the boss of division. On a rare encounter with him, he seemed to have got impressed by me about a question I asked that I can’t recollect now. It looked as if he did not expect such kind of intriguing questions apparently from a Management Trainee. But he remembered that incident, inquired about me internally and hand-picked me to work directly under him at the Corporate #Office. It’s something that could never happen to any trainee just like that given the extremely #hierarchical culture of the #organization. There I learnt from him ‘how to think’ differently and also about being highly #detail-oriented. He was known to spot errors that no one can even think of. I was having a great time enjoying this unusual treatment as I used to be called ‘the blue-eyed boy’ of the #VP. Perhaps, I would be the only one saying openly ‘No’ to some of his queries since saying no to the big boss was unacceptable at all. However, one day, I got a good offer from an #MNC for a managerial role and went to say good-bye to him. Demolishing all my preconceived fears and assumption that he would be upset since he handpicked me and was literally grooming me, he did not show even slightest disappointment but happily said, ‘if this job seems good for you, I am really happy’. Further he wished me good luck and advised me to be in regular touch, which I do till date.

The ‘Not-at-all bossy’ Boss

In my new job, it was a completely different environment and somewhat scary too. I am a boy from a small #rural town, studied in #Tamil medium and only have limited proficiency in English but absolutely zero in #Hindi, the actual official language of the organization although the company is a well-known #American corporation. Everything, from the way people talk, conduct meetings, working style and dealing with #subordinates was quite new for me and to some extent intimidating too. My #interview was nowhere close to what I expected. I was preparing myself to face a #panel of hard-nosed #executives shooting questions from technical areas and #B-school syllabus, trying to scare the heck out of the candidates. But I learnt very early how different my #boss was and going to be. My interview for the job happened over a coffee table with only him and me talking and we were joined by a HR colleague half way through our discussion. Most of the questions were related to my #personality, #aptitude and #attitude. One of the questions was ‘if asked about you, what would your colleagues say about you?’ and I never expected such question that made me introspect myself more deeply.

All along my two years of working with him, I learnt about mutual #respect, #trust, being #patient and level-headed even during the peak of a crisis, etc. Even learnt subtle but wonderful things from him. He used to call us over phone and every time he used to ask ‘is it a good time to talk?’ while I’ve seen several managers just exploding over phone without even caring to ask whether his subordinate is in a meeting or in the middle of something else. Keeping one’s mobile always in silent mode is another good behavior I learnt as ringtones in the offices usually disturb others. When he gives us a task, he always used to ask‘how long do you think it can take?’ and we used to say ‘X’ number of days. He would then say ‘take X+1 day and do it perfectly and let me know if you have any difficulty’. That not only proves his great maturity and managerial ability but he would make us think and decide whether a task may actually take that many days. For me, it is a lesson on being responsible that I would never forget. On many occasions, our team was questioned and often criticized about its performance and contributions to the business.  During those difficult times, he used to reinforce the faith and defend us strongly against any unfair criticisms. He always used to say ‘don’t expect people to give you credits or compliments; grow up to the position to give others compliments’. For me there could be no better way to learn how to stay motivated and hold one’s self-esteem irrespective of others opinions or criticisms.

My first ever Female Boss

When I was pursuing my Masters in Agribusiness in Australia, I was struggling to find part-time jobs in order to meet my living costs such as house rent and food. Despite trying for months, I failed to get any job including pizza delivery or at the gas stations that most of the international students used to do. During that time of great difficulty, I got a surprising call from a #businesswoman who offered me a job to assist her on some marketing-related tasks aimed at her potential clients in the #defense #industry, which I had no clue about since I studied #agriculture. But she believed in me and my passion and experience in #marketing function. Thus I learnt about my ‘#transferable #skills’. Another interesting question she asked me when we met first was ‘do you mind working with a woman as your manager?’ She further explained the reason for asking the question because of her thinking about how women are treated in my country in general. I was given ample scope and opportunity to try different things and she used to appreciate and constantly offer suggestions to improve the output. It was not only a great #support financially at a critical time, I really enjoyed learning #application of #knowledge and skills working on a completely unrelated industry.

Apart from the above, there were several colleagues at different times provided constant doses of #motivation, #guidance and #moral support all along my career. And now I take this opportunity to thank them all profusely from the bottom of my heart.

So, for me the species ‘good boss’ does not exist. I worked with only great managers who always remain as my lifetime ‘#mentors’.

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