On August in 1834, a nineteen-year-old Harvard student by the name of Richard Henry Dana Jr dress his self in an ill-fitting sailor suit and then he set off for the Boston Harbor to join the crew of the cargo ship pilgrim. Dana had just recovered from an attack of measles that had badly damaged his eyesight. Only time would really tell whether he would ever recover sufficiently to resume his studies at Harvard.
So my friends, he had come up with a major life plan: he would embark on the adventure of his lifetime, a two-year, 26,000-mile Voyage around Cape Horn, from the east coast to the West Coast and back again. If he survives and his vision does improve, he promises his self he would return to Harvard. It seemed an admirable plan. However, alas, it ran afoul of an unanticipated, soul-crushing obstacle: a bosshole. You said a what? This term origins, is not very clear, but it was Robert Sutton, a Stanford University professor of management science and engineering, best known for his seminal book The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilization Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t-who transformed bosshole from a piece of vulgar slang to a mot juste, suitable for use at the widely known Harvard Business School.
Its meaning is what you might suppose, and surviving one, or more than one, of these characters had been a rite of passage in the American workplace since the nation begin, and Richard and Henry Dana Junior, were youngsters. Some bossholes are pathetic specimens whom meltdowns and abusive insults are a reflection of their own off the wall insecurities. They sense that they are not quite up to the jobs that they unfortunately hold, and they are usually always right. However, what’s far more interesting is those who are extraordinary achievers, acclaimed, worshipped and emulated.
These people run the gamut from coaches to orchestra conductors, however my friend’s the Superstar bossholes of our time are 100% definitely CEOs. That’s not to stigmatize all corporate honchos. But Sutton has noted, a large body of social-psychological research that definitely shows the more power you give people, the more oblivious they become to the people that they are supposed to be leading. Yes it is very sad, but not surprising to find that some CEOs actually boast that their jerkiness is in an expression of their passion for excellence, and they actually believe this.
For an example, shortly after Indra Nooyi was ensconced as CEO of Pepsico in 2006, she sound advice from Mr. Steve Jobs, Apple’s famed genius-bosshole( who by the way I have a great deal of respect and admirer him in a very outstanding way), if you don’t like something people are doing, throw a temper tantrum, Jobs counseled her. Throw things around, because people have got to know that you feel strongly about your recommendations or intentions. Nooyi had taken this advice, she told CNBC in 2016: I am beginning to use certain words a little bit more freely, and I am screaming a whole bunch more, pounding the table and saying, this is a piece of-something, go redo it!… It is effective.
Not only is this kind of behavior okay, says some CEOs, but it’s just plain good business. And who can argue with them? After all, they are the big bosses. In truth, however, the New York Times recently reported that research thus far has found absolutely no evidence that tough bosses receive any better results at all. At the same time, according to the American Psychological Association, approximately one-third of Americans say that problems with their superiors cause them a sufficient amount of unwanted stress no. No wonder my friends, that many Americans from laborers to CEOs are coming to the conclusion that a business culture that rejects horrible bosses, and the value that they represent, will Yield greater happiness and more meaningful lives for all concerned.
This notion that bossholes are necessary has probably been around as long as people have been telling other individuals what to do however, most of the time, it’s proven little more than a justification for tyranny and greed. Consider this for example, the boss who ruined Richard Henry Dana Jr.s life for two miserable years: Frances A. Thompson, who was captain of the pilgrim. Thompson took for granted that he was free to treat his crew as Savagely and any way that he like, short of killing them. Typical was the New England judge who in 1823, refused to hold a sea captain responsible for a sailor’s injuries because, he wrote, seafaring required subordination strict obedience, and deference to command.
And that is why my friends, on a typical day aboard the pilgrim, Dana could do nothing but watch in horror as captain Thompson viciously flogged one of his Shipmates (you’re going to love this, for the crime of asking a question at an inopportune time) and danced about the deck, calling out as he swung the rope, if you want to know why I flog you, I’ll tell you, it’s because I like to do it!
Of course, nowadays, flogging with a rope’s end is a very rare spectacle in the American workplace. However, bad bosses of our era excel at other means of flogging subordinates: intimidation and bullying. The popularity of this motivational technique has waxed and waned over the past couple decades, but one of the most eloquent manifestos in its favor appeared in the Harvard Business review in 2006.
The essay, that was titled the Great intimidations was composed by Roderick M. Kramer, William R. Kimball who is a professor of organizational behavior at Stanford Graduate School of Business. Kramer commences that with the observation that many of the world’s most successful CEOs are savage bossholes-or, as he respected calls them, great Intimidators. Such leaders are definitely not averse to causing a ruckus, he writes, nor are they above using a few public whippings and ceremonial hangings in order to get attention. But, make no mistake, Kramer warns, the great intimidators are not your everyday typical bullies.
Understand, if you are just a bully it’s all about humiliating others in the effort to make yourself feel good inside. Something entirely different is going on with the great intimidators. The motivating factor is not ego or gratuitous humiliation; it’s vision. To prove this point, Kramer offers as an example two exceptionally visionary Intimidators: former Motorola CEO Ed Zander, whose business model was whack yourself before somebody whacks you, and Miramax’s despised Harvey Weinstein, who used his high pressure tactics to help those around him reach the apex of their professional talents.
Weinstein’s hostile pyrotechnics were not bullying, that is, Kramer assured us however, the calculated sounds and fury of a skillful Intimidator. Nevertheless, even before more than 90 woman came out of the closet to accuse Weinstein of harassment and sexual assault, he was one of the most notorious bullies in an industry famous for them. One former Weinstein employee told the Guardian that scarcely a day went by without Weinstein publicly abusing someone.
A writer a colleague, and a director, a driver were all publicly abuse. It was a horrible feeling to be always screamed at or fired, this guy threatened this multiple times a day. But it was far worse to see him abuse someone else. And fighting back just didn’t work with him, but you could intervene on someone’s else behalf and draw his fire. It was like tending to a giant, belligerent, disgusting baby.
Be that as it may, so thorough is Kramer’s admiration for great Intimidators that he offers a series of tips to help ordinary bossholes, possess a little interior Intimidator of their own. The aspiring Intimidator’s toolkit must include an aggressive physical demeanor, as well as an arsenal of taunts and slurs to provoke victims. Of course, Intimidators also use some anger and rage in order to get their way. So bossholes should feel free to go ballistic from time to time. However, cautions Kramer, keeps them guessing by punctuating the tantrums With periods of sullenness.
Above all, Crush any remnants of compassion that smolder within you, because it is precisely the Intimidators absence of empathy that opens up the golden branches of the decision tree, exposing options that other leaders might reject, True Intimidators, trample on other people’s feelings and set impossible standards. But Kramer argues that his personal research shows that great Intimidators are often magnets for the very best and brightest, because they inspire the best performance. Well OK., But here’s a pickle: To paraphrase Jesus Christ, what shall it profit a man if he inspires great performance but loses his soul?
In August 2019, five years after Artie T. retook control of Market Basket, Business Roundtable an Association of CEOs of major corporations, issues a new version of its statement on the purpose of a corporation, a declaration of its value. The press release from Business Roundtable noted that, each version of the document issue since 1997 has endorsed principles of shareholders primacy that corporations exist principally to serve the shareholders. However, the new statement signed by 181 CEOs, rejected that principle. Each of our shareholders is essential, it read. We commit to deliver only value to all of them, for the future success of our companies, of our communities and our country.
Of course my friends, there will always be oppressive managers. But ladies and gentlemen, America business culture needn’t provide such fertile soil for them to actually grow. To be perfectly fair, some of these bossholes such as Mr Jobs have indeed contributed much to our civilization however, there is no reason to believe they needed to be ogres in order to do any of it.
One minor contribution bossholes may make, in some cases it may even be somewhat intentional, is in strengthening the spines of the people who have to put up with them, many of whom vow to protect the decent people from the Predators. Richard Henry Dana Jr. was one of those Crusaders. After two years under the thumb, and the lash, of that monster Captain Thompson, Dana returned to Harvard with his eyes in very good working order. In 1840, he published a classic memoir of his experiences at sea, Two Years Before the Mast. Not very long after having earned his self a law degree, he wrote the Siemens Friend, a manual for Sailors that apprised them of their rights and told them how to seek redress from any unjust treatment.
As an attorney, Dana took great pleasure in representing aggrieved sailors in court however, he was better known for defending numerous slaves that were fugitives whom former masters hoped to reclaim them by any legal or illegal means. As for that Captain Thompson, he died in 1837 and lies buried in Brunswick Maine, under a tombstone that is so covered with moss and weeds that you can barely even read his name. But no matter, Dana has seen to it that he shall live forever, in the Bosshole Hall of Fame.
May Prosperity always be with you.
Humbly your Paul Earl.