Updated 29 Sep 2010, 12:06pm
Dear Patrons de la salle de Porc, I rediscovered something I wrote NINE YEARS AGO for the ABC’s “Unleashed”. Just thinking apropos the current “we need a wage rise” debate, how prescient this piece was.
“… All bosses are bastards. That’s why.”
It was my father’s response to a teenage inquiry about how come, after 30 years he had not risen a single rung on the ladder from skilled tradesman to something – anything – north of 15 Poverty Avenue.
He routinely saw what a promotion meant; two dollars an hour more than he was getting as a toolmaker and a lot of grief trying to encourage the blokes who yesterday were his mates, to do the unreasonable bidding of the bosses. He rejected the offer to sell out his position at the top of his class and join the bottom of another for which he held deep suspicion, mistrust and not a well-disguised contempt.
At the time I interpreted his answer as being his justification for a complete lack of ambition, but twenty-five years after he passed away, I recently received the ultimate confirmation of this piece of paternal wisdom.
Recently a mate of mine provided – in a fashion – the 21st century proof that all bosses are bastards. The event has a name. It’s called the annual performance review.
He knew it was coming. I helped him prepare for it over a couple of quiet ones at the pub.
We started by building a solid defence against all the likely lines of attack – otherwise known as the dodgy management reasons why his performance was perceived as being insufficiently stellar to support a decent pay rise, regardless of how well the firm was doing.
My mate, had however, in his first six months shaped a couple of pitches that won the firm several million dollars of business, and we decided that it was a poor strategy to go into the review with a negative, defensive frame of mind. He was clearly a winner, and would he not be better off to approach the performance review from a more positive point of view ?
His boss, and his boss’ boss did not regard his start as being all that good. They were surprisingly uninterested in how he would turn a three million dollar win into several six or ten million dollar wins. They said that he needed to focus on his Key Performance Indicators. What are they? he asked. They weren’t specific – apparently the corporate strategy that these so-called KPIs point towards is a secret.
With nothing more specific than a criticism of “not enough runs on the board”, my mate limped off.
I find it amazing that these bastard bosses failed to understand even the basics of human nature. They had a willing, hard worker with a positive attitude and they turned him into a hostile mutineer in half an hour. If they had had problems with his work in the first year, why was there no proper supervision, correction of errant behaviours or coaching in a more productive approach?
Did they make these people bosses because they are great leaders and motivators? Or bosses because they were poor performers on the production floor but great at sucking up to their foreman and lacking the decency to feel some concern about the implicit shift in power relationships with their mates.
To be fair to his bosses, they could have done a lot worse than rob my mate of any corporate loyalty. They could have missed the annual performance review and suggested that it wasn’t sufficiently important to trouble them. They could have done it late, in a hurry, with no preparation so that they could project the required level of contempt.
They could have made a big deal about how great the performance was – and then offered an offensively low reward to show that they were just kidding with their praise.
Fortunately, this guy was offered a position with one of the competitor firms. He had the interview. They loved him. They agreed on a rate. It was 30% higher than his current job. He accepted and they pressed the flesh on the deal. But for some reason, he held off quitting until the paperwork arrived. There was a delay.
Two weeks later the prospective new boss returned his inquiry about how things were going – and told my mate that the new firm wasn’t prepared to pay as much as had been agreed. Then he was offered ten thousand dollars less than what they had shaken hands on.
So what should he do? Accept the offer from people who have shown that they are bastards even before day one on the new job and wait until they confirm it at the “annual performance review”, or should he work for the current pack of bastards at the lower rate ?
Help me out. I want to avoid giving him a second piece of dodgy counsel. Either way, I think he should listen to the advice of my late father. What do you think ?
It’s your shout, by the way.