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Vertical Management

PEOPLE are weird! They actually think that it's the CEO or the Managing Director who calls the shots and that earthquakes take place when he walks by. What rubbish! Its nothing of the sort; its usually someone who's quite low in the scale who does all the calling and just because he (or she!) is good at wrapping up the boss in a neat package doesn't mean that you can't do the same!

I am a brutally bullied boss, and though I get unmercifully led by the ring in my nose everywhere, I am also very observant and I thought I'd get my little revenge on all my wicked subordinates who crack the whip over me all the time to let them know that I know what they're doing!

Getting the homework done!

People don't just rush in and foam at the mouth when they arrive with that bullying glint in their eye.

No sir! First they do their homework. Usually, my people are at their bullying best when they barge in to wheedle an increase in salary out of my tight-fisted grasp.

They check out market trends, find out what the competition is paying, what jobs are on offer and sneak a peek from their own appraisal. Having done this they begin pumping these nuggets of information into my mailbox and, eventually, like a sucker, I finally read the `interesting' statistics they send me.

Then they move into the next phase of bringing up the topic in casual conversation.

I listen to them, and though I pretend no interest whatsoever, I find that finally I'll have to listen and what's worse I'll find myself agreeing with their contention! I mean, they come in, know I've read all their little interesting titbits, and then make the suggestion that I consider an upward revision of their emoluments, just to keep to the industry norms as it were! What choice have I? They don't even have to hold the Damocles sword of precipitate departure over me, but I am well aware that those shirty guys across the way have been calling my people, so what happens? I get wrapped another few times around an employee finger! So we end the wrap-up on a warm note, (for him, warm for me hot - under the collar!).

There's weight in numbers

One effective thing they do is to get me over the barrel when the company makes a policy statement that's not exactly calculated to enthuse them very much. Now sometimes the champion boss-bullier can get me on his ownsome, but very occasionally, I can bluster my way out from behind that! So back he'll come, having weighed the pros and cons and ensuring that it not his neck on the block when the chips are down! Smart guy, you have to hand him that! He first checks out if I've handled this kind of thing before, and if I have, how I did it.

Was I, for instance, able to crush opposition (knowing me, most unlikely!) underfoot? If I did (wonder of wonders) how did I do it? What should have tripped me up but was not thought of at the time? Having done that he'll next try and see his acceptance with my colleagues. If that bit is good - read: his PR with them is great - he'll then see if the fiat has emanated from the top gun's table or not.

If not, and the wicked memo is all mine, he'll swing into action by lobbying for the opinion that he wants.

Once he's got a couple of big guns in his corner, he'll throw the first punch at me by stating that "consensus" (whatever that means) feels that my statement could be rethought before being implemented (this means, in normal words, don't do it or else!) The moment he feels I'm not budging an inch, he begins to look at his fallback position which he will have already strategised before he came to me. Generally, he'll decide to bring on his cavalry in the shape of some of his bolder colleagues. Sheer weight of numbers may make me have a rethink and I might decide to rescind the errant order.

All the while he'll take notes of what I'm saying so that I begin nervously to say as little as possible. Once I'm on the defensive he poises himself for the kill. I've been dead so often, I feel like a zombie now!

Smart turnarounds

Once in a while he plays this one on me. I could have made a new rule that restricts the time spent by the staff at the coffee machine.

He'll come in full of compliant enthusiasm and tell me that he agrees with me! Hearing that unusual tone should prepare me, but I fall for it every time he does it! Then after virtually thumping me on my back and whooping it up, he'll sound a word of caution by something like "I admire your courage in trying to push this policy through. I wish you'll teach me to be as courageous" This usually has me in a flat spin. No one in business wants to be courageous, because courage is directly proportional to unpopularity! Seeing me in this tizzy, he'll suggest running the idea through some of his colleagues. He'll even be magnanimous and say that we could have a `think-tank' session in my room `in confidence'. I know fully well that he's trying to get me painted into a corner, and thinking about it I always oblige! I call them all in and begin the discussion and I will be battered with the barrage of prose from the caucus.

The only person who'll appear on my side will be Machiavellian master twister who will stoically hold out when I'm in the conciliating mode. Finally he `gives' in and exits after the others telling me as a parting shot that I should have stuck to my guns! The only thing that I should have stuck to is his oesophagus with my fingers!

Flat out flattery

From kindergarten up, we've been told that flattery will get you nowhere. Kindergarten is also where we learnt to take an apple for the teacher every morning! Now how many apple-bearing kiddies do you know that have been punished by the teacher? How many failed kindergarten? Well then! Careful researches by the best b-schools have confirmed something that everybody has always known.

Flattery gets you everywhere! While it might not (note I say might not!) work everywhere, it works in most places! Of course to be effective flattery should not sound like flattery, and if cleverly used has had its effect on me too! For instance, one of my young thugs will say something like, "Boss I really liked the way you were able to swing that customer over to our side, I wonder if I can ever become as good as that!" Now I'll just brush off that very gratifying compliment with a deprecatory shrug, but I'll be so kicked about it that it will buzz through my head the whole day.

Late in the evening, as I'm sharing this little morsel of joy with the family, my mobile buzzes itself into my consciousness. No prizes for guessing who it is yes, it the young Turk `taking' permission for not coming in on the morrow! Do I grant it? Of course I do.

How can I not? Not after having extolled the young fellow's wisdom to the family! There I go again, piqued, repiqued and capotted! Smartly, and very effectively done!

No one knows better than I do that I'm being managed out of my mind, but that's how its been done for eons, and that's how it will be done till the last syllable of recorded time! Come to think of it, how different is it when I must have done it?

ABHIMANYU ACHARYA

abhi.hyd@cnkonline.com

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