Why I say The Boss Is Not Dead 1

“The Boss” is not dead








The Boss Is Dead, Long Live the Boss

Knowledge@Wharton casts a questioning eye at the hype surrounding bossless offices. On the one hand, says Wharton professor Adam Cobb, hierarchy-free environments are “a very democratic way of thinking about work…Everyone takes part in the decisions.” More so, “the people doing the actual work probably have a better sense of how to get it done than their bosses do.”

On the other hand, an office with no boss or manager overseeing, the workflow can be disastrous. Cobb cites an academic paper that examined a small company whose owners let the employees take the reins. “Over time, the workers became more oppressed than when the bosses were there. Everyone became a monitor, constantly checking up on their fellow employees, even setting up a board to track what time people came into work and when they left.”

At a minimum, Cobb says, bosses do provide one valuable attribute: “They are a common enemy. Workers know the opposition. When employees become self-managed, it’s hard to tell if you are all working together, or if everyone is working against you.”

Having been in management for over 35 years, I never thought of myself as the enemy. My job has always been to support those that work for me, making sure they have the tools they need to do their job effectively. My job largely revolves around teaching. Employees become better when they understand the why behind what they do. Once that’s clear, they can offer innovation that increases productivity.

Sure, over the years I have had employees write one or two things about me on the bathroom stalls, but that just told me my specific message was getting across. I believe almost every employee wants to do the right thing. I must help those that do not understand what is expected to  see clearly what they need to do. If I do my job by teaching, coaching and following up with the employee, then I have given them the tools to be successful. The responsibility is theirs and the consequences to them are based on their decisions and their actions.

Several months ago, I wrote a blog post titled Ladder vs. Jungle Gym – Is there room for a leader anymore? As the author above points out, “with no boss or manager overseeing, the workflow can be disastrous”. Who takes responsibility for the direction of the project? Who takes the responsibility when things go wrong? To me, a bossless office sounds like a committee.

A committee is a thing which takes a week to do what one good man can do in an hour. ~Elbert Hubbard

The Boss is dead? I strongly believe otherwise. Management and Labor have a common link and that is the work to be done. Someone must do the work and someone must make sure it is done correctly.

It is always my employee’s who succeed when the work is done correctly. It is always me that accepts responsibility when the work is not correct. My role as a manager makes their role as a worker possible, but more important, because there are workers, I have a job.