Chain of command


A little lecture today about bosses. After a Twitter conversation with a colleague, I realised that being good at your job comes down to this: you are here to make your boss look good. Whatever else your duties entail, if attracting starshine and unicorn – er, tears – to your line manager’s head isn’t part of your daily thing then you are in the wrong place.

All very well, huh, but for a lot of people the only thing they’d like to bring down on their manager’s head is a meteor strike. The job is fine, the pay is fine, the conditions are great, but the boss not so much. I empathise, believe me, I have worked for some seriously doubtful characters in my time.

As there exceptions to this rule? Of course there are. No point having rules if you can’t break ’em good and hard as needed. You shouldn’t worry about the rules if making your boss look good would involve:

1) breaking the law;
2) giving them total credit for your own work;
3) rewriting the laws of time and space *

But yes, in the main, the whole point of you is to make your direct superior look like a well rounded individual with their finger on the strategic pulse and a talent for delegating to proactive and highly skilled subordinates. It works all round. If your boss actually is that person, then all you have to do is not mess up. If they’re not … then subject to the get out clauses above, you do your very best and most convincing proactive-and-highly-skilled-subordinate impression. So what if you’re covering up their mistakes and misjudgements? You benefit too.

The important thing, if you’re still thinking this is all very unfair, is that the organisation benefits the most. Fewer messes, more satisfied customers, more information getting to the right places and people getting the service they need.

*There are bosses who believe this is possible. Run away. As fast as you can.


About jargonaut

Unashamed geek lost in policy land. Frequently required to believe three impossible things before breakfast, and implement them by tea time.
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2 Responses to Chain of command

  1. martinhowitt says:

    Does the boss really benefit from this?
    Say I’m a mediocre or poor boss (obviously this is a fantasy, right?). My subordinates make me look amazing all the time. Over time I come to believe that I’m actually quite good at being a boss and bite off more than I can chew and everything falls apart.

    It’s more sustainable if my team are more honest with me and with my line management about my failings. If I’m a decent human, I would want to improve: that means I need honest and caring feedback, 360-degree style.

    If I’m not a decent human, I need to be put into some kind of program to turn myself into one. No one needs an asshole in a position of authority.

    I like this book:

    • jargonaut says:

      I think this is self regulating. If your awesome team keep you looking good, it means they think you’re worth supporting – ergo, you’re not mediocre. Either they like you personally, or they believe in your ideas, or both.

      It’s possible to dislike a boss and yet still support their ideas, if the ideas are worthwhile … and it’s possible to train a poor manager to manage you better. But, this is important, it can’t be done as effectively from a position where you are making their life difficult. Hence my original point, I think.

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