What the Boss Thought
The boss thought everyone hated him.
I was working in a mixed team of contractors and permies. There, I was a contractor.
I missed the first day of the intake course for contractors and I never really caught up.
Most of the permies were fairly recent graduates and fairly keen. They also had the benefit of knowledge of the tools used at the clients, which weren‘t that common.
They were uncommon enough to have to give the contractors a course on it in the first week.
It was a good atmosphere there. I got on pretty well with the permies.
I think that they thought that I went too close to the bone in terms of my irreverence for most things to do with the job, the bosses and the profession.
They were still very keen and earnest.
I also have a confession to make here to our readers. In fact it is the first time that I have ever revealed this.
I was not a great ‘knock yourself out‘ worker. In fact I wasn‘t a great worker at all. I did whatever I had to in order to survive and no more.
I‘m not boasting about this. I‘m just reporting it.
I liked to enjoy myself during the day as much as possible, as well as in the evenings and at weekends.
Enjoying myself didn‘t involve programming!
In fact, any of those out there reading this, who used to work with me, might say that I could have put my aversion to doing too much a bit more strongly.
As for any of my old bosses reading this….
No Brown Nosers
Anyway, I was sitting in the room working away with the rest of the guys (I did sometimes), when in walked the boss.
Now my wife, who is American, says that one of the main differences she has noticed between working in America and working in the UK is that there are less what she calls ‘˜brown nosers‘ about.
In fact it actually goes the other way in Britain.
No one wants to be seen cosying up to the boss, never mind ‘brown nosing‘ him (did I get that right?).
The boss was there to take one of the tables away from the room that we worked in and to take it down to the basement.
He said, ‘Will anybody give me a hand to take this table down to the basement?’
There was a deathly silence as everyone looked firmly at their desks.
He asked again. ‘Come on, can someone give me a hand to take this desk downstairs’ in a more pleading tone.
The ante had been upped. No one dared to tell the boss that they would help him though.
You could cut the tension with a knife now. The silence had become unbearable.
I swear that I could see a bead of sweat forming on one of the young graduate‘s foreheads.
He asked again, ‘Guys, will anybody help me to take this table down to the basement?’
By that time the tension was unbearable. It was an impasse. It was a truly awkward situation.
The guy was standing with both hands on the table. He wouldn‘t have been able to shift it by himself.
Still no one said a word. How were we going to get out of this one. The only way out seemed to be for the boss to slink out of the room.
He didn‘t though. He just stood there with a pained look on his face.
It was horrible. I looked around. I‘m sure I could see veins sticking out on the foreheads of some of the people working there. The youthful project leader looked as if he had been struck rigid staring at his desk.
Surely he was the one. Surely he should have volunteered.
But he didn‘t.
Now, I‘m not normally the one to volunteer to help the boss shift a desk down to the basement, but there was a huge impasse here. I couldn‘t see any way out.
So I spoke up. ‘I‘ll do it’ I said.
And that was it. I helped the boss to take the desk down to the basement.
I suppose I was the one who was least likely to be called a ‘brown noser‘ there, so in retrospect I was the obvious one who could do it without losing face.
On the way down to the basement, the boss said to me ‘They all hate me’.
I told him that it wasn‘t true, that it was just that no one wanted to be the one being seen volunteering to help the boss. He didn‘t seem convinced.
I reassured him that they didn‘t all hate him.
I wasn‘t telling a lie, because not all of them did. Just some of them did, including the project leader.
I told him that the best thing to do in the future was just to come into the room, pick one person out and ask that person if they would help.
They were completely unlikely to say no.
I‘ve told several Americans about this. They have been astonished.
They said that, over there, people would have been knocking each other out of the way for an opportunity to help the boss.
That‘s just one of the differences between working here and working across the herring pond.
In the pub that evening quite a few of the people who worked there came over to me and said how glad they were that I had volunteered and that it had been awful.
It was one of the moments that probably took less than half a minute in all, but seemed to take a lot, lot longer.
One of them said that it was one of the most awful moments of his life, which was a bit of an exaggeration.
When I became a boss( I actually worked harder then), I made sure that I never asked for a volunteer to help me when there were too many of their peers around.
Now if I was in America, that would be a different story, and would do it regularly and often, just to see who the biggest ‘brown nosers‘ were, and who could get off the mark the quickest.
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