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The best of people

He was your average boss and she was your average employee.
He thought she didnít have any commitment to the company or her job, that she didnít use her initiative, that she couldnít handle responsibility, that she was just there to collect a pay cheque Ė in fact he thought her to be incompetent.

She thought he was an insensitive, arrogant superior, that he didnít know one thing about dealing with people, that all he wanted was work, work, work, and nothing else, that he got satisfaction out of riding on her back Ė she thought he was an alien since he didnít seem to be human.

At school, she was an average student. In fact she liked school, until one day the teacher asked her a question that she did know the answer to, but with the pressure of the moment, the entire class looking at her, the sarcastic sneer on the face of her teacher, and the teacherís comment: ďDonít you know anything?Ē she froze and just couldnít say anything.


And that moment of embarrassment became etched in her mind. Her entire objective at school was to avoid embarrassment, which meant she always found it. Fear of failure and the fear of embarrassment always loomed large in her mind.

These fears became self-fulfilling prophecies as her schoolwork deteriorated and she said to herself: ĎI canít do English or mathematics or simply I canít (do schoolwork)í.

But the ĎI canítí became universalised and anything that prove to be a challenge got the same response from her: I canít. It became her mantra.

And when she got into the world of work with its challenges, its focus on results and productivity, she found for herself another environment within which to fail. And this she did gloriously, because that was what she expected of herself.

And even when she did something right, the response she got from herself in her own mind was, ĎThatís not like me. Iím not used to doing such a good job.í

Of course her boss helped her too, only pointing out the things she did wrong and never giving her positive recognition for what she did right.

She didnít know that her boss had really employed her because with his low level of competence, particularly in the area of people skills and leadership, he needed somebody like her to kick around so that he could feel good about himself.

He never spent any time whatsoever developing her competence and confidence because that would defeat his purpose, albeit his unconscious purpose. And so it went on for a while, the two of them doing this strange dance which neither of them really enjoyed, but from which they got vicarious satisfaction, until ... they read this article.

And when they saw their reflections they were amazed at how they really looked on the surface. He saw himself as an uncaring bully who hated people, but more, who hated himself.

She saw herself as a hopeless victim of circumstance with no control over her life. And when they looked deeper into their reflections, he saw a little boy that had wanted love, but had instead, got beatings and she saw a little girl that wanted to be liked by everyone and had instead found ridicule.


And as each looked back at the hurt child inside them, they each decided that enough was enough, that they would give the child the love and affection it had always sought after and break the vicious cycle that had been driving them.

He decided that to be human was OK, that he could admit his mistakes to himself and others, that he could understand the problems and concerns of others, that he wasnít a big shot, that he could listen to other peopleís ideas and give them a chance to try out their ideas, that he could
share a joke, that he could smile, that he
could leave his door open and not have his
guard dogs on red alert, that he didnít need
guard dogs, and most of all that in recognising the human needs of others he would do everything he could to develop their confidence and competence to do their jobs.

She decided that being herself was okay, that making mistakes did not indicate that she was a failure, only that she needed to develop her knowledge and skills, that when she did something right she would give herself a pat on the back and say: ĎWell done, I knew you could do ití, that she would expect the best of herself and other people, that she would give the best of herself, no matter what, that she would become more aware of the needs and wants of others and try to satisfy them, and most of all, that her self-image and self-esteem were in her own hands and she would do all she could to become more of who she was.

And the last thing I heard was he became the best boss you could hope to work for, and she became a star employee that everyone wished to emulate.

_ Tony Griffiths, of Leadership Dimensions, is an international trainer, consultant, and author of ĎLeadership by Valuing Ė A Model of Leadership Excellence.í
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