How to be a good boss

Humming in my Universe, Philippine STar
Posted on January 11, 2014 by jimparedes

Screen Shot 2014-03-04 at 2.39.53 PM
Illustration by REY RIVERA

I wish to share some thoughts on the ranting, complaining, condemning, whining, hating and blaming that’s been flying thick and fast among netizens regarding governance issues. The perception that we, as a people, are perennially on the receiving end of bad governance, corruption, stupidity and insensitivity is shared by many, and with good reason. I would like to share some ideas on how we can get out of this feeling of victimhood and create a new, less toxic relationship between the government and us, its bosses.

First of all, I wish to point out something really obvious that we seem to forget or refuse to acknowledge — that there are, in fact, good people serving us in the different departments, bureaus, offices of government. Some may argue that while there are exemplary public servants, they are not in the majority. But it does not matter whether they are or they are not. What is important is that they are there and they are working on our behalf. And we can actually have a more functional and satisfactory relationship with them that can, in the process, encourage their lot to multiply.

Another thing I wish to remind everyone is that we, the people, are the bosses who are supposed to be served by government. But being a boss carries with it certain responsibilities.

Now let us try to look deeper and examine how we can relate to each other better. If we wish to improve governance, government officials and we, their bosses, must develop trust and synergy to be able to get things done.

There are many ways to do this. We can start by pointing out how not to do it. Sadly, many of us make a blanket condemnation of everyone and everything about government, saying that government is corrupt, inefficient, uncaring, etc. This has to stop because it is not producing positive results. It only makes it more difficult for the good officials to do what they need to.

Let us try and imagine how we citizens can be good bosses. For government officials reading this who really want to serve, I hope they find my suggestions helpful.

To my fellow bosses-citizens, here are some things to ponder:

1) Let’s take the time to read, examine, analyze, think and learn more about what our government officials and employees are doing, or are supposed to be doing. Learn about the details of their jobs, the real live situations they are dealing with, and the arena they are operating in. Context is important. We must learn to appreciate complexity.

There are things that seem ideal on paper but are far from perfect on the ground. When we take the time to understand this reality, we can accurately pinpoint what is wrong and make truly useful and productive comments, suggestions and decisions on how they can be improved.

The hardest thing for a government employee to have to endure is to listen quietly and tolerate bosses who know close to nothing about their work and what really needs to be done.

2) No one wants a boss who screams, curses, shouts, lays blame and generalizes without knowing what is really going on. It smacks of ignorance and bad management. It does nothing to improve the situation and discourages good employees who are lumped together with the bad ones. It also promotes cynicism. But admittedly, this is how most of us have been dealing with government and, as we all know, it has not helped improve things.

3) More than finding fault, a real boss must be a leader who appreciates people doing the right things. Instead of limiting our repertoire to merely cursing and ranting, consider inspiring and encouraging the people who are doing good in government. Let us point out and praise what works well. When we acknowledge and reward certain actions, they tend to be duplicated over and over again. When we do not, they are hardly ever repeated.

This attitude goes a long way with employees who actually want to be effective in their jobs. If you want to motivate your good employees to show up for work feeling good and informed about what they have to do, then establish a relationship with them that makes this possible.

To our good government officials:

1) Aside from giving your best efforts to what you need to do, it also helps if you take time to go an extra mile and discuss in detail the problems you encounter so that ordinary citizens can be enlightened about the problems, processes and protocols you have to go through.

2) With such transparency, we can understand better the context of where you are coming from and we can be more informed and helpful in expressing our ideas and support so that you do not have to suffer in silence.

I have noticed in online discussions that the comments tend to move away from rants and become more rational and helpful when the big picture is presented and explained.

3) We encourage you to ask for help from citizens when you need it. It helps involve people and creates synergy between government and its citizens. It also helps identify individuals and groups whom you can count on for support.

4) As much as you rightfully claim your successes, make it a policy to humbly accept the consequences of your bad decisions or sloppy work. We are all human. A sincere offer to correct your mistakes will be more likely looked at in a sympathetic light than stonewalling.

Sure, there are many things to be angry about regarding how our government is being run. There are forces within it that are bad, even evil. But we can’t have a totally adversarial, even hostile attitude towards government. There has to be a better way to relate.

Let us recognize that there are lots of good people in government, too. Sweeping negative generalizations that everyone in government is corrupt are non-starters. They demoralize the idealists who enter government to render positive service. Let us make sure that good government service is a rewarding experience. This is the only way to entice good people to join.

When we must take the road of condemnation of some government action, inaction or persons, let us do so based not on hearsay alone but on solidly researched data. Very often, people fly off the handle based on something they read on the Internet that often turned out to be a false report. And often, when this happens, very few take back their rants and correct their mistakes.

Good citizens must be more discerning and intelligent. As the crowd of bosses, we must be able to tell the difference between Jesus and Barabas, so to speak, and treat our “employees” accordingly.

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