Take My Boss -- Please

A lot of job stress originates a step or two up the ladder.

A recent survey asked: "What would you change about yourself if you could?" More than 58% of the men who responded would change their weight; 36% would like more hair; 34% would change their height; 27% would like to find a way to hide signs of aging; and 19% would like a different nose. Women respondents had different priorities: 78% arent content with their weight; 48% would like to make themselves look younger; 38% would like better looking legs; 37% want to change their teeth; 32% would like to change their bust sizes; and 18% would like different-sized feet (mostly smaller). Those responses were not too surprising. But I was genuinely shaken when I read that 89% of all respondents, male and female, said they feel stressed in their jobs and there is little they can do to change things. Why? Because the target of their discontent is "The Boss." Twice as many of the stressed-out respondents were high-income earners than were low-income earners. Most were professional and executive types rather than rank-and-file employees. On reflection, I shouldnt have been so surprised. I went to a charity auction recently. Everybody was told to bring something they didnt have any use for. Sixty-eight people brought their bosses. Paul Faye, a psychology professor at DePauw University, once told me that if I wanted to find the true meaning of a psychological or sociological problem, I should study how comedians are using the subject in their routines. Here is a sample of what I found:

  • "Bosses descended from chimpanzees much later than normal folks."
  • "My boss is a constant reminder that man is the only animal who remains on friendly terms with the victims he intends to eat until he eats them."
  • "My boss told me that there are a hundred ways of making a fortune, but only one honest way. When I asked him, Hows that? he answered, How would I know?"
  • "A young lady walked into a sporting-goods store and ordered all the equipment necessary for a baseball game, including a baseball bat, a catchers mitt, and a catchers mask. The salesman asked, Are you sure you want all these? She said, Yes. My boss said if I played ball with him wed get along just fine."
  • "I couldnt warm up to my boss if we were cremated together."
  • "My boss is so conceited he has his X-rays retouched."
  • "I was one of those invaluable assets my boss wrote about in his annual report to shareholders. By cutting my entire department, he increased the value of his stock options."
  • "Only his varicose veins keep my boss from being completely colorless."
  • "My boss has a disposition like an untipped cab driver."
  • "My boss has been busy reengineering our company. It doesnt take an engineer to cut 5,000 people. It takes an executioner."
  • "Were going to upsize the company by getting rid of the boss."
Those are examples of the hundreds of boss-oriented jokes I found in my research. They are universally negative. They say to me that the issues causing the greatest stress among your employees these days are: 1. Jobs are no longer safe. Chief executives with lucrative stock options are far more interested in the value of their company stock than in the well-being of their employees. 2. Sexual harassment is rampant among bosses at all levels of management. 3. Although the glass ceiling has been raised a bit, its still there. 4. Bosses dont walk their talk. Logical arguments will not solve emotion-charged issues like these. Only intelligent action will. When employees work and live under stress, they cannot perform efficiently. Corporate America needs reengineering of a different kind: motivational reengineering. All people can be motivated. But you cannot motivate other people. You can motivate only yourself. People do things for their own reasons, not your reasons. The key: Create a corporate climate in which people are encouraged to motivate themselves, and much of the stress will disappear. Sal F. Marino is chairman emeritus of Penton Publishing Inc. and an IW contributing editor. His e-mail address is[email protected]
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