Monday, January 6, 2014

Monkey see monkey do

(I am off on a wilderness trip from tomorrow and shall be back only on 18th. Please read this piece before you start your joyous dancing!)

I have never let the fact that I have not succeeded in doing something stop me from handing out advice about how to do it. In that, if in nothing else, I suppose I am in sync with the rest of humanity. (I am not? Well, then, one of us is certainly lying!) So, why should I let the fact, that I never managed to make my subordinates behave the way I would have liked them to, stop me from advising bosses on how to manage it?

You could well want your subordinates to stand at attention when you pass by them; to laugh at all your jokes as though they thought that the world lost the best stand-up comedian ever when you chose to become a manager; to listen respectfully when you spout your (interminable?) pearls of wisdom; and to say "How high?" when you ask them to jump. (Well! That last may be a bit too much to seek. They may only jump on your supine body with spiked boots even if they do not go so far as to shop for the sharpest spikes in order to do so)

As I was saying you may want all that but it is not possible to tell them so, is it? (You think it IS possible? Wake up - this is not the time for Mungerilal ke haseen sapne OR, in western terms, this is not the time for pipe dreams. Try it and you will finally learn what a horse's laugh means.) So, how then do you get them to do it if you cannot even tell them to do it?

I have one simple mantra for you - Monkey see, monkey do! You act with your bosses in the manner in which you want your subordinates to act with you. When your boss calls you for a meeting, you put on your utmost serious expression and walk in with deferential alacrity. When you convey to your subordinates what he said you say it with all the devoted respect with which Arjuna would have talked of Krishna telling him the Bhagavd Gita. In short, you behave as though, if your boss has not actually been deified, it is because there has been some serious oversight in Heaven in the matter of promotions.

Actually, you may find that this is not foolproof but it does work. I mean all your subordinates may not pick up those cues and act with you the way you act with your boss but most will to a greater or lesser degree. To be sure, acting and speaking of your boss as the world's greatest fool works far better on the 'Monkey see Monkey do' principle. Your subordinates take to acting with you the same way with greater ease. But, even the other way round, the principle does work with most people.

There are limits though. If you get a phone call from your boss; shoot up to attention barking your knee on the table and upsetting your tea in the process; slam one hand on your forehead and clutch the phone to the ear as though you were trying to glue it in permanently; and utter staccato bursts of "Sir! Yes Sir! At Once Sir!", I am afraid that the principle may not quite work the way you may want it to. Your subordinates are more likely to curl up in fetal positions; hold their bellies with both hands and rock on the floor; open their mouths wide as though they wanted you to look at their tonsils; and utter staccato bursts of laughter. Like the Buddha said, avoid excesses. Moderation is the key.

To be sure, this is only for bosses whose bosses are really their bosses. If your boss is Mukesh Ambani's offspring, say, then it is obvious that you will be deferential with him no matter how cavalier he is with his boss. In fact it is likely that his boss would be deferential to him as well. So, this advice is meant only for those in the unfortunate position of really being their boss' subordinates.

It strikes me that this post may be read by some subordinates for cues about understanding how their bosses may prefer them to act. I daresay you may be safe enough to be deferential to him if he is deferential to his bosses. But if he is not, please do not think that he also likes you being rude to him. After all, not every boss has had the benefit of my advice and the poor chap may not understand that "Monkey see, Monkey do" is the best way to communicate the behavior he expects of his subordinates.

How successful was I in applying my own principle? Ah! You did not read the opening paragraph with attention. I can forgive that but not the fact that you have not even heard of the saying "Those who can do; those who cannot teach!" It may not be true of most people in the teaching profession but is most certainly true of me!

44 comments:

  1. He he he, quite the parting shot before your vacation in the wilderness Suresh.

    This post resonated so well with me due to one particular reason. Recently when I changed roles, the person who I transitioned my role into was such a "kiss a**" for lack of a better term that he ended up amusing my subordinates so much. Even though it has been six months now, whenever I happen to chat with any of them, they still narrate incidents similar to the one you mentioned where he receives a phone call from the boss :D

    Anyways enjoy your wilderness trip. Come back rejuvenated.

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    1. See - he has not had the benefit of my 'wisdom' :P Thanks Jairam

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  2. And this is the post I start my day with :D And that too while looking towards my 'Monkey boss' at the next cubicle ;)

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    1. Things will get even more interesting when you apply it TF :)

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  4. Jai Hanuman :) poor monkeys are being insulted like this :)

    Have a pleasant trip Suresh sir :)

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  5. I hope the IIMs include your Simian Principles of Management Theory starting with the 2014 batch! The nation deserves better Monkeys...errm, I mean, Managers.

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    1. I hope they do not! I prefer not to lose my 'clientele' :)

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  6. Now that I am working...I can so relate! YES BOSS!!!!

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  7. Hahaha good one! For 7 years I had a boss who would jump to his feet and scramble all around each time his boss called. Till date we have a laugh over it :)

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    1. Hmm! But you never realized that THAT is how he wanted you to behave with him? :P

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    2. Oh we did! and that added to the fun of gossiping about it behind his back :P

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  8. all the best for your wilderness trip. monkey subordinates might follow him, but humans will not. each individual is different based on my perception of people whom i have met & worked with. :)

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    1. Thanks! Ah - my experience is different :) I have mostly found that people do frequently resemble their far ancestors in their behavior :)

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  9. What a superb post to start the new year with:):D Thank you Suresh:):D

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    1. Thanks Amit - Good to see you back in action.

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  10. Suresh ji, Super views with the characteristic humour, as usual.
    Your Post reminded me of the saying- "As you sow, so you reap." If this proverb is right, then if we are nice to our boss, then our subordinates should be nice to us too! :)
    Wishful thinking! :)
    Best wishes to you for a great New Year! Enjoy your wilderness trip! :)

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  11. hahaha Luckily, I have no bosses now. But your post brought back so many funny memories. I remember this really conservative old boss who expected me to jump up from my chair every time he walked and also to open the door for him. And, I got immense pleasure in not doing the same. On his part, he would stand up every time his boss would call. That would have us all howling with laughter. Have a good trip, Suresh!

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    1. Thanks Rachna! Nor do I - have bosses I mean :)

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  12. Wonder if you are suggesting that Boss should be a MOGAMBO.

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    1. Well - If he WANTS to be a Mogambo, he better act as though HIS boss is Mogambo :)

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  13. Tha's typical of us Indians. Who said we have to be good at something to give expert advice? Lol. And what you said is so true. If we want others to behave in a particular way with us, we should start behaving in the same way with them. Happy New Year. Have a safe trip :-)

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    1. Back from the trip - safely for a change :) Thanks Ashwini

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  14. I have been lucky to have worked with a wonderful boss. I wish I can go back to the same team and work with him. :)

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    1. Hmm - So there ARE those mythical beings in the world? Wonderful bosses, I mean :)

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  15. Glad i am not in this circuit.Btw i wish you a happy holiday.

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    1. Thanks Indu - thankfully I begged off too :)

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  16. I used to wonder why my juniors looked at me strangely whenever I asked them not to stand up when they saw me. Now, thanks to you, I know. :-)

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    1. Hahaha :) So I am adding to the sum of knowledge in the world :)

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  17. I'm sure the creatures on your wilderness trip won't be half as fun as the two-legged variety, Suresh!

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  18. Actually, Suresh, I did read your paragraph with attention, but I was consumed by your saintly advise -with due alacrity- that I lost track of the post...!

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    1. Hahaha! Uma! Now I have at least been sanctified if not deified :)

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  19. Great thoughts. Thanks for sharing.

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