Paying the Cost to Be the Boss

By Guest Blogger, Dr. Lee Meadows

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“It’s not fair, Dr. Meadows!” Emilia Curry said as she slid onto the opposite bench seat in the booth where I had just crushed the last cracker into my chicken noodle soup. “I deserved it more than that a**wipe who they gave the job to.”

Since the absence of “Good Afternoon, how are you?” was a foregone conclusion, I jumped right into the conversation with my soon to be graduating undergraduate student.

“What job was given to whom and what was unfair about it?” I asked.

“I should have been given that Supervisor’s job that I told you about. Instead they gave it to someone else. Talk about unfair?”

Emilia’s red closely cropped hair was in perfect balance with the red illuminating from both cheeks and I feared that the “you’ll get it next time.” statement would only further open the lid holding back the volcano that seemed ready to erupt.

“Okay, let’s talk about why you think you deserved it.”

“Are you kidding?” she started, “No one on that team has put in more hours than I have. I come in early, I stay late, I complete my tasks ON TIME, and I am always the FIRST one to get things done. I have put in my time!”

“And you’ve been with the company, how long?”

“Six months. During that time, I have been a whirlwind of completed task activity.”

“And the person who was promoted, how long has that person been with the company.?

“Only nine months, but she is less talented than I am. I know how to get things done.”

“Well, you may know how to get things done, but do you know what it takes to get things done?”

“Dr. Meadows, I don’t have time for trick questions, what do you mean do I know what it takes?”

“If I were going to ask you a trick question, it would be something like, how many baby-boomers does it take to create a Facebook page?” She squinted still focused on the, alleged, trickery. “Do you know what it takes to get things done?”

“Okay,” she lamented. “I am at a loss for the answer.” “By the way, I hate when you do this questioning thing in class!”

“Emilia, for all your acclimations about your successes, I never once heard you mention how well you work with people.”

“I work with people!” Her indignation masked the weakly stated rebuttal.

“Yeah, we all do. But working with people and working well with people are two different things.”

At the risk of me saying that she might want to hear, she asked. “What do you mean?”

“Organizations all over the known world and filled with people who know how to get things done. We couldn’t function it that wasn’t true. But, critical to getting things done is knowing how to get it done through people and that’s encompasses a lot more than just completing tasks.”

“Are you saying that I don’t know how to work with people?” she asked.

“I’m saying if you don’t make it part of your work experience, when there is another opening, we will be going through this same conversation.”

“How long will that take?

“How should I know. People are a funny species. They are a mixture of nuances, ticks, extremes, conflict, convergences, high water marks and low level annoyances. They are the happy and sad faces on a rough edged coin and their surface appearance masks their underlying fears. None of this will make any sense until you take the time getting the experience to know what it means. Look, even if I could you transport you ten years into the future to have a conversation with the future Emilia, and then bring you back, all you’d have is a conversation that lacks the essence of the experience.”

“But, she’s only been at the organization three months longer than me, what makes her so different?”

“You’d have to ask the person who made the decision, but my guess is that she was willing to pay the cost to be the boss.”

“No one uses boss anymore…,”

…, I interrupted. “It’s an old B.B.King blues recording that makes the point.”

“So, I need to learn more about how to work well with people if I am going to be considered for a supervisory role?”

“That’s the cost to be the boss.”