Two bosses who are different

By Frederick Mordi

“Eki, you are not looking your usual cheerful self today,” Mr. Etim, her boss, observed, as soon as he got to the office that morning. “I hope there is no problem?”

“Sir, it is my baby. She is sick. I…”

“Oh! I am sorry about that. What’s the problem?”

“She was running temperature this morning and…”

“Why don’t you take the day off so you can look after your baby?”

“That’s very kind of you sir. I will do just that! Thank you sir.”


Another boss.

“Is this all you can do after spending all day writing a simple report?” Mr. Wood thundered. He threw the paper back at his harassed subordinate that shook like a leaf. “It seems you are not cut out for this job. A child in primary one could have done better!”

“I…I… am sorry, sir…” the poor secretary stammered, “I got a call from home that…”

“Don’t give me that crap!” her boss barked again. “I don’t care about your domestic troubles! They are none of my business. All I want is result. Is that clear?”

“Yes Sir. I am sorry Sir.”

The boss hissed and stormed into his office.


These are two examples of superior-subordinate communication in a typical work environment. The first boss conveyed empathy towards his staff; the second boss clearly did not have time for excuses. Eki must surely count herself lucky to have such an understanding boss, unlike the other boss that acts like a tyrant.

The relationship between a boss and his subordinates tells a lot about his leadership style. Research has shown that the real reason talented people often leave their plum jobs is the overbearing boss. The personality of the boss matters a lot.


Bad bosses create a toxic work environment where the subordinates often live in perpetual fear of the unknown. Such bosses believe the use of force alone is the answer to maintaining workplace discipline. This may appear to be a wrong strategy as Terence, the Roman dramatist once warned:

“He makes a great mistake … who supposes that authority is firmer or better established when it is founded by force than that which is welded by affection.”

A study entitled: The Value of Bosses, published by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), seems to support this view. According to the study, replacing a bad boss with a good one increases productivity of each subordinate’s output by more than 10 percent.

Good leadership on the other hand, instils in the subordinate, a sense of loyalty to both his superior and to the organisation. Charles Schwab, a famous American investor, put it better when he said: “I have yet to find a man, however exalted his station, who did not do better work and put forth greater effort under a spirit of approval than under a spirit of criticism.”

Nevertheless, experts say bosses should draw the line between being ‘nice’ or ‘tough.’ Most bosses, who prefer the latter style think putting pressure on employees would increase performance. However, too much pressure can be counter-productive as it increases the levels of stress of employees. This has several negative implications including increased cost of treatment for stress-related ailments, absenteeism, and high turnover.

On the other hand, ‘nice’ bosses that use the right strategies, are perceived to achieve better results, according to other research. Indeed, a 2013 Gallup’s Poll on Workplace showed that most employees prefer happiness to high pay.


“Taken together, this body of research shows that creating a leadership model of trust and mutual cooperation may help create a culture that is happier, in which employees help each other, and (as a consequence) become more productive in the long run,” adds Dr. Emma Seppala, Associate Director of Stanford University’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education. “No wonder their nice bosses get promoted.”

In reality, some bosses are often too far from their subordinates to relate to them. An example is Mr. Wood, who demonstrated total indifference to his secretary’s plight. It is doubtful if Mr. Wood would get the best out of that secretary, unlike the first lady that would be prepared to give her all to her organisation because of the way her boss treats her with respect.

“Leaders must be close enough to relate to others, but far enough ahead to motivate them,” counseled John Maxwell.

Clearly, there is a world of a difference between being a leader and a boss. Is your manager a leader or a boss? Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States provided a yardstick you can use to answer this question: “The leader leads, and the boss drives.”



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2 responses to “Two bosses who are different”

  1. Mindat says :

    We are reading some common books. Nice piece.

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