Are bosses caged?

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Employees are often heard complaining about their bosses being rude. More often than not, this rudeness is born of stress. To a great extent, this stress seeps down from the top levels of the organisational hierarchy. The chain of hierarchy in a corporate structure is such that every leader is accountable to a hierarchy above him, and this chain ends with the C-suite. Therefore, every leader holds a position that demands a balancing act — between his subordinates and the reporting senior. In other words, it will not be absolutely wrong to say that to some extent “bosses are caged”.

The notion that a boss enjoys all the freedom is not new. Even those who are bosses today may have felt this during their period of struggle. However, the hard reality is driven home only when one becomes a boss oneself.

Adil Malia, senior HR professional

While restrictions exist at every level, their degrees vary from company to company and also from position to position. Some functions are highly autonomous in nature. However, in a corporate structure, only a few senior leaders in the company can enjoy such autonomy. Shailesh Singh, CPO, Max Life, says, “It cannot be denied that there are restrictions set for every position, and every functional role has a set of liabilities, but the degree of restriction varies. However, a good boss will always use his experience as a subordinate to bridge the gap between his superiors and the subordinates.” This is where the culture of the organisation plays a huge role in determining the effect of the limitations on the bosses’ behaviour and approach.

The hard truth is that the fine line between being a boss and a leader is often neglected by many. Sudheesh Venkatesh, CPO, Azim Premji Foundation, comments, “Good leaders do not have to seek respect from their subordinates. They earn it naturally with the process of leading them to a better prospect. Unfortunately, some people tend to forget their own old days of struggle, after reaching a certain level of success and taking up leadership roles. This trait has been observed over years among bosses across all industries.”

There are restrictions for every position, but the degree of restriction varies. However, a good boss will always use his experience as a subordinate to bridge the gap between his superiors and the subordinates. 

Shailesh Singh, CPO, Max Life

He further states, “It is natural for people to feel that they are more burdened than their bosses, but to a great extent, fake boasting and rudeness on the part of the bosses is responsible for this thought. Subordinates see their bosses as the all-powerful person with enormous control over their work-lives. However, there is no denying the fact that every boss is caged and operates under a set of limitations. Therefore, the understanding has to come from both the ends. Even though it is natural for employees to feel that their boss is exerting too much pressure on them, they have to remember that their boss is also a human being. However much employees try to imagine the pressures their boss may be operating under, the fact remains that they are in his shoes. So, they cannot exactly fathom his situation or issues. Employee too have to be understanding at a certain level.”

While working from home has been a dream for many across levels and organisations, the recent crisis revealed the perks and drawbacks of this mode of work. Work and life were integrated for all, irrespective of position and functions in the corporate sector. From leaders to executives, people faced similar troubles trying to balance family and work. This prominently highlighted that each and every individual is caged in their space.

Good leaders do not have to seek respect from their subordinates. They earn it naturally during the process of leading them to a better prospect. Unfortunately, some people tend to forget their own old days of struggle, after reaching a certain level of success.

Sudheesh Venkatesh, CPO, Azim Premji Foundation

Adil Malia, senior HR professional, says, “Irrespective of the function that one performs, we all were struggling to balance our personal and professional space during the remote-working phase. During this period, the realisation dawned that the pressure to balance personal and professional lives was similar for everyone. The notion that a boss enjoys all the freedom is not new. Even those who are bosses today may have felt this during their period of struggle. However, the hard reality is driven home only when one becomes a boss oneself. But, people can at least try to understand that their bosses also work according to the business needs set by the extreme leaders of the company. Therefore, they are also caged and are operating under certain restrictions.”

Due to the functional responsibilities, a boss may have to be stern towards the subordinates. While he may have to maintain a pressure on them, he can make use of his experience to strike a balance between the company’s needs and the employees’ needs. Since most bosses have been through the same phase in their careers before reaching a senior position, they will know all the loopholes that cause imbalance and communication gaps. How good a leader a boss is, can be judged when he uses these experiences to bridge these gaps.

“Bosses have to instigate growth for the employees as well as the company. In order to ease the situation for the employees, they have to invest their emotional quotient. They should not forget what they themselves went through as subordinates. Their behaviour has to wisely reflect that they can understand the pressures under which the employees are working, but then, they cannot empathise,” elaborates Malia.

Though difficult, every individual has to realise that freedom is not absolute for anybody within a company. Before becoming a boss every person has to go through several stages of growth and functionalities. Even after becoming a boss, they remain in a cage of business needs that does not break. This is how it has been in the corporate world, and this how it will continue to be.

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