Friday, July 18, 2008

Random thoughts – Everybody's A Boss


I'm not sure if I'm sorry for him or despised him.  Or why, when I look back over the years, I had to single him out as one good example of a bad boss while I was the embodiment of a naive country bumpkin learning the ropes of survival in the city.  He once wrote in a reply to my resignation letter (after I quit from his employment for the second time), "you either manage or be managed..." 


I can't think of any other occasion where a boss replies to an employee’s resignation letter.  Well, we were both young and rash and our age difference was only two years apart but he was the boss and I, the subordinate.  He probably thought that I couldn't even manage myself.  I was naive, had two left feet and I bungled my way around especially when dealing with people.  But I just took it as his concern for my future rather than his ego that made him write that in the letter.


Looking back, I think he couldn't have been more wrong.  One doesn't have to be a manager to manage whether himself or others.  As one much-forwarded e-mail went, "even an a**hole can be a boss".  But because you're in a position to make an unpopular decision you can turn into one as soon as you make it.


Over the years I have learnt to manage others as well as myself including my family budget.  In spite of the many setbacks I guess I haven't done badly.  I often thought he should have done pretty well but apparently he hadn't.  He died of a heart attack before the age of 45.  He hadn’t managed his health properly.  Or was it his destiny to go off early?



  1. ""you either manage or be managed..."

    Sounds like a bumper sticker I saw which said "Lead, follow or get out of the way." Many managers can't manage their own lives and frankly, I don't know if the success of one's personal life is an indicator of his success at work. Despite the Lewinsky affair, Bill Clinton is still known for running one of the best Democrat governments ever. I think business and personal lives run on completely different value systems with different trade-offs and they may not be as strongly connected as people think. One can run his business like a family but can one run his family like a business? That would be interesting to see.

  2. Should I say Clinton is considered a failure only because he lives in a monogamus society? Would the world still hail him as a sucessful president if there was no law against having a fling with an intern?
    But I'd say he failed because he didn't control his desires in spite of knowing the rules.

    As for running a family like a business, we should find such examples in the days of old when extended families stay together in one village or a big mansion. That patriarch would certainly have to run his family like a company to keep it together and thriving at the same time. There would always be decisions to make, differences and feuds to settle between rival siblings and budgets for different expenses, etc.

  3. The Europeans are amused by the fuss Americans kick up about personal scandals, not realizing that Americans are very conservative people at heart, especially in the bible belt. That they are also the top porn producers in the world tells you that they're a confusing yardstick to measure anything by.

    On running a family like a business, can one disown his child like firing a lazy staff and live with the consequences later. Employees are motivated to stick around by money. What motivates a child to come back home for New Year even though they quarrel a lot ... the reasons may not necessarily be money.

  4. There has been a case in the papers recently where the son brought home a pack of 'Ah Long hounds' baying for his family's blood. After the father hocked the family fortune to pay off his past debts, which wasn't enough to stop the wayward son from going further into debt, he was disowned.
    Tough but necessary decision.

    Love, camaraderie and warmth of a family and home cooking (and some for hope of the family inheritance) are good enough reasons to bring kids home year after year...

  5. Jumping into debt and disowning one's own flesh and blood to escape it - sounds like they're fruits from the same tree of self preservation. Could there be a lesson in there somewhere I wonder.