(Before we begin: while I am writing blog posts on being a boss, the familiar manosphere commenter and veteran of corporate politics Elmer T. Jones has written a book on Employment Game. Read the short blurb.)
In Part I, we looked the necessary change in attitude that a struggling supervisor has to make. The essence of this attitude-change lies in the ancient Delphic aphorism “know thyself.” Many scenarios involving a manager who is in over his head — in a profession in which he is otherwise cognitively competent — involve the manager being a so-called gamma male. One of the fundamental errors in how a gamma male relates to subordinates, as noted in Part I, is rooted in his unrealistic appraisal of his own position on the socio-sexual hierarchy as conceptualized by Vox Day. A gamma male is, per my shorthand, “alpha ambition without the alpha goods” and others picks up on that contrast between ambition and goods, and fail to take his authority seriously.
As consequence, the gamma boss does one of two things: he throws himself into a vicious cycle of doubling-down on the behaviors that make him an ineffective leader, or he just gives up and lets a department of unmotivated staff run itself.
Therefore, if you are a gamma boss, your first step toward being an effective boss is to come to terms with who you are. Here are my questions to you:
- Are you an introvert? There are things you cannot change about yourself. Being an introvert is one of them. But the news is good: while activities such as networking meetings may be too draining for you, it’s otherwise perfectly normal for a boss to be introverted and still be a respected, effective manager. Watch some clips of Vladimir Putin, who is arguably the world’s most effective leader. He has the introvert’s tells: the quiet, intense, thinker’s gaze. The long pauses in his speech, the taciturn demeanor.
- Do you lack command presence? Now, let’s look at things you can change just enough to pass, but which are beyond the scope of this post: command presence. That is a military term describing the ease with which you project authority, and few men are naturally gifted with that quality. If weak voice and posture are your problem, one thing you can do to help yourself is join a gym and follow a lifting program as prescribed by a trainer or author that you trust. You will feel an increase in testosterone and its effect on your bearing in six weeks.
- Do you communicate badly? Finally, this is something that you can learn to do well, and that is the focus of this and the next post in the series.
Take a look at the following video. It features the best-known caricature of exactly such a gamma supervisor, Bill Lumbergh in the 1999 comedy “Office Space.” Slapstick scenes like the dream-sequence aside, look for gamma-like communication errors in his interactions with subordinates.
So you watched the video and you might wonder: he’s well dressed, stands straight, moves slowly and deliberately, has a serious expression, every inch the boss, and yet he’s a joke. What gives?
The answer can be gleaned from a well known verse from 1 Corinthians, which you usually hear at weddings: “Though I may speak with the tongues of men and angels, and have not love, I am but a sounding brass or tinkling cymbal.” In boss-employee relations, read “love” as respect for oneself, respect for the employee, and respect for the mission. The substance and the animating spirit of leadership.
Lumbergh is that empty tinkling cymbal. He has ostensibly the look but not the substance of a boss. And look at his demeanor more closely. The superficial projection of authority is betrayed by his stiff, blank mask of a face, which shows both fear of confrontation and contempt for the subordinate. Look at his posture. He stands firmly, but he’s always holding that coffee mug, his security blanket. Here are his other persistent errors:
- No eye contact
- Fails to make requests in direct language
- Does not listen to the subordinate
- Is cruel to the weak and the compliant
- Lets a defiant employee get away with insubordination
- Is rarely seen working; he is mostly patrolling the floor like a prison guard
All people have a keenly attuned sense for who means them well and who means them ill, and they follow a leader who they think cares about them. If you hate your subordinates, if you think they’re “sheeple” or losers, if you believe that your dignity and talent are demeaned by having to deal with them, they will sense it and they will not trust or respect you. Like it or not, you have to show that you care about your team. That’s your job. Even if they’re annoying young interns, simpleton oafs, idiotic women, or foreign replacements of American workers.
How do you do that? Part III of the series gets into specifics. Meanwhile in more general terms, recognize that regardless of what detested subset of humanity they may represent to you, or however they reflect to you the unfairness of life that had stymied your potential, your subordinates are individuals with their own problems and that’s all they care about.
You don’t have to be your subordinates’ friend. In fact, you should not even pretend be their friend. But you have to do these two basic things: (1) provide and enforce clear and consistent standards of behavior and performance and (2) make it clear through consistent action that you will do all you can to ensure that the company treats them fairly.
Along with Lumbergh’s gaffes, here are some other communication errors typical of gamma bosses, with a short elaboration on each:
- Making jokes at inappropriate moments, the big one being flippancy. Self-deprecating humor is a form of forced rapport. Forced rapport is supplication.
- Being habitually negative about the company. Remember what I wrote above — respect for your mission is part of the spirit of leadership. If you communicate your lack of respect for the company and its requirements, you demotivate your team. This is also a form of forced rapport.
- Acting imperious or demeaning toward the employees who actually do show you respect. Gammas, unlike men higher on the socio-sexual hierarchy, can’t handle power and abuse those whom they perceive as being weaker than them.
- Letting employees get away with insubordination, bad work, or flouting of company policy. This comes from the gamma’s fear of confrontation.
- Throwing your team under the bus when pressured by your superiors. You have to learn to say “No” in accordance with your best judgment. Some of my worst bosses have been ones who overburdened us with work because they couldn’t say no to unreasonable requests from higher-ups.
In Part III we go through specific pointers and look at hypothetical scenarios to guide a gamma boss in his typical interactions.