Be The Boss (Part II)

(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.

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10 thoughts on “Be The Boss (Part II)

  1. Pingback: Self-Improvement Series: Be The Boss (Part I) | PA

  2. If you don’t mind I’m going to clog your comment feed with a quick self- assessment.

    “Are you an introvert?”
    Yes.
    “Do you lack command presence?”
    I don’t know how much of a problem I have with this. I suspect it needs work.
    “Do you communicate badly?”
    I’ve improved a lot in the past few years I think but still need work.

    “No eye contact”
    Definitely have a problem with this.
    “Fails to make requests in direct language”
    Working on it. Making progress and much better than a year ago.

    “Does not listen to the subordinate”
    I don’t believe this was ever my problem. Problem is when you’re too Beta, a female subordinate confuses your willingness to listen with an entitlement to get her way. Willingness to take “constructive criticism” from your female subordinates can rapidly change to a belief in the appropriateness of standing there with your finger up your twat lipping off your boss to his face with no fear of reprisal, while your boss is too busy working his ass off to have time for your crap. As in shit NO male employee would ever believe they could get away with, and couldn’t. But female privilege is a real thing, firing a woman has huge negative PR consequences and they know it. Being too “willing too listen” can be a problem too.

    “Is cruel to the weak and the compliant”
    Not me.

    “Lets a defiant employee get away with insubordination”
    Um, yes I have a problem with this.

    “Is rarely seen working; he is mostly patrolling the floor like a prison guard”
    In my field: Not possible.

    “Making jokes at inappropriate moments, the big one being flippancy”
    I don’t believe I have a problem with this.

    “Self-deprecating humor is a form of forced rapport. Forced rapport is supplication.”
    I’ve learned through bitter experience that self-deprecation is a VERY bad idea but it’s a very old habit for me that’s tough to break. I’ve almost kicked it but I still slip back into it in awkward moments of weakness.

    “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.”
    Thank you for mentioning this – I’ll have to watch that. In my last job I had a “good boss/ bad boss” relationship going where I would try to gain my subordinate’s loyalty by setting a frame of me being on their side against the bad evil company. Worked with the men… Thing is the vermin we worked for really were psychopathic scumbags. I will have to make sure I don’t revive that habit in my current job with a more reputable company…

    “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.”
    I’m sure I don’t do this. Female subordinates have told me I’m “arrogant” but as far as I could reason it was in total defiance of reality. They had much higher respect for bosses who were much more strict and controlling than I was. I don’t believe that was the problem at all and interpreted it as a kind of shit-test.

    “Letting employees get away with insubordination, bad work, or flouting of company policy. This comes from the gamma’s fear of confrontation.”
    While I may have a problem sometimes tolerating defiance, it usually comes at a time where I am dependent on the employee’s productivity and they have a hand over me. If they don’t, I usually address the problem, although I may have problems with dealing with it in a passive aggressive manner.
    If my ass depends on your “TPS reports” being done right and you know it, then you know I need you and small acts of insubordination begin and start to escalate. That only works when you’re doing them right because if you weren’t you’d get roasted. I’m sure I do this too with my bosses. When I’m doing a damn good job and I’m in a relative position of power over my employer I start to take liberties. It’s just how it goes.

    “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.”
    Hmm. I’m gonna have to sleep on that.

    Thanks again.

  3. I’m starting to wonder if you weren’t overly harsh with yourself when you originally described yourself as a gamma. Gammas go on power trips given an opportunity and are unlikely to examine their shortcomings honestly. They evade criticism and blame others for everything.

    You might just be a normal guy (delta) making the difficult transition from production to management. I am aiming to post Part III this week. It will include tactics moving forward that I think you’ll find very useful.

  4. PA interesting post. Gamma….I now realize in my working career I have known, even hired a few before understanding who they were and what they were up to. The glasses, the passive aggressiveness, all align. I had an interesting experience recently at work. I’m responsible for a specialty area. My very loud, very ambitious, very manipulative colleague has suddenly started doing jobs that I normally would do, not because he loves the work but because it goes towards his balance sheet. So I got a request for an area he was clearly responsible for from a prospect. I thought I’d have some fun with it. Rather than just forwarding the request, I did what he normally does: I asked him for all his information on that subject so I could prepare the proposal. I then said the prospect wanted me to do it. I then approached him as he does me and asked him for the information. Wow….his reaction was interesting. Rather than being collegial he suddenly started putting up a huge litany of reasons why I was unqualified and why I should send it over to him. I pushed back…he became louder and more demanding, almost threatening that if he didn’t personally handle it, I would be responsible for the loss, but if he lost it, that’s the way it goes. I just shrugged it off and passed on the contact. I’d proven my point to myself. But what’s interesting is I had thought this person was “alpha” but he displayed an amazing insecurity when confronted with the same kind of douche behavior he normally displays to others. So is this person really an “alpha”? or are they a loud mouth?

  5. Hey Wala, what’s up! There are two different – complementary and largely correlated – male hierarchies, the linear alpha-beta-omega one that measures a man’s sexual attractiveness to women and Vox’s two-dimensional one I use in the “Boss” posts, which defines a man in his relationship with other men. There will be a post about the two. Some of the aggressive and ostensibly “alpha” behaviors you describe would fall into what Heartiste calls “caring asshole” because they are a product of an insecure mindset.

  6. PA it was interesting to see this individual start to literally panic…coming up with a variety of spurious excuses which if I had tried, he would have dismissed. I didn’t challenge. Instead I let it go figuring I had bigger battles to fight and this wasn’t worth it. In the past I would go to the wall on these issues, often win them…then end up causing myself a lot more long-term problems. This was a way of raising it…pushing back, then shrugging it off. By contrast, I had another colleague who I came to for information about something I literally knew nothing about. That person not only welcome collaboration but supplied me with a lot of information and was truly inspirational to work with. That second person I initially considered beta but had a newfound respect for. The first individual I had thought of as more alpha I found to be a manipulative douche.

  7. The Best of Lumbergh. That movie was really good, the writing just nailed it, and the casting too. The name, Lumbergh, is perfect – that isn’t actually a name, is it? He is a lumbering moron, your boss, and with paisley suspenders. Paisley was a pattern that was briefly “hot” in the mid-80s, but Lumbergh was rockin’ it 15 years later when he was at long last in a position to wear those clothes.

    As far as his tells, as pointed out in the original post, the two that are dead-on is the coffee cup prop, and the intermittent eye contact. Eye contact is obviously really a primal thing. Someone can only afford not to be making eye contact with the person they are talking with, if they can be confident that that person is paying attention to them. Who is paying attention to whom is de facto basal status. A fake alpha is acting as if he can take for granted another’s attention. But the joke is on him, because they are looking at him and thinking “who does this guy think he is?”

    So kudos to the actor who played him. That must be a funny position to be in, in real life, to be famous for being the actor who played a character such as that. He’d always be doing the Lumbergh, just for laughs – or is it the real thing? The other thing about the movie character that is perfect is his style. Look at those glasses. And again with the lavender suspenders on a lavender shirt with the white collar. All those things are from a checklist of how to dress the part, but they don’t match somehow, they lack that certain something.

    Speaking of character actors, and for morning story time. An acquaintance of mine in college had a picture on his shelf, from his growing up years – which then would have only been like last summer – of him hanging with a perhaps better known B-list movie star: the blond haired Cobra Kai bad kid villain from the Karate Kid. So that character actor, whatever his name is, was the friend of a friend (of a friend), and they ended up at a same party, and this acquaintance saw fit to take a picture and put it on his shelf. Weird beta behavior where he is (symbolically, actually) looking up to the alpha and saying, look i could be there.

  8. Pingback: Self-Improvement Series: Be The Boss (Part III) | PA

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