While the inspiration behind this series has been a candid reader’s confession about his difficulties as a gamma (low socio-sexual status) male who has been thrust into the position of a manager, many of the struggles he describes can befall lots of men making the difficult transition from production to a supervisory role.
In Part I of this series, the unsuccessful boss is urged to assess his present socio-sexual status realistically and to disabuse himself of arrogant delusions about himself and others. In Part II, he learns what his job is, what he owes his employees, and is shown examples of common mistakes ineffective managers do when communicating with their staff. Here in the third installment of “Be the Boss,” I make three positive points:
- How listen to your employees
- How to handle insubordination
- How to grow as a boss.
1. How to listen to your employees
First, you must understand who your subordinates are. They are: human beings who are preoccupied with their own concerns. They don’t care about you, and possibly not that much about their job. They are not: your friends, nor are they people whose approval you seek. Internalizing those two simple “are/aren’t” concepts humanizes your subordinates while depersonalizing your relationship with them. Once you understand that, assess each individual who directly reports to you along a simple two-axis measure of competence and attitude. “Competence” simply refers to their ability to do their job well, regardless of their actual performance. “Attitude” refers to how seriously they take their job, how mature and responsible they are, how motivated they are to perform well, and how they behave toward you. Your employees will cover either all four or just some of the following combinations, and this is how you deal with each:
- Competent, good attitude: just let them do what they do best
- Competent, bad attitude: they are your biggest challenge; keep reading
- Incompetent, good attitude: don’t come down hard on them
- Incompetent, bad attitude: make an example of one; keep reading
Once you understand your staff, you can listen to them more effectively. But what does “listen” mean? What it does not mean, is putting up with their nonsense. What it does mean, is showing that you take your responsibility for them seriously. Here is how you listen: when your team member comes to talk to you with a legitimate issue, stop what you are doing. Give him 100% of your attention. No glancing at your monitor. Maintain natural eye contact. Don’t interrupt. If he has a problem that requires you to get involved in, such as payroll screw-ups, IT issues, or a legitimate personal issue, make it clear that you take his concern seriously and that resolving it is now your number-one priority. It is your responsibility to ensure that the company is treating your staff fairly and that their support-related problems are taken care of. You may also have to nut up and say “no” to your higher ups if they place unreasonable demands on your department. Don’t be afraid of doing that. Firmness begets respect both up and down the chain of command.
Some don’ts: don’t get pulled into gossip, politics, chick-talk, or arguments. You are above all that. I recently had a female team member sidle up to me and start badmouthing another female employee. I wanted nothing to do with that, so I said “yeah, everybody has his quirks.” If you chat with subordinates about personal things like “what did you do this weekend”, listen, but speak minimally. Usually, the employee (often a female) just wants to be heard gushing about the awesome wine tasting she went to or something. No need for you to reciprocate with your cool story. Just smile and say something approving and non-committal like “that must have been fun” — not robotically like Bill Lumbergh from Office Space saying “heeey Peter, whaaat’s up” without giving a fuck about what’s up — but with a genuine appreciation for the story.
With female employees — even if they’re older than you! — you are their father figure at work. Trust me: I manage women who are older than I am. They want you to be an aloof authority they have to impress. Keep your business to yourself. The majority of the time, smiling while making it clear that you are listening (and quickly enough bailing from the conversation if it’s just a silly back and forth), is all it takes to keep female subordinates in line. If she is giving you an earful in order to get some unacceptable concession from you, hear her out without interrupting. She needs to unburden herself. Once she is done, tell her “yes” or “no,” depending on your judgment. Game concept: immovable frame.
2. How to handle insubordination
A good friend of mine works in the tech industry in an all-male environment. He and the guys constantly joke around with their boss, bust his balls, flout company rules (but not the quality of their deliverables), and so on. Similar spirit often rules in in blue collar or service sector jobs, especially on a team on which everybody knows and likes each other. In larger corporate environments, things may or may not be more impersonal. But regardless of the workplace culture, once the boss says something, it’s final and has to be obeyed. And sometimes you will get an employee who will test your authority. You can’t ever fail that test.
One such example: in my twenties I worked in building trades. I supervised a crew but I had no real power, other than them having to listen to me because they were new. One day I had a crew of several guys whom I was showing how to do a specific kind of hardware installation in an institutional bathroom. All of them gathered around me to watch, except a black guy I’ll call Sammy, who put a bored look on his face and sat in the hallway just outside the door. I said “Sammy, get in here. You need to watch this too.” He said “I already know how to do this.” I recognized that as a direct challenge to my authority and understood that I am finished with this crew if I let that go. So I said calmly “Sammy, get in here” and looked straight at him. The direct gaze is critical. But he held his ground with an attempted head-fake compromise and said “Ok, I’ll just watch you from here.” I said “no Sammy, you will watch me from right here next to me.” And I continued looking at him with unbroken eye contact and without saying another word. After about ten seconds of me staring at him, he said “fine”, picked his ass up, and slouched over to where I told him to be. I had no problems with him after that.
What would have I done if he had turned that into a contest of wills and refused to comply? I was ready to tell another crew member to take over, then I would have walked over to Sammy and said “come with me, we are riding to the office.” While I had no real authority at that job, I had a great relationship with my boss, who did have hiring/firing authority.
So now, you are a gamma or otherwise a struggling boss and you have insubordinate employees. What do you do going forward? First, you have to have a thorough knowledge of your company’s policies on disciplining employees, and follow it.
Then, recognize that sometimes you have to show them your asshole side. In fact, it is a very effective thing to do. Remember, it’s OK to be an asshole boss, provided that you are fair, consistent, and don’t violate company policy. If you have an employee who is both incompetent and has crap attitude and you have the power, fire him or her as an example to others. Don’t be afraid of fallout from firing a minority or a female; normally that is more of a bark than bite kind of threat, especially in non-executive levels. In most types of jobs, employees work “at will” and their only recourse in a lawsuit, if they threaten one, would be claiming harassment. So just make sure they have no grounds for claiming that. And again, document all instances of poor work and insubordination, and counsel them in accordance with your company’s directives for supervisors. This is not legal advice. Knowing applicable employment laws is up to you.
If you don’t have the power to fire a bad employee, your boss probably does. This is a crucial reason why you should have a good relationship with him. You need him to respect your judgment and support you if you ever come to him with a matter of a bad employee.
What are some specific ways of handling a challenge to your authority on the spot at an office? If you meet with insubordination, look the employee directly in the eyes and tell him something absolute like “this is not acceptable” and maintain eye contact. I harp on eye contact for a reason. Gammas and weaker men can improve their interpersonal effectiveness tremendously with just that. If he wants to turn the confrontation into a contest of wills, then either beat him at it like I did with Sammy, or walk away — you don’t want to escalate the argument, give him a forum for bloviating, or lose your cool. Document the interaction, including names of witnesses. After fifteen minutes, send him an email with the dread words “please see me in my office.” You can also say that verbally so others hear you, but emails are a means of documenting things. If you don’t have a private office, reserve a conference room. It’s up to you if you include a witness. At that point, his bravado will have disappeared and you can have a by-the-book conversation with him about the incident.
Every job environment is different, every boss has a different personality. You will do things congruently with your personality and situation, but the basic principles of disciplining an employee — consistency, documenting everything, excellent relationship with your boss, eye contact, keeping our cool, and knowing what power you do and don’t have — apply in all situations.
3. How to grow in the role
There is a cheerful upside to this otherwise unpleasant subject of struggling to overcome one’s gamma behavior or dealing with difficult employees. Once you get through Parts I and II of this series and get yourself in the right frame of mind and adopt a set of correct behaviors, you will start seeing improvements in your team’s respect for you. Supervision of employees is something that takes practice, and as you practice it you get better at it. It also gets easier with age as you develop a zero-fucks-given attitude toward things that would rattle a younger-you.
It is natural for conscientious men in any line of work to gravitate to positions of higher responsibility as they master their profession. They can advance either up the technical/production ladder where their authority is a function of their technical skills or they can advance up the management ladder where their authority is a function of their responsibility to lead and motivate employees. Today though, young White men doing production-level work in technical fields face a promote-or-perish dilemma, as their country’s traitor elites seek to replace them with cheaper foreign workers, and many understand that their professional survival depends on moving up to leadership positions. Some make that move earlier than they feel they are ready, both in terms of their technical skill and their readiness to manage staff.
But for those of you who have made that move to become a boss, I wish you all the best, and offer the following recommendations for growing in this role:
- Get good with your boss. As I already wrote earlier, get your boss on your side. Your number one purpose at the company, in your boss’s eyes, is to make him look good to his bosses. If you do that, you will be in his good graces. Appreciate the challenges he faces and support him fully. Talk with him and pick his brain when you are in a difficult spot.
- Network with your peers. Talk with other managers at your seniority level, especially other White men in your age group. If you trust one or are friends with one, talk about the solutions to the challenges of being a supervisor. White men are not permitted to have formal professional support networks like other races do, so we have network informally under the radar.
- Read a good book on small team management. The series I wrote here gives you a perspective on the socio-sexual hierarchy that you will not find in conventional management literature, which takes for granted that you already have the basic psychological readiness to lead people. However, by necessity this series glosses over many of the things that merit deeper discussion.
This series is written to steer you in the right direction. Keep an upbeat attitude about what you are capable of, given time and practice. Your willingness to be honest with yourself and learn new skills, combined with you intelligence, will take you far even if at the moment you feel like you are in over your head. Appreciate that you are doing important work that few are cut out to do, and which serves the higher goals of supporting your family or giving you the financial independence to live well.
Now go be the boss.