Beware! Your boss could be a 'psychopath': Researchers have revealed that one in 25 company bosses are psychopaths. -- DNA, Mumbai, September 2
Ah, so that's why I didn't get that promotion. I always knew the boss was a psycho, sitting in his corner office and hatching his evil plots.
Seriously, though, my experience with bosses has been rather different. Most of them have been nice nutcases, rather than psychopaths.
My first boss was a Nepali gent called Pradhan. His main job at the bank at which I used to work in Darjeeling was to organise his booze session for the evening. So the first thing he did every day was to send the office boy to get 'kodo' or fermented millet, from which 'chhang', a local beer, is made. When I was transferred, Pradhan called me to his desk, opened a drawer and took out all the leave applications I had submitted during my stay at the branch. "Here," he said, handing them over, "you can tear them up. Consider it a parting gift from me." Large quantities of alcohol probably act as an antidote to psychopathic impulses.
Laziness, too, acts as protection against psychosis. I once had a boss who merely asked "It's fine, right?" before signing every note I put up to him without even glancing at it. Once I had written a proposal on a tricky industrial relations problem and I wanted him to take a look. So when he asked whether it was ok, I said, "Maybe we should take another look at it." "Oh really," said my boss, passing the note back to me, "Then why don't you take another look." He was simply too lazy to be a psychopath.
But I soon ran out of luck with bosses and the HR department gave me some terrible postings. I thought the best way to please the boss, in this case a semi-psychopathic personnel manager, would be to suck up to him. So I never lost an opportunity to flatter him. Yet in spite of hours spent chatting him up, he always seemed distant and cold. One day I could take it no longer. "Why on earth does Mukherjee sahib behave so oddly towards me?" I plaintively asked a colleague. "When you guys talk to him, he's always smiling, but whenever I meet him he acts curt and aloof." "That's because," explained my friend patiently, "you insist on calling him Mukherjee, when his name is actually Banerjee." The moral of the story: when you suck up to your boss, at least get his name right.
But I got my best bosses when I switched over to journalism. Both the deputy editors of the Calcutta paper I worked for used to go to the races religiously, not only on weekends, but also on Wednesday. A week after I joined, the newspaper's owner walked into my cubicle, which was next to the deputy editor's room. "Where's Raju?" he barked, inquiring about one of the editors. "Er...he's gone out", I said. "Where's Kuru?" he asked, asking about the other one. "Umm…he too has gone out", I blurted. "Will they be back soon?" he asked. "Noooo...it might take some time," I said, desperately covering for them. The big boss suddenly looked sharply at me, "Today's Wednesday, isn't it?" "Yes", I mumbled. "They must have gone to the races then. Why didn't you tell me?" said the big man. I was so flabbergasted I couldn't speak. But as he left, I thought to myself, "What a great boss. What an absolutely wonderful place."
Manas Chakravarty is Consulting Editor, Mint. The views expressed by the author are personal.