Economics - The myth of the evil & selfish boss

South Africa has several mind-set problems that need to be readjusted before progress can be made. One of the most prolific of these problems is that the boss is a selfish b*****d!

Your boss may seem to you to be the most obnoxious, self-righteous, and selfish bastard to walk the planet. You may even find yourself spending long hours contemplating how someone so utterly undeserving gets to boss you around and decide what your time and effort is worth. If you are in this position, you no doubt have plenty of like minded company in South Africa. But this mind-set is self-defeating at best and laden with inaccuracies.

Because most bosses won’t take the time to tell you this, I will. Maybe once you know what really is involved in running a company and employing people will you find not only the senses to coexist with your boss in the office, but how to become much more successful in your job, as well.

I know how hard it can be to let go of a fallacious way of thinking, but that is the price one must pay in order to benefit from profound truth.

This is a good thing, although almost always somewhat uncomfortable. I liken it unto a dentist’s syringe and drill, which may cause us some discomfort at first, but they help us avert even greater discomfort in future.

As I try to teach this lesson to general South Africa, I will be mixing in economic concepts to help demonstrate that this is not merely my opinion or ‘guru’ speak.

I have no interest in producing writing that hinges on the often factually-blind promise of hope.

You may not gain much hope for your situation from reading this article, but you will learn the reality of the situation.

Myth #1 - Your boss is an asshole simply because he is just an asshole!

Try to know someone personally before you feel personally insulted by their behaviour.

I used to become extremely agitated when my boss was snappy, short, or agitated with me or someone or (from what I could tell) for no reason at all. It was easy to get my lips to spell out A-S-S-H-O-L-E—without actually vocalizing it—as soon as I turned my head to go and effect the order(s) he had given me and others.

Little did I know what personal grief the man dealt with that would have left me a much grumpier personality had I suffered the same.

You see, years before I was employed, his wife suffered severe head injuries in a car accident that left her with permanent mental disability.

The boss’s leisurely weekend trip with his wife almost ended in total tragedy when a truck rear-ended the Mercedes he was driving in. That Mercedes—a source of envy and discomfort for many an employee of his—no doubt, saved the boss’s life! Had the boss died in that crash (or suffer similar injury as his wife did), his business would have been liquidated and the employees left jobless—and I personally would not have had my first job.

Seized by the grip of envy, many of us lose our ability to think objectively.

When I was told this story, I became quiet with reflection and shame.

If my fits and temper flairs were justified just by the tone of the boss’s voice, how much more justified were his, in light of what he has to deal with: a wife who was in one instant transformed from an independent partner helping him shoulder the burden of life and running a business to a mentally handicapped person stuck in a wheelchair … and with children still left to raise at that.

People who follow, either by choice or by circumstances, have an unnaturally high level of expectation from people who lead. Followers expect leaders never to have a bad day, a temper flair, or act unprofessionally. What few followers realise is that even the best of leaders are human and thus susceptible to buckling under pressure.

This is not to say that there are no bosses who are simply megalomaniacal psychos out to destroy the joy of those who work for them, but these extreme cases usually cannot stay in business very long, for they lose employees and customers at much the same rate their lose their temper.

Next time your boss acts in a way you deem unprofessional or offensive, perhaps do the human thing and approach him/her at a later stage and ask if everything is ok. You might get an enlightening explanation (even if brief) and an apology for their earlier conduct—without even asking for it.

Myth #2 – Your boss is just a selfish Scrooge McDuck

With the amount of time some employees spend on Facebook and twitter or just surfing the net, while they are at work and supposed to be working (remember that old-fashioned thing?), it amazes me how they can still complain that their boss pays them, month after month, for this ongoing waste of productivity; productivity that could help the company as a whole become more successful, so that employees can then justify their worthiness of a sizable raise, instead of just demanding it on their self-fabricated sense of personal worth.

Many bosses are the business owner and, as such, they are the last people to get paid after creditors have been paid and you and your colleagues have received your salaries.

The business owner is the one who bears the burden of not just running the business but making sure that all others receive their money first. This is tremendous risk and responsibility to any business owner.

If the month has been really good, the business owner may have made enough money to buy a car, cash—no doubt something you would envy. But the next month—the one you will, undoubtedly, enjoyed so much because you’ll hardly have anything to do—may see your boss take away a little more at the end of the month than you do.

Being a business owner means that you are not assured of a fixed monthly income and yearly bonus. Sitting at the very top of a business, things look very differently than it does merely filling out the ranks.

Would you be as quick at dispensing pocket money to your children or buying expensive presents for relatives and friends if you don’t know if this month you will make the same amount of money as the last? I dare say you would be much more tight-handed with your money, even if it were bonus month, because you never know when you have a really bad month that will require you to float on the extra you just made.

Bosses and business owners need to pay rent and bills like the rest of us. Even those who already own everything they own, still have a lifestyle to maintain.

You would not tolerate any objection that you lower your standard of living so as to give more money to charity, now would you? Why then should your boss or the business owner lower their standard of living (even if opulence is the norm for them) just because you want more of a salary?

The fact is that we are all selfish, this is evident by the fact that all of us enjoy some luxury or expense for the sake of our own enjoyment or benefit rather than giving the money we spent in this pursuit to someone who has a more urgent need for it.

Some of us are happy with a second hand car, a modest house, and a simple hobby or two. Some of us want multiple sports cars, mansions, and expensive hobbies and vices.

We all partake of our own greed to the extent that we are economically empowered. If you have a beater of a car, live in a shack, and have to make due with cheap beer as your vice, then you simply need to improve your economic ability to get to the next level.

Which brings us to the bitter truth many avert plug their ears and avert their gaze at the unveiling thereof:

It comes down to you

If you have a critical skill or ability, you will be paid more the moment you tender your resignation on the basis that your current salary is insufficient. Don’t be surprise if that is what it takes before you get taken seriously.

Remember, if someone is nervous about the amount of money they make per month, they may be resistant to pay you more, even if you are worth more. Tendering your resignation (and being honest about why you do so—despite all that bullshit cliché advice about always being ‘oh so fucking professional’) will get you that raise … again, provided you are worth it in the first place.

South Africa is, for the time being, a Capitalist system. That buys you enormous power as an employee.

Your boss can only be selfish to the extent that he does not drive him out of business. If you are one of the factors keeping him in business, and if you are hard to replace (by way of your superior productivity, skill, or talents), then you can twist the boss’s arm much further, financially, than that colleague of yours who is always on News24, reading the news instead of helping the boss make more money, thus later being able to fairly blackmail him for a raise.

Also, don’t you think your boss would show you a greater degree of respect if you showed were helping his business be more profitable? That practically sorts out his attitude problem, which will no longer affect you, because you are one of the key people he relies on to earn money through his business.

But too many people don’t get that raise or the respect they want when they threaten to leave, and this is because they simply aren't worth a penny more as it stands and nobody respects a loser—sorry to say it so bluntly.

These disgruntled employees are stuck job hopping, and their C.V.s collect a breadth of experience but at a shallow depth. Basically, these people cannot move up because they are always moving sideways, and the irony is that they do it to themselves!

Economic facts that you can’t escape

Your personal productivity is what defines you in the world. There is a reason why a senior software developer is paid tenfold that of a junior software engineer. The senior is roughly 10 times more productive, or can handle 10 times the complex issues that the junior can.

The junior software engineer will never get the tenfold increase in his salary until he can match the senior in productivity or skill.

This is the reality of what you are worth as a working professional. So unless you were born with looming wealth by way of the hereditary principle, then you are going to have to earn your way to the top.

But there are alternatives that could see you enjoy (or suffer) the conditions your boss or the business owner are accustomed to.

A moment of clarity (the way out)

Somewhere along the line, our junior software engineer simply gets gatvol of the long hours and many years needed to catch up with the senior software developer and his enviable salary, so he decides to take whatever he has saved thus far and start his own business.


Now the man is theoretically worth what the senior software engineer is. But how is that?

It is simple really. When our now CEO started owning his own business and employing people to work for him, he increased his own productivity exponentially by taking a bit of money from several people’s efforts—so he increased his ‘salary’ beyond what he alone is capable of.

Now the only trick is getting more profit so he can get more people, so he can make even more profit. The man is well on his way to becoming the next Bill Gates.

Simple huh?

Sure there are some risks, but unless you really don’t know what you are doing or can’t find skilled people (an ever growing problem in South Africa, as many of the skilled ones have already left for overseas—my ass included), you will enjoy being your own boss, free from the orders and the seemingly arbitrary and excessive heights you needed to reach to enjoy the same financial prosperity you now do being your own boss.

So long to your days scurrying about as a rat in the corporate mill! There truly is a god, and he has blessed you!

I hope that this all sounds so wonderful and tangibly real (for it is that real) to you that you immediately tender your overdue resignation, flip your bastard of a boss and his sweatshop of a company the finger, and start your own business right now!

You can start being the one giving the orders and making the real money…

…Until you realise that you finally have all the responsibilities of a business owner and all the pressures of a business owner (which systematically transform you into a selfish asshole), and – here is the crux of the matter – all those fucking lazy employees who simply refuse to work to make sure that you all get even richer!