BEIJING - Lately a friend of mine was particularly busy looking for a bottle of red wine of a certain year from a certain Spanish vineyard. It took him quite a lot of time and trouble and a lot of calling in favors to find the wine and get it brought back from abroad.
Alas, when he presented it to his boss, the man just said: "I don't want it anymore. Not many Chinese people know this wine. It isn’t bling-bling enough."
My friend, who has a very good temperament, felt the impulse to hang himself.
Bosses rarely even consider their subordinates feelings and difficulties. In his book “Gold Collar Notes: Why Bosses Never Get Sick,” Li Guowei offers a very acute anatomical study of this phenomenon. "The only thing bosses care about is making sure that things get done well. They never care about what is reasonable. One can’t even speak about reason to one’s father, mother, son or cat, let alone to a boss."
Some bosses are particularly fanciful in their thinking and love unrealistic ideas. What never seems to occur to them is that their arbitrary orders can be hell for their subordinates.
A friend who works in a bank was recently given the task to invite an important government official for a major event. When the person in question said he was unavailable, my friend's boss exploded: "Why is it that Zhang was able to get him for the last event in another city, and you can't even manage it with a local event?"
Dejected and bitter, my friend asked asked me: "Am I supposed to kidnap him?"
Bosses also expect their subordinates to have the same energy levels and stamina that they have. Ceaseless demands can cause workers to end up seriously ill.
What's that smell?
Even when one of my friends took sick leave, his boss kept calling him constantly. It was supposed to show that he cared, but in fact it was clear from the boss's words and behavior that all he cared was that my friend would finish his outstanding assignments.
Still, it’s not hard to understand why Chinese bosses are so unsympathetic. They themselves are constantly worrying about their own bosses, and frankly have too many other things to worry about other than their poor workers’ feelings.
So what is the best way to deal with the boss?
Li Guowei said in his book: “One should try changing one’s boss and boldly guess their habits.” In my opinion, for those who are at the level of just holding onto their rice bowl, it ain’t going to be easy. The imperative is to be prepared for any kind of situation.
For instance, my last boss had a Singaporean female superior. She was particularly intractable when she travelled on business. One of her requests was always to have some sort of aroma ready in her room before she even arrived. One time, she went on a trip to a rural western province of China. Her secretary nervously organized everything for her.
Everything seemed so perfect from the lunch menu to the meeting room. Unfortunately, when the boss went back to her hotel room and opened the door of the bathroom she was almost knocked over by the stink coming out of the room. She called the front desk right away in a fury: “What have you put in my bathroom!?”
The hotel manager calmly noted that her secretary “called three times to make sure of having mosquito repellent? We put it on one hour in advance," he said. "It’s even double what you asked for!”