When I was a senior in high school, we had show choir rehearsals in the summer. My partner dropped out of show choir, so I was left trying to dance alone. My freshman brother is a pretty talented singer and dancer, so I asked him to stand in until the director found me a new partner, and he agreed. After the first rehearsal, we’re driving home, and he says to me, “Ashley, you’re like, a real person! Boys flirt with you, and you have friends, and you tell jokes… it’s like… wow, you’re a real person!” I found this to be hilarious, and a bit confusing, as I’d had boyfriends and friends over to the house several times throughout high school. I “got it” when I realized that my PARENTS are real people! (Trust me, THAT was a shock to the system!) I’ve noticed it before, but some recent interactions with my Big Boss made me realize that he’s a real person, too.
I think sometimes we put the boss on a pedestal, thinking they’re this far off, aloof person with whom we can’t interact like “normal people”. And, in some companies, that’s true. My Big Boss is the CEO of our parent company, so he’s incredibly busy and important. I always feel like I need to get to the point when I need his sign-off on something, and generally, when he says, “jump”, people say, “how high?” But he’s not a power monger at all. In fact, he’s a pretty regular guy, and he’s not all business, all the time. He always makes a point to ask how I’m doing and how my MBA classes are going, and he’ll usually relate some kind of story from his time pursuing the MBA. He’s told me funny stories about his kids, and he jokes with the other VPs and C-level managers. On one business trip, I was having a meeting recap with my direct supervisor, and my Big Boss walked past on his way back from the gym. He sat down in his shorts and tennis shoes and talked strategy with us for an hour. His insight was really helpful, and he took a lot of my ideas in stride, which made me feel great about contributing to a conversation that could have gone way above my head.
I think realizing that the boss is a real person, too, is helpful in the workplace. Realizing that you’re all on the same team, you’re all trying to make your way in the business world, and you all have families and lives outside the office builds camaraderie, and increases productivity. I know I’m much more willing to make sacrifices for a boss that I can relate to, and a boss that seems to be in the trenches as well.