Cultural Stereotypes. Fears of the Boss

President of Institute of Internal Auditors Armenia Ara Chalabyan provided his recent article on fears of bosses, which hinder keeping pace with the times. 

After the article "Is the Boss Always Right?" where I touched upon cultural challenges, I decided to write about our everyday myths that are closely related to the cultural traditions. Myths or legends are born out of fears. Since ancient times, when people were unable to explain some phenomena, they created myths around them. 

The first article from this series is about fears of bosses that hinder the development. In order to justify those fears, they invent myths that become stereotypes. Those stereotypes slow down decision-making and execution as not all the stakeholders are involved, and, consequently, they do not take the ownership. 

Myth 1. The Boss should be strict in order to have discipline 

Since Soviet times, it has been a common belief that a good boss is the strict boss; he ensures the discipline without which there will be a mess. We often confuse the external strictness with being demanding, when the boss keeps a distance from employees under the cover of strictness, but in fact does not maintain the same rigidity in matters pertaining to him. Employees feel and see it and this ultimately seriously affects their motivation. This stereotype is often successfully overcome by IT sector managers who are demanding in terms of results and at the same time are team players.

Myth 2. Accepting the opinion of employee is a sign of weakness

The same "Soviet" managers believe that in no case they should show weakness to their subordinates (subordinates, not teammates). Accepting subordinate’s opinion is considered as a sign of weakness, whereas in today's informational world it is impossible to know all answers; in order to achieve the best outcome all the efforts should be united, active idea sharing and diverse opinions should be encouraged.

Myth 3. I can not communicate with low-level employees

Another formality is a meaningless subordination: "I can only communicate with those who have a position at least equal to mine." So why should those with higher position communicate with you, and how will people develop and progress? I came across an extreme case when the boss refused participation to a conference with hundreds of participants with that reasoning. Knowledge does not ask what position you have.

Myth 4. Nobody wants to take responsibility 

We often hear from managers that nobody wants to take responsibility and they have to take all the decisions personally. Responsibility and authority are going hand in hand, no one wants to assume responsibility without authority. When the manager easily changes the decision of the subordinate or, even worse, reprimands him for a wrong decision, the result is "delegation" of all decisions upwards.

Myth 5. If I do not check their work, they will deceive me

The "Soviet" manager does not trust anyone and instead of surrounding himself with trusted people, prefers to check everybody regularly and make them compete against each other. A good leader creates a healthy collaborative environment for competitive teammates, where the best results are achieved through creativity. 

Myth 6. We can’t attract good employees 

Weak managers surround themselves by weak people, although they usually claim the opposite. You just have to look at who surrounds them and everything becomes clear. Justification, usually, is that we can not attract good employees, they require a high salary. Though remuneration is an important factor for an employee, it is not of a less importance what he/she is doing and in what environment. Today in Armenia we meet people who have moved to the homeland, leaving their highly paid jobs abroad, because they want to live their lives in a meaningful way.

Myth 7. If we train our employees, they will leave

The financial director tells the CEO. "We spend lot of money on educating employees and they leave." The CEO responds: "Imagine if we don’t and they all stay."

Managers often complain, and in extreme cases even create obstacles for their employees to develop and receive international qualifications, because then they leave. It means that we keep uneducated people with no ambition who, however, do not deliver results. When a newly qualified employee immediately thinks about a new job, it speaks about the environment, in spite of which he/she gained qualification. In our team, the majority has international qualifications, others pass exams and will be qualified in a year or two, because qualification is the natural requirement of the environment and not the means to escape from it.

Among the young people who have never seen the Soviet Union (where there were also good leaders), I frequently notice the same fears that materialize as soon as they get their first managerial position. Probably those fears are deeply seating at the subconscious level. They do not allow moving forward, as a result we cannot fully use our creative potential. One has to be able to find strength not to live with other’s myths, get rid of fears and build his/her own way.