MAD DOG: Who's the Boss?

It's hard to find someone who likes their boss. Sure, people say they do because they're afraid their phone calls are being monitored, their email is being read, and the guy watching them on the surveillance camera can lip read, but if you really pin them down -- like by plying them with a free doughnut and a cup of lukewarm coffee -- you'll find out that like everyone else in the world, the only good thing they have to say about their boss is that he or she doesn't suck up all the oxygen in the room. Just most of it.It used to be that bosses periodically reviewed their employees, filling out four-page forms which fulfilled the requirements of both their management and sadistic duties. But lately these roles have become reversed. And in very public ways, no less.That's right, employees are now openly critiquing their bosses. Janet Reno spends most of her waking hours reviewing President Clinton's on-the-job performance. The rest of them she spends defending her good review to Congress, the media, and her evil twin, Louis Freeh. That's right, Janet Reno has thoroughly investigated her boss and cleared him. Contrast this with Latrell Sprewell, who reviewed his boss' performance and decked him.Sprewell, for those of you who never change your TV from the Home Shopping Network for fear you'll miss a sale on the Big-Eyed Dogs Playing Play Station reproduction shower curtain, is the basketball player for the Golden State Warriors who lost a $24 million contract when he mistook his coach's instructions to "punch out for the night" to mean "punch out my lights." Hey, it's an easy mistake to make. Sprewell choked the coach, left the building, then returned and slugged him. So much for a cooling off period.Since this occurred there have been private apologies, public press conferences, and the 90's answer to everything, hiring O.J. Simpson's attorney, Johnny Cochran. Even San Francisco mayor Willie Brown got into the fray when he said Sprewell's coach, P.J. Carlesimo, "may have needed choking." If that becomes a viable defense, companies are going to have a hard time getting anyone to accept a promotion into management.Boss bashing is nothing new. Back in Merry Olde England it was common to use an advanced placement program to ascend the throne faster than nature would have allowed by, uh, eliminating upper management. Defending your decision was easier too. Back then you just beheaded anyone who didn't approve of your means of career enhancement, today you hire the Dream Team.Before you think this high-profile management review doesn't affect you, remember, we're all bosses in one way or another. The CEO of your company bosses the president around. The president bosses the vice-presidents around. They, in turn, boss the middle managers, who boss you, and you, of course, take this to mean that it's okay for you to boss your employees around. It's the Trickle Down Theory of Management: Intimidate those who work below you until you see something trickle down their leg."But I'm the low person on the totem pole," you may be whining, like that's going to shoot a hole in this theory. Face it, that's why you got married. And why you have children. And your children have pets. True, pets offer companionship, providing your idea of companionship is watching slobber drool out of a dog's mouth onto your lap or hoping the cat will finally decide to pay attention to you other than when it's hungry. Or wants to go out. Or decides its litterbox needs cleaning.No, the truth is pets are on the low end of the boss-food chain, their very existence based on the fact that you need to vent your frustrations by ordering someone around. Why do you think you tell them to sit when they want to stand, heel when they want to run, fetch when they want to sleep, and play dead when they'd rather chew up your brand new $200 shoes?Hopefully it won't be long before people get over the need to broadcast these public displays of alienation. Face it, it's just not pretty to air your dirty laundry where everyone can see it. If you're going to criticize your high profile boss, the least you can do is do it in the privacy of your own tell-all book. After all, it's much less violent, much less airtime consuming, and much more civil. Oh yeah. And much more profitable too.

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