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February 6, 2009

Just Because Iím Paranoid Doesnít Mean My Employees Arenít Ripping Me


There they are. I can see them out my window. Five of my employees are all walking to lunch together.


I was not invited. This, I do not take personally. There is a perfectly good reason they didnít invite me. Iím an idiot. And the whole point of the lunch excursion is to discuss this fact.


You sound like youíre taking it personally to me, D.F.!


Shows what you know.


The fact that they are discussing my idiocy is not personal at all. It is strictly business. It is one of the facts of life you deal with when you are a CEO. There is a very good case to be made for the notion that I am an idiot, and they are all over at that Irish/Celtic/whatever place discussing it right now. Oh, theyíll be late getting back. Thereís a lot of ground to cover.


Understand, CEOs, employees must do this. It is therapeutic for them. If you tried to stop them, you would only cause the steam to be blown off in some other, less constructive way. Think disgruntled postal worker. You get the picture and itís not pretty.


First, hereís why Iím an idiot. Itís not complicated:


  • I make more dumb decisions than anyone else in the company. But wait, you protest, thatís an unfair measurement because I make all the decisions. Thatís true. But fairness has nothing to do with it. But wait, you protest again, donít I also make some good decisions? Sure. But a good decision takes care of itself, and thereís no reason to discuss it. Besides, employees donít need to stew over good decisions, except to take a moment to tell you they were all actually their ideas.


  • The dumb decisions I make are extremely consequential. When I make a dumb decision, people have to do things over, work late, wait too long for something or maybe even lose their jobs. Iím a bigger idiot because my idiocy matters more.


  • Even though I am a complete idiot, I make more money than they do. But wait, you protest, how big an idiot can you be if you make the most money? Isnít your boss an idiot? I rest my case. This makes my dumb decisions all the more egregious. I should dock my own pay every time I do something stupid, and give it to them. Do I do that? What do you think I am, an idiot?


(I hope you liked the three bullet points.)


If employees donít go off without me and talk behind my back about what an idiot I am, they wonít be good employees. They will be frustrated and will feel unnaturally muzzled. If you fear employees thinking you are a complete moron, take this advice and donít forget it: Donít become a CEO. There is no avoiding it.


And itís not a bad thing. If they criticize your decisions, it means they care about them being good decisions. When they stop caring, thatís when youíve got a problem.


Now I know what many of you are thinking: If my employees have a problem with me, I want them to come and tell me to my face!


No you donít. You think you do, but you donít. Hereís why you donít: First of all, much of what they disagree with is inconsequential. It would be a waste of your time to hear about it. You could do it your way or their way and it really wouldnít make any difference. Second, sometimes they are the idiots, and if you have to hear them out and then reject their advice, youíve as good as told them that.


Sure, your door should always be open if someone needs to talk to you about something important. But most of the stuff theyíre complaining about at the Irish/Celtic/whatever restaurant is so irrelevant, they donít even think it matters that much.


So when you see them all heading off to lunch, and you think to yourself, ďAm I paranoid for thinking theyíre all going over there to rip on me?Ē the answer is: Just because youíre paranoid doesnít mean theyíre not ripping on you.


And be glad they are. While theyíre over there taking you apart, you can make some more dumb decisions! Fodder for tomorrowís lunch.


© 2009 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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