Blog, Thoughts

The Boss University

Yesterday morning till noon I attended an introduction meeting with an executive and senior managers of a company located somewhere in TB Simatupang. What unique about these people was that all of them had been serving the company for more than 20 years, two were above 25 years, and the CEO himself had the record of more than 30 years.

Long-life employment was once identical with Japanese companies. Whilst many of them had already abandoned the old practice, the above European company apparently not only survived but also flourished with all these old timers.

One of many lessons I got when I worked in a Japanese company was that long-life employment has also its dark sides. When I visited one of its research centers at Tokushima, I saw a man in his fifties was doing paperwork at the corner of a room.

Knowing that I was giving attention to that man, somebody whispered at me that this man was once an important person in the company and had a very big and nice office, but for some reasons he was degraded, got trivial job and was given a small table at a corner of an open room.

While walking out of the room, I told to myself that it might be better for that man to be fired rather than being humiliated that way. But then if you lost a job in Japan at that time, it’s almost impossible to get a new one. Seemingly he had no choice.

I got a good chance to work in 8 different companies since 1986. The shortest service was 6 months, and the longest one was 7 years, the rest were between 2-3 years. Hence I got chances to work with different bosses, and met many more new faces as well.

At one time I thought that I might be a better person if I could learn from the good as well as the bad sides of those people who happened to my superiors. I wish I knew tacit knowledge concept earlier so I could observe their behaviors better, had chances to imitate and practice while the persons were still around. Finally I could be liberated and became what I wanted to be.

Still I could reflect, even though my memories were almost gone, but let me give a try.

The first boss was a supervisor in his early fifties. This man was respected primarily because he knew how to respect his subordinates.

The second boss built and maintained relationship with the shareholder by playing billiard and golf with him.

The third boss was a workaholic Japanese man. He worked real hard during the day, quite active and frequently went to the field to meet customers and get first hand information. Then he played hard in the evening. It was him who introduced me to a karaoke bar at Blok-M. He’s a good singer.

The next boss was a person who was very active in professional organization to leverage his position in the company. I always said to myself that he’s not that smart, but he utilized what he had up to its maximum. The results were far more impressive compared to those who were a lot smarter than him.

Next was a smart well educated Japanese person who had a strong attention to details, and got results by devising and refining aggressive incentive schemes, and pushed people up to their limits.

Then a Filipino-born US expatriates with a strong finance background, soft-spoken, fatherly manner, had a regular weekly management meeting –sometimes twice, always shared information of what’s happening in the regional office and headquarter, well maintained connection with people in higher ladder, regularly invited all associates to have parties in his apartments, sent managers to numerous overseas meetings and trainings, often treated people in fine and exclusive restaurants.

I wouldn’t tell you my current boss yet, maybe later, but what I can tell you now is that he’s a good person, and definitley I learnt something from him, and still.

Well, that's it, a snapshot. Now, I'm interested in learning from your “boss university” as well. You wouldn't mind sharing it with me, would you?

, seorang pejalan musiman dan penyuka sejarah. Penduduk Jakarta yang sedang tinggal di Cikarang Utara. Diperbarui: February 10, 2007.

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