This happened eons ago, another lifetime ago I would say. I was working for the private sector, the banking sector and as some of you might already know, it is a saturated market, meaning there isn’t much room, if any for growth. Every person in this beautiful country of ours has at least one bank account, perhaps one credit card and some are homeowners, implying that they have more than 2 products with their bank. So, the banks have no other choice than to steal each other’s clients, using any means necessary. How do they steal each other’s clients? I am so glad you asked…
Please go on any bank’s website and compare the products. You will notice that all charter banks have the same products, same rates, nearly identical opening hours, locations, websites, apps, and so on. There isn’t really any tangible difference. The only intangible difference comes from the service you will receive at any given bank. Even then, the service itself isn’t that different. The service is like any 21st century, customer-focused, hyper-super-extremely-annoyingly-polite, last name using, patient, fast, artificial intelligence suggesting service.
In the 21st century, the customer is always right, which is a sentence I cannot possibly agree with but that will be a subject for another day. Now, some unruly and shameless clients will take advantage of that dogmatic sentence by acting up a little, exaggerating their grievances and by playing the immensely dissatisfied client. Do banks mess up? Yes, they do, all the time, to stronger and lesser degrees. However, with the power of social media today, you can metaphorically, if not literally move mountains and have a bank on the news in a blink of an eye. Since no self-respecting bank could risk that kind of bad exposure or simply have a client badmouth them or a client ranting about how terribly they were treated, they capitulate and offer excuses and certain gifts to shut people up or as they say to “turn a detractor into an ambassador”. Technical jargon that makes me laugh today because it sounds so empty of substance. Again, this is a subject for another damn day!
Back to my awful boss. For the record, I did try to find another and less hurtful adjective, but I had to settle for “awful” because, the boss was just appalling, horrendous, bad, unpleasant, obnoxious, abominable, abysmal, laughable, and so many other words that I will spare you in the hope of preserving their dignity. I try my best to be fair to people and I believe I am a fair person. I still cannot think of one good thing about that boss except their academic career. The latter was enviable, top tier schools, one undergraduate degree and an MBA from Concordia. On paper, that person was mightily qualified.
However, the problem came from their one basic and fundamental flaw they had, a flaw that no manager should ever have if they want to thrive: the boss had no people skills! Allow me to be more specific. The 8 months (I still don’t know how I lasted that long with my big mouth) I spent there with the boss I saw no empathy, no patience. It was all about numbers, efficiency, results, dollar amounts you brought in, dollar amounts you allowed to walk out and have the bank lose money, etc. Results matter and in this fast-paced world, highly competitive, only results seem to matter, not necessarily retaining personnel, it would seem. The approach, if it could have been called that, was robotic, cold, calculating. If you performed, you were the golden boy/girl. If you under-performed, then may all the Gods from Mount Olympus come down and shield you from their wrath. I was lucky enough to be on the receiving end of one of their admonishments. If you haven’t been “yelled at” if not threatened with job termination, well, trust me when I tell you that you have missed out on a profoundly and effective life teaching moment.
Humiliation and scolding were their weapons of choice. I should point out that they were my boss’ boss. So, they weren’t there everyday, thank the Gods, otherwise the turnover rate would have been shamefully and suspiciously high. The person was awful because there was never a sign of encouragement or a small sense of asking questions as to what happened, if the person is having difficulties with a certain area of the business, if they need shadowing, one on one coaching, or if they are going through a slump because of something else and I don’t believe scolding my own boss in front of me is a well thought tactic.
I know I sound like a wuss, and it is fine. I don’t need an “atta boy”, applause or praise to do my job. You know what I need? Respect. That is all I am asking but it wasn’t on the menu. One time, I was berated so badly that I didn’t say anything and when asked to add anything since I couldn’t think of anything, I didn’t say anything. After they left, my manager profusely apologized, and I told him not to worry about it because he wasn’t responsible for anything. It was a surreal day. I was even asked if I wanted to take it up with HR. Who wants that kind of war?
Allow me to offer you a glimpse of my boss’ boss behavior and you will judge for yourselves: they would come to the branch and go straight to my manager’s office. No hello, no good morning to anyone in the branch. They would do so in the middle of the month at 9:30-10:00 am when the branch is empty, and employees weren’t busy. Not a simple hello. One time, as the big boss was leaving, I heard my own boss, say, in an immensely embarrassed way “perhaps you should say bye, what do you think?” to which the big boss responded, “Listen, I didn’t greet them coming in, I am not going do it now.”
I asked a former colleague of mine who knew the boss I am mentioning so passionately. He confirmed to me everything I just wrote. He said himself the person was probably, hands down, one of the worst bosses he had heard of in his long career. Life has blessed me with some capable, amazing bosses that literally elevated me, gave me opportunities, trained me, taught me the office politics that most people are oblivious to and that they don’t teach in business school, they have pushed me, they have allowed me to grow and express myself, they have pointed out my mistakes when I made them, they respected me, never threatened me and especially listened to me and my opinions.
To all the managers out there…If you think that instilling fear into your employees, humiliation, berating, punishment, unilateralism, and lack of communication are the ways to become an efficient manager, you are wrong, and you will fail. A true and efficient manager listens, coaches, accepts criticism, offers criticism, they are out to improve their employees skill set by giving them tools not by taking their confidence away.
A real manager has people skills because the technical stuff can be learnt anytime. Anyone can read a textbook and repeat word for word what is written in it. However, how to talk respectfully, how to motivate, how to manage different personalities, how to push people towards new heights, how to further your employees’ careers, and many more human and people skills, those are the only skills that matter. It is a fact. Respecting people, understanding people that is crucial for any human interaction and especially in the professional world.
I guess my former boss never got that skill. It matters not. I learned from them how to deal with people like that and ultimately how to avoid them. My 8 months weren’t a waste after all. One day, when I meet them, I will thank them for reminding me what a real manager is.
Just one man’s opinion.
Now, smile and go on with your day.