‘A**hole’ or ‘Idiot’?

After graduation, I joined a manufacturing company as a Graduate Engineer Trainee (GET). At the end of the day-long ‘orientation’, our General Manager, an industry veteran told us, “Gentlemen, I presume, like most fresh graduates, you are fired with idealistic thoughts. You would like to treat all your juniors with respect and dignity. Both as an individual and as your GM, I agree with you. However, I will give you some practical advice based on my 25 years’ experience in various manufacturing organisations. Please remember that your juniors are all factory workers. Their mindset is a bit different from yours. They classify their bosses into 2 categories: strict, demanding bosses are ‘a**holes’, while lenient, laidback bosses are ‘idiots’! Each one of you will be labelled by your juniors as an ‘a**hole’ or an ‘idiot’. There is no third category. There are no other terms. Don’t be under the illusion that a lenient, laidback boss will be categorized as a ‘good man’. You have to decide whether you want to be an ‘a**hole’ or an ‘idiot’!”

All ten GETs were dumbstruck!

The GM continued, “Let me put it slightly differently. You don’t have to be a strict, demanding boss all the time. If your juniors think that they can’t fool around with you, they will respect you and will work sincerely and efficiently. However, if your juniors think that they can get away with fooling around with you, they will fool around with you. So, at the earliest available opportunity, you must prove to them that you can be an ‘a**hole’ if you want to, and that it’s in their own interest to ensure that you are not provoked into behaving like an ‘a**hole’!”

Fortunately, I got my opportunity in my second week on the job. One morning, I gave the ‘Office Boy’ some documents to be photocopied. He told me he was busy with some work for the Works Manager, so he would do my work immediately after the lunch break. As he walked away, one of the workers in my section smiled at me and said, “Saheb, your work will remain undone for at least one week. Getting that guy to do his work is like getting the sun to rise in the west! He was very hardworking when he started working here. But, he changed completely after he received his Confirmation Letter.” I replied, “I know this guy is an ‘a**hole’. What he doesn’t know is that, if I want to, I can also be an ‘a**hole’. The sun will rise in the west today!” I was quite sure my comment would be dutifully conveyed to the ‘Office Boy’!

As I was walking back from the Canteen after lunch, I met the ‘Office Boy’. I asked him if he had started photocopying my documents. He replied that, after completing the Works Manager’s work, the Design Manager had given him some urgent work. He would definitely do my work by the evening. Raising my voice a bit, I replied, “My friend, if you do not deliver my photocopied documents within an hour, you will face disciplinary action. I am not obliged to explain things to you. If you don’t believe me, don’t do my work.”

30 minutes later, the ‘Office Boy’ delivered my photocopied documents. He said, “Sir, I hope you are happy now. Anyway, what would you have done if I had not done your work by now?” I smiled and replied, “Sonny, I’ve already told you I am not obliged to explain things to you. If you want to find out what I can do, just act funny with me again!”

The workers in my section had seen that I had made “the sun rise in the west”! I was categorized an ‘a**hole’!

From that day, even though I never behaved like an ‘a**hole’, my juniors worked sincerely and efficiently. They thought, maybe rightly so, that it’s in their own interest to ensure that they did not provoke me into behaving like an ‘a**hole’!”

As I had stated in my post ‘Turn the other cheek? Or offer to slap back?’, with some people, it is only a real threat of penalty or retaliation that works! This is not restricted to any particular category of people. Educational qualification, socio-economic status, etc. have absolutely nothing to do with it.

Have you come across people who follow rules and laws only because of the fear of penalty or retaliation?

Do you always follow rules and laws willingly, or are there some rules and laws that you follow only when there is a fear of penalty or retaliation?

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10 thoughts on “‘A**hole’ or ‘Idiot’?

  1. Most drivers on the follow road rules only due to the fear of penalty and retaliation don’t they. If they notice that there are no cops within 50 metres on either side of a signal, then do they care for the Red Light, they don’t.

    The only place where queues are formed in an orderly manner in the city of Chennai are in front of the Govt run liquor stores, and the only reason is because that is the only way in which you can buy liquor from there. Now, if that isn’t the fear of penalty and retaliation, what is?

    Nice post, though trying to imagine you as an a**hole (even a nice one) is quite difficult for me 🙂

  2. In almost all routine things in life, only the fear of penalty begets action. It is sad that even within the family…and with children, a yell gets more done than a soft word. 🙂 Makes me think people are wired that way.

    Rules are invariably followed only to avoid penalty…although not wearing a helmet, flouting road rules don’t seem to be taken seriously yet.

    Yet, there will always be people who stand out, who shine. And those are the people one remembers. 🙂

  3. Oh. Yes…have absolutely seen people who do stuff just out of fear. A simple example is that of students…not all…a handful. ..who are forced to be in college on time, maintain a minimum attendance and get required miimum marks to avoid disciplinary action and just to get their degree. Forget corporates, I needed to show students that I am capable of what I am supposed to do and more…in order to gain their respect and cooperation. Gone are the days of doing things because we need to do it well and because we derive satisfaction of doing it right. There are always exceptions of course. A very practical post 🙂

  4. Hindi has an adage – “Laaton ke bhooth baato sey nahi maantey” – what can be done done with a kick in the a**s cannot be done with a polite word. At times acting tough does work and it is called for to assert authority!

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