Are Super Bosses Really “Sooper”?

21 Jul , 2015  

As the name suggests, the boss’s boss (or better known as the super boss) is way “stronger” than your direct boss. Most times, super bosses have an enigmatic and powerful aura surrounding them. Call it a “misconstruction” of the reality you see, but the power that comes with the position of a “super boss” has a much better impact than your own boss because (s)he’s higher up the chain of command and maybe indirectly or directly calling the shots.  And when you have access to the big boss; you actually have a significant chance of boosting your career prospects; and ultimately, you have an alternative outlet to vent your frustration especially when your direct boss is the source for the same!

So who are the super bosses who have touched your lives?

Kamal, get me out of this guy’s span of control by end of this year,” pleaded one of my managers with tears rolling down her cheeks (literally!).

My manager was referring to one of my many direct reports (DR) to whom she was assigned to. I tried hard to sympathize with her but I was getting more and more conscious from the eyeballs we were receiving from other curious lunch onlookers at the restaurant.

“My regular skip level meetings are getting to be a touch uncomfortable for me,” I said to myself. More importantly, I knew that I had to figure out a way to find a right balance between concerns highlighted by skip level employees and the manner in which I managed my senior leaders. I assured her that I will look into the matter urgently and fairly.

As the week passed on and I proceeded to have more lunches and informal meets with skip level employees about this particular DR and others, I came to realise that the manager-in-tears was right. I promptly executed a change in leadership within 6 months.

Sometimes I fret when I act based on such feedback; I ask myself if I’m doing the right thing by being accessible to employees who are reporting into my leaders; but time and again I rationalise that I’m merely doing my job as a super boss by setting into motion a set of check and balance mechanics to gauge the overall emotional quotient of a team who are all working in groups yet bound by organizational goals.

So what are the customary roles of a super boss?

  1. Reinforcing organizational strategy and messaging
  2. A super boss can also play the role of an advocate to skip level reportees as employees look up to super-bosses for appreciation.
  3. Giving assurance to skip level reportees that they are in safe hands and to demonstrate that checks and balances exist on processes; key deliverables; staying connected with the people; and solving unresolved conflicts between an immediate supervisor and his DRs.
  4. Bridging and filling in the gaps of an immediate supervisor’s leadership style (or rather, the lack of it!).

Without a doubt, a super boss can invoke a plethora of emotions depending on our experiences of them. Hence, let’s not forget about super bosses who also bring along disruptions and confusions like these:

  1. Undermining an immediate supervisor by overruling decisions made by them; or worst, never allowing an immediate supervisor to make a decision!
  2. Constantly reminding the larger organisation on who’s the “real” boss
  3. Hijacking meetings with distractive discussions to prove a point or to show blatant animosity towards the immediate supervisor.
  4. Engage in “gossips” with direct reports during lunch and after office hours; not bothering with the fact that skip level reports can get a whiff of this from miles away!

I have been fortunate to have had most of my super bosses in a different location/city; and only having to host them as visitors with limited damage to me 🙂 But yet again, in today’s virtual world of work, distance is NOT a hindrance if you absolutely “need” to make your presence felt!

This post would not be complete without me paying tribute to a few outstanding super bosses from my past employers who bailed me out of some conflicting situations including saving me from a few bad bosses! To Seth Sir, Rajiv, Santosh, and KPR:  thank you for the positive super boss experiences you’ve given me. I sometimes wonder how my career would have been without your timely assistance and intervention. I wish I could do these as poignantly as you did!

A super boss can act as an excellent bridge when required but MUST NEVER stand in the way of an immediate supervisor!

A super boss can act as an excellent bridge when required but MUST NEVER stand in the way of an immediate supervisor!

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