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TAILGATING- You have been following your Bosses?

22 Jun , 2014  

I define tailgating as following Ex-Bosses when they join new organisations. Whats behind this faith?

When I quit my previous employer, the curiosity of where I was headed, landed me in many farewell lunches and coffees. Thanks to my next employer, the word was out even before I had the opportunity to reveal it. Directly and implicitly many colleagues expressed keenness to work with me in my new organisation. Needless to say I felt complimented about my own fan following. By the time I had completed my notice period, I had a long list of people I needed for my entourage.

Being less loyal to my bosses in tailgating them, I wondered why people would follow their leaders. I say this as I see colleagues doing this in spite of being in good roles and having good track record. My own theories as to why people would follow could be flawed. I thought, in India we are emotional about relationships. But, I was managing few countries and I had a multinational team. Couple of coffee sessions and my send-off dinner allowed me to analyse the situation. My colleagues had to start all over with a new boss. As my successor was coming from another organisation, and this meant starting with an unknown person.

My colleagues had to accept new ways of working; the freedom may go away. If s/he brings her loyalists then they will become less important. Simply put, the anticipated change was less comforting than the need to sound loyal to their old boss. This wouldn’t change even if the successor is within the same organisation. Most of all it increases the baggage of what is already known and experienced about the new boss.

Tailgating : Pitfalls

Whenever I have seen tailgating or I have hired my ex colleagues some experiences have been common. Unknowingly there is a clan formed of ex-colleagues which would make trust building with new team difficult. Frequent quoting of how we did great things together meant praising competition. The arrived loyalists and leader will be under additional pressure to perform. As everybody is entitled to think that the new entrants have been handpicked by the leader based on loyalty.

There will always be attrition of good talent due to the new arrivals and their stated proximity to the leader. Once when I was moving to another role within the same organisation, there was a resignation of one of my reportees. I had to indulge my waiting time at the airport assuring the person & his wife, that I will eventually take him into my team. Needless to say he withdrew, but never got to work with me again. But, he got even better roles in the once he worked three months with the new incumbent.

Adaptation Resistance

Many a times we underestimate our own capability to work in unknown relationships. In my view, by avoiding following, we learn to adapt to new situations faster. Most importantly it will allow our self-esteem to blossom and prepare us, as an independent confident professional. We all have shown great adaptability in our personal lives. We have migrated from small towns to cities, changed schools & colleges. Dont forget we adjusted to new neighbourhoods, different friends, varying teachers & jobs too. Some of us have also braved relationship break ups, divorces, loss of dear ones and adapted to new personal relationships. I am sure we can show the same resilience in our professional lives too.

When I finished writing this, one of my direct reportees asked for a Monday morning meeting. I dread late Friday SMS for a Monday morning meeting, during the first week of the month. Yes, we know it, it was a resignation meeting. As it turns out to be, she was joining her ex-boss with whom she worked for a long time. For all the following, I had enjoyed in my career, this was a moment of truth of ‘what goes around comes around’.

Wikipedia defines Tailgating as the practice of driving on a road too close to the vehicle in front at a distance. This does not guarantee that stopping to avoid collision is possible.

Approximately one third of rear-end collisions involve Tailgating!

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Don’t follow me 🙂


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