The Bosses We Don’t Want

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Villainy vs. Humanity

The bosses we’ve seen depicted during childhood, those like Cosmo Spacely of The Jetsons, Mr. Slate of The Flintstones, Mr. Burns of The Simpsons, and so many others may all be caricatures of a bygone era, but there are those of us who still experience such oppressive workplace environments to this day. Some may even perpetrate it, even if inadvertently.

We’ve seen the vocal backlash against quiet quitters and great reshufflers, employees who yearn for a better deal. We’ve also seen employers long for the day when Mr. Burns would return from antiquity to become a role model for corporate management. The power struggle has become more obvious than it once was, heralding what some bemoan as a Second Gilded Age. It’s a fear poignantly emphasized over and over, the sentiment of which is covered in stories such as in this video by CNBC.

While the factors propelling glaring disparity are many, what is perhaps worthy of acute, undivided focus is how we treat one another during such unsettling times. The apathetic rhetoric from toxic employers demanding subservience fans the flames raging across this widening rift. Some of this, as detailed by David Brooks’s How America Got Mean in the Atlantic, may originate from a pronounced cultural shift accentuating the self over the community, a point summarized in this interview.

Lost in the midst of such unrelenting self-absorption is curiosity and compassion for those with different views and positions. This, however, is a rift made crossable when we approach one another with a willingness to understand, exemplified in this scene from Ted Lasso. While Mr. Burns may embody the authoritarianism of Gilded Age bosses, those like Ted Lasso embody something pertinent to what our society lacks today.

Authoritarian bosses are common depictions on TV. For every Leslie Knope of Parks and Rec, a leader who largely cares for and supports others, there are a dozen managers like Office Space’s Bill Lumbergh. Yet it’s the Ted Lassos and Leslie Knopes we’d probably all prefer. The leaders who forsake egoism for altruism are the leaders who earn trust, inspire motivation, and cross divides.

Eclipsing individual differences and societal turbulences is morality—our approach, appreciation, and accountability to each other. That’s how we, as leaders and members of society, transcend caricatures of villainy to examples of humanity.

“Instead of assured progress in wisdom and decency man faces the ever present possibility of swift relapse not merely to animalism but into such calculated cruelty as no other animal can practice.” 
– Martin Luther King Jr.

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