Dear Boss

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I was browsing at the airport book shop in Kolkata, and this book caught my attention. “Dear Boss”. I scanned the pages and found that the book was a series of letters that employees had written to their boss. Each letter was a ‘everything I always wanted to tell you, but was afraid that you wouldn’t listen’ type letter. I read a few of them and was hooked. I bought the book.

I finished reading the book on the flight from Kolkata to Bangalore. On my way home I looked at a few pages again. That is when a crazy idea occurred to me. What if I gave it to my colleagues and asked them to underline sections they thought were relevant to me. I knew that the past year was difficult and I had been relentless and demanding. A trifle autocratic perhaps. People had misgivings but never expressed them. This could be a great opportunity. I liked the idea.

Next morning I called a few of my senior colleagues and handed the book to them. This is what I said “I am off for a heads of office meeting and am away for a week. Here is a fascinating book of memos from employees to the boss. Can you please go through these and underline portions you think are relevant to me. You don’t need to put your names there. When I am back I will share a summary of your thoughts. Can you do this for me?”

The day I returned my secretary handed over the book. I took a glance. They had underlined sentences, highlighted paragraphs and added margin notes too. Every page had something on it. I took that home and read all the sections with care and attention. It looked like my colleagues had a field day marking lines and passages. It must have been fun.

However it was cathartic for me. Half way through I was beginning to feel unhappy and somewhat upset. After all that I had done for them, this is what they thought of me. Tyrant. Slave driver. Hitler. Insensitive. Yet, I put together a summary of their message to me.

Next day I called my senior colleagues to the conference room. There was palpable tension. I think they expected me to howl! I read out my summary and ended with a comment “I can’t understand why you are working for a guy like this. I never would.”

No one spoke. I sat still with the summary in my hand. Then one of the creative people spoke. She said “The trouble with this book is that it is a litany of complaints. I wish I could tell why I am working for you, not withstanding your problems.”

Others joined the conversation and I ended the meeting with a checklist of what I must do. What I must continue, do differently, stop doing and start doing. Everyone felt good.

My first ever experience with 360 feedback!

R. Sridhar

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