An IRS office was keeping a close eye on a small company with only a few employees. The income reported by the small business on its annual income tax form seemed to the IRS to be more than could be expected by the company's limited number of employees, unless there was a lot of overtime. The problem was that the small business reported no overtime being paid to its employees. Hence, an IRS agent was sent to look into the matter.
When he arrived, he introduced himself and explained to the owner that he wanted to take a look at his books. The owner responded by laying out his books on his desk and inviting the agent to spend as much time as he wanted looking over all the figures. The agent confirmed that no overtime was being paid, yet the income was more than seemed reasonable for the number of employees. He decided to interview the owner.
The agent was surprised at how open and at ease the owner was, which was unusual when someone was hiding something. He questioned the owner about whether he had any people working overtime. The owner replied: "There are two people who take their responsibilities very seriously and regularly work seventy or eighty hours a week, but they don't get paid overtime." Now the agent was sure he was on the right track, and he asked the owner if would give him their names so he could talk with them. The owner replied, "Yes, I'll be happy to. They are my wife and me."
The purpose of the story is to illustrate that owning a business may not be as glamorous as it seems to those who do not have full knowledge of what is going on.
I recently heard an interview on TV of a former CEO of a large company who voluntarily stepped down and is now the vice president. He said that it is so much easier being the vice president than being the president or CEO. The difference: the CEO has to make the final decisions; the vice president simply makes recommendations or carries out what the CEO assigns for him/her to do.
And what makes that better? He now has fewer worries when he goes home at night; he has more time with his family; he no longer wakes up several times at night trying to second guess the decisions he made; he never has to worry about meeting the payroll or having enough money in the bank to pay the bills; he finds more time to eat properly and exercise; and, overall, his existence as vice president instead of president is more pleasant, more satisfying, and more healthy--better for him and his family.
The point of both of these stories, one fictional and the other true, is that those in charge--whether owners of small businesses or CEOs of large corporations--undergo hardships that others, including the people working under their direction or leadership, may be unaware of.
During my professional career, I have had both experiences--being the person in charge and being the person that took direction from someone else who was in charge. When I was the head person, I always tried to be considerate of those working under me and was convinced that I was a competent and responsible leader. I bent over backwards to be fair and considerate to all levels of personnel. I learned later, however, from conversations I had with some of my staff members, that I did not always understand or appreciate their frustrations or those of people farther down the ladder.
On the other hand, when I was working for other people, I thought some of the things they did were really dumb or in some cases downright callused. I thought that, among other things, they should have paid more attention to suggestions that I and other staff members put forth--suggestions based on actually doing our jobs and knowing what would work. In 20-20 hindsight I know that I and the others were, in many instances, insensitive to the previous experiences and current problems and challenges facing the president or administrator.
Being retired now and having had multiple professional management experiences, I have reached several conclusions I feel very strongly about:
• It doesn't work to manage an institution, company, or organization by committee. One person needs to be in charge and held responsible.
• The big emphasis these days is "transparency." When possible, transparency can be a real internal morale builder and a positive influence on external public relation. But sometimes transparency just is not possible, and that is difficult for employees, the public, and the media to understand and accept.
• There are some people who are cut out to be in charge--have the talent, training, experience, and disposition to take the pressures and make the necessary decisions. There are others who have the talent, training, experience, and disposition that make them ideal for filling lower management positions or other positions down the ladder. But everyone must understand they cannot go it alone: people in all positions need the expertise of workers in all the other positions. There must be mutual respect for all levels of positions.
• Workers on every level of employment need to realize how important they are--that they play a significant, vital, and necessary role in what makes the United States of America uniquely successful.
• Management and labor must work harder at understanding the needs and frustrations of one another and what will be best for our country as a whole.
As Jesus said, it is so easy to see the speck in the other person's eye and fail to see the log in your own eye (Gospel of Matthew 7:3-5).