Management by Harassment By Nusrat Osama Jun 8, 2012


bow-tie-businessman-fashion-man.jpgThe boss is always right … rule No 1.

If the boss is wrong … refer to rule No 1.

‘Bad bosses play checkers. Good bosses play chess’

When I take a long time, I am slow. When my boss takes a long time, he is thorough.

These and many similar adages describe the qualities of bosses. Bosses like ‘boxes’ come in all shapes, sizes and colours. Somebody might think what is the relationship between a boss and a box, well there is: boxes and bosses resemble in their holding capacity. The emptier, the noisier. There are good bosses and there are bad bosses, some are remembered with reverence and some with a shudder and some not at all.

Not all bosses are bad but those who are, are capable of making lives of their  subordinates hell. Some time back I read in a magazine that , ‘When we see people acting in an abusive, arrogant or demeaning manner towards others, their behavior almost always is a symptom of their lack of self- esteem. They need to put someone else down to feel good about themselves.’…. this made me think of the ‘Fauji Bosses’ I had during the long period of my service as a teacher and as an administrator.

Discipline to the point of blind, often thoughtless obedience, is a well-established norm of military training. Ragging and belitteling juniors in the academies is aimed at producing officers who only say ‘Yes,Sir!’  ‘No,’ does not exist in their dictionary.

However, over the years I have come to realize that this harassment is not just something these fauji bosses do just like that but have a full- fledged theory of management around it. I call it management by harassment. It works like this: A new boss gets appointed to a position. His first order of duty is to pass an outrageous order that will create a stir in the institution. As everyone scrambles on his or her toes to meet the un-meetable demands, he settles down in his routine. This process repeats once more when he is about to leave and is looking for a promotion or an extension.

Underlying the principle of management by harassment is the fundamental insight: Boss’s degree of ‘comfort’ in a job is indirectly proportional to his subordinates.

Most of the army men who look for jobs after release from active service find the education department most lucrative and attractive. Reason being it is densely populated by women- as teachers, head teachers and principals. These women are easy targets to their ill-equipped managerial skills and their innate habit to harrass. Whatever education they receive is in line with their profession. A person who has commanded an Armored brigade or an artillery brigade does not have any idea how to run educational institutes. They may be good commanders and excellent soldiers but the training which is instilled in their very being makes them unfit for the post of an educationist. The political instabilty in our country unfortunately made way for the entry of the armed forces in almost all the fields of our society including the department of education. Some entered as teachers, but most with higher ranks as administrators and directors.

One relevant incident is where, to create a furor in a smooth environment, a gentleman, out of the blue, decided to make Saturday a working day of the week. The justification was that we must work more and harder. The order came as a blow not only to the children and their parents, to the staff as well. Parents who had to make arrangement for the pick and drop of children on an additional day, teachers who had their week-end planned found it very annoying. Had there been a problem with unfinished syllabus, bad results or administration then perhaps it would have been justified but there was no such shortcoming. Resistance to this untimely and unplanned order was so great that many parents wrote about this order in the news-papers, anonymous letters were sent to high-ups, and finally after a lot of hue and cry the order was taken back.

The same gentleman than decided to have a weekly open day with the teachers. So far so good, but it was soon evident that the reason behind this plan was to obtain information from the teachers about what was going on in the school. Teachers who had grudges against their respective principals or head teachers found this open day an ideal platform to falsely implicate their heads and avenge their hurt egos. As a consequence the atmosphere of the school was badly affected, every teacher was wary of the other, looking with suspicion and thinking who would be the next victim.

Now, teaching is a profession which is taken up mostly by females. Reason being security of environment, less harassment by males, their natural instinct to behave motherly towards the children, paid vacation that add to the charm and lessens the grievance of low salary, and  last but not the least short working hours. These and many other considerations draw women towards teaching profession. All working women have problems peculiar to their gender. Their work is tedious, requires attention, and a stress-free environment. On the other hand our teachers are not only overworked, they are stressed beyond limits.

The above gentleman had a habit of praising and harping on the teaching methods and standards of British and American schools. The schools and their teaching methods may be good in UK or USA, but this is Pakistan, do we have the same resources and similar circumstances? Here we have over-crowded classes, ill-equipped classrooms, libraries and laboratories. The pre-nursery class with 35 students and no helper teacher, one aya for 3- sections… isn’t this expecting too much from a poor harassed teacher to have similar standard as of UK and USA.

Another gentleman with a similar rank and background, ordered that all teachers would have to appear in general knowledge and subject tests, and those failing would be severely dealt with and their marks would be put in their personal files.. Result was that the poor teachers were seen reading newspapers and general knowledge books even during their teaching periods. Thus creating a terrible chaos in the generally smooth-running institutes. He was so fond of holding seminars and talks ,that what to talk of Saturdays he would hold them on any working day, and schools were ordered to send so-many number of teachers to attend without giving a single thought as to how the school would function without teachers. Conferences that were meant to discuss policy matters became a place for his monologue, he would go on and on praising himself and his adventures (read mis-advenvtures) in the army, no chance was left to snub or belittle his subordinates and even fellow officers. I would like to quote two sentences that show his mind. One gentleman, an honorable fellow, was a few minutes late to a meeting. As he entered, this person in the chair said, ‘why are you late? Were you putting somebody in the grave or digging out somebody from the grave.’… At another instance the same person was holding a wrong file in his hand, when this was pointed out he said very rudely, ‘kia aap ke haath toot jate agar aap sahi file bhijwa detay.’

What would someone say to such a person… I leave it to the judgement of the readers.


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