Keep Your Friends Close and Your Managers Closer

This guy would approve…though I don’t know if that’s a good thing or not…

There’s something to be said about the concept of “class warfare”. The concept has only grown in popularity and is being recognized as a term that doesn’t mean some sort of literal warfare (though it can mean that too) but a much more symbolic sort of struggling against oppression in the workplace. Whether that oppression be reducible to the inane drudgery of every given day, an unfair and inflexible work schedule or an asshole boss (but I repeat myself).

Still, there’s also something to be said for phrases like, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” and of course, “keep your friends close and your enemies closer” which originates from (according to Machiavelli’s The Prince. The meaning being something like, “keep the people you love close to you because you trust them but the people you don’t trust even closer so you can keep a close eye on them”.

In the workplace you often have very little choice on how much of a proximity will be between you or any given manager. Maybe a manager you actually like will often be far away from you or even (somewhat sadly) not care for you at all. Conversely there are situations where managers you don’t like will always be in the area you are trying to work.

But when we get those situations to work out for us, either through luck or some sort of manipulation of the schedule in our own favor, the work can get easier. To be clear, I don’t think any of us should be anything but our true selves (whatever that means to you) and I don’t think we should see managers/bosses as one-dimensional people.

Whenever I talk about my least favorite manager I talk about them as a manager. I almost never say person. Maybe being a bad manager makes you a bad person too, but I’m hesitant to reach any definite conclusions there. I think it takes a lot to be an inherently bad person. But then again, some people think I’m not a good person, so who am I to say?

In any case,I typically say that I don’t have enough personal information to really know whether they’re a bad person. Just because a person really loves authority and wielding it against others, doesn’t mean they are 100% bad. This is a person that could be really caring outside of work and easy to get along with (even in work sometimes).

There’s also a lot to be said for people bring outside situations into work and letting it affect their attitudes and behaviors. Whether it’s a break-up or something more (legally and potentially economically) serious like a divorce or a death in your family or among your friends, people often bring a lot of themselves with them to work.

Still, when it comes down to it, I want the managers I don’t like to be “closer” in a sense than the ones I do. I want to know what they are doing, what their habits are, what’s in their “nature” (so to speak). If I can get to know these managers on this level then I can predict with a slightly better chance how to outsmart them.

That doesn’t mean I want to treat these people in any cruel way. I don’t blame people who have climbed the corporate ladder because they want a better future for themselves. I don’t think this makes them inherently bad people, even if it inherently means they’re more likely to be corrupted by authority and power. I just try to be more cautious around them.

To reiterate, I have a favorite manager who is very supportive, relaxed and (for the most part) treats me as their equal. I treasure this person a lot because they are genuinely one of my best friends. And it’s weird to have one of my best friends (let alone a friend at all) to also be a manager. But this isn’t the kind of “closer” I am talking about.

If your manager is an awesome person to you, e.g. they don’t treat you like a subordinate, are generally respectful, tries to treat you as their equal, lets you slack off, gives you support (emotional and workplace based), etc. then I think this concept of “class warfare” needs to be knocked down a few (symbolic) pegs.

After all, I’m not much one for war to begin with. I think it gets in our heads and makes us blind to our own biases because we get into an “us vs. them” mentality And I think the same applies when we try to see workplaces as a “battleground” for some sort of societal/systemic change. Making our individual (or even cooperative) actions too big for ourselves is a big step towards overestimating how important we actually are in this world.

Regardless, getting on manager’s good sides, trying to observe their movements (for a change) and understanding even a bit of what makes each of them tick is important. For instance, I’ve learned through observation and the direct words of other folks that the store manager is bit of a push over. And I know from another conversation that they’re not even really controlling the store, it’s the assistant manager. Apparently that is how it’s supposed to work but it still seems like it could be otherwise if the store manager was a bit more adamant about his position.

That’s the thing though, I know from what he told me months ago that he wanted to work in a quiet part of the state I live in and instead got hired for one of the busiest places. He’s obviously not a big fan of his boss and he doesn’t like all of the rules that get imposed on him from on high via corporate. So I think he is at least marginally more likely to have some sympathy with workers who may not tow the line, much more than the assistant manager anyhow (they’re the worst).

Part of me has been thinking about class warfare because an elderly woman asked me a week or so ago whether I was going to be working during Christmas. I told her I was (Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s day as well!) and she said that it was a shame. That some day the people who were up top would suffer and wonder why.

To paraphrase, she said,

You know it is just so sad. People are working on the holidays.

One day there is going to be class warfare and they are going to say, “Why?”

And it’s because while the managers have the day off when all of us “lowlifes” have to work.

It’s hard to argue otherwise.

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