Nellaiappan’s Column-10: "Subordinate Development"

We all know that in any organization every one is important, but no one is indispensable. Mere knowing this concept is not sufficient. Bosses should spell out to every one, working under them that they are very important. On the other hand, every one should be replaceable. It is good for the organization as well as for the individuals.

If someone is not replaceable, then he cannot be promoted. To become replaceable, one should train his team well and also a second-line who can replace him. Hence subordinate development is very important for one’s own development.

But, in practice, people are very reluctant to develop their subordinates. Personal likes and dislikes, lack of confidence in the subordinates, lack of self- confidence, fear of losing importance and lack of expertise are few of the many reasons for doing so.

I had the opportunity of working under different bosses in different institutions in my 25 years career span. In one of those units I was very close to the boss. He gave me full freedom and delegated almost everything to me. Here I should remind you the universal concept: “you can implement successfully any new idea as long as you don’t care who gets the credit”

We mutually exploited each other. I was very happy because of the opportunity but he never recommended a promotion for me. I became very powerful down the stream but the top people of the hierarchy-driven organization were not even aware of my existence.

In another place, the situation was diametrically opposite. There the boss never consulted me for any thing but had given me freedom to operate within the department. There was no second-line for him and he never conducted any combined meeting for the department heads. His style was one to one interaction.

I was disappointed and unhappy there. I lost my importance. I was concentrating in my limited sphere. When he got me a promotion I was surprised. But still he never had any one as his second-line.

Both these bosses were personally very good and finally I was not happy with both of them. Only long service and hard work brought them to their level and they had only entry-level qualification without any academic track record.

I found that people who become bosses by their hard work and prolonged service in the same organization in general, are very reluctant to teach their subordinate what they learnt the hard way.

They always have an aversion for their qualified subordinates. They always play their cards closer to their chest and leave the subordinates starve for information and guidance.

They are hard-core loyalists, but still they cause heavy damage to the organization out of ignorance. One side, they could not climb further in the career ladder and on the other side, remained a concrete wall in the way of their subordinates. They are always very comfortable with unqualified and under- qualified subordinates.

Such people are more loyal to individuals than to the organization and they also expect their subordinates to be so.

It is very hard for an assistant manager to get promotion from a manager, whereas, there is every possibility for an assistant manager reporting to a general manager to get promoted to manager at the first instant. This is because most of the bosses want to keep a big gap between them and their second-line.

In my career, only once my immediate boss recommended me to his position. We both got promoted that year. The secret is “give your garlands to your subordinates so that you will get more garlands”.

“What will happen if I happen to be away from the organization for a month?”- When I once asked my second-line his immediate reply was “no doubt we will miss you, sir. But that will not affect the organization any way, because you have trained us like that”. Suppose you go on one month leave what will happen- I tossed the next question. “The answer is the same” was his reply. Then be prepared to go for a one month training program I said.

Your leave should be long enough for your boss to feel how much he missed you, and not too long for the boss to find out how best he managed without you- said my second-line. That reminds me that you have not returned my book “Management Thoughts” by Pramod Batra I said.

I did recommend him for a one-month all-expenses-paid technical training program conducted by a prestigious institute at the country’s capital.

When I narrated my discussion with my second line to my wife that night, she banged an immediate question. “Have you asked him, what will happen if he happens to be away from his house for a month?”

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