Being big boss means earning respect

By Helena Rodriguez: Local columnist

It’s time to say hail to our chiefs! Long live our fearless leaders! Our head honchos! Our top dogs! Our sometimes ruthless dictators! Our jefe de los jefes or boss of all bosses.

Monday is National Boss Day, an ancient ritual that dates back to the caveman days. During the dark ages, cavemen realized they needed a way to honor their CEOs (cave expert officials). However, they also realized Hallmark would not open for centuries, so they improvised and sent their chiefs a tasteful arrangement of mammal bones attractively displayed in a clay pot.

With all joking aside, Hallmark may not be the only one that profits from Bosses Day. In our society today, we all want to be the boss despite our overwhelming dislike for hierarchy. This, of course, is not helped by corporate scandals a la Enron and a growing gap between executive and working class pay.

Nevertheless, every organization needs a leader and it benefits everyone, from the bottom on up, to show a little respect and appreciation, at least once a year, to the ones who sign our paychecks.

Our modern culture of instant gratification promotes a “My way or the highway” attitude that gives some young people today the idea that they don’t have to show respect for authority and they don’t have to pay their dues. They don’t want to start from the bottom and work their way up. They want to step right into a management position and command respect although they have yet to show respect and earn it for themselves.

I’m reminded of a conversation I had with Portales High School Principal Melvin Nusser at the beginning of the school year. We were actually talking about the school’s tougher enforcement of homework policies, a crackdown on absenteeism and tardiness this year, but Nusser pointed out that these are societal problems as well.

“I’ve talked to employers around town and it was voiced by several business people that a big problem is people not showing up to work on time or not showing up to work at all,” Nusser said.

As a journalist, I’ve seen a number of adults who cannot even hold steady employment because they were not taught and have not learned to respect authority. One new reporter who came to work at the Hobbs newspaper where I worked in the late 1990s resigned on the spot, although he had a wife and child to support, when the publisher chose not to implement all of his recommendations for another publication immediately.

She liked his ideas, but she wanted to implement them gradually rather than changing the whole publication overnight. The reporter, perhaps a victim of this “instant gratification” culture, decided he didn’t want to wait and so he quit. And once again, his wife and daughter, who were just getting settled into their new community, had to pack up again. Sadly, though, it had become a way of life for them.

This story is not uncommon. There is a whole culture of adults today who cannot maintain steady jobs, and not because they lack job skills. They lack people skills. We parents share the blame and contribute to this problem when we don’t let our children take responsibility for their actions, and more importantly, when we don’t allow them to suffer the consequences as well.

Anyone who wants to command respect and be the boss must first learn to show respect and then earn the respect of others.

Helena Rodriguez is a columnist for Freedom Newspapers of New Mexico. She can be reached at: