The Grand Poobah at Work

I am happy to share my latest blog post that discusses leadership, labels, and hierarchy. Thank you SHRM BLOG for posting:

Let’s take a journey back to the Flintstones in Bedrock. Think of the Grand Poobah (without putting on your hat).

Now, no reasonable leader would ever refer to themselves as an employee’s Grand Poobah. Actually, some do much worse.

I was reading a memo by someone with power to an employee who reported to him. The employee had refused defiantly, without any justification, to perform multiple tasks required of him.

In response to a classic case of in-your-face insubordination, the person of power made clear by memo that, unless the employee did what his superior told him to do, he would be fired. I could not get past the use of the term “superior” ….I never can.

If the person with power is the superior, is not the person reporting to him, by definition, inferior? Grand Poobah is sounding better by the moment.

In most communications, there is no need to emphasize hierarchy. I like referring to colleagues as just that.

But there are times where hierarchy matters. So does the connotation of the word used.

To say one is superior—and by implication, the other inferior—is offensive.

How about “boss?” That sounds better, but still drips of hierarchy.

That leaves me with the obvious choice, but not as obvious to some in moments of frustration: supervisor, manager or leader. That describes what someone does, not who they are, with hierarchy implicit as opposed to explicit.

Please avoid “superior” and think twice about “boss.” Otherwise, you send a message that may result in an employee feeling devalued. When employees feel devalued, they are less likely to be engaged and more likely to be enraged.

Have I convinced you to nix “superior?” If so, I can say only one thing: yabba dabba do!

This blog is not legal advice, should not be construed as applying to specific factual situations or as establishing an attorney-client relationship.

Follow me on Twitter at:  @Jonathan__HR__Law.