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Prussia/[]/ n. 普鲁士...

老板的爱好,员工的烦恼

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When Your Boss's Hobby Becomes Your Job Obligation

Nan Worth harbors no animosity toward the Boy Scouts of America. But she winced when a new owner took over her former company and she felt forced into giving the little troopers donations.

The owner, a former scout who adorned his office with merit badges and posters of knot-tying instructions, began a fund-raising campaign, complete with a Boy Scout cutout in the lobby, speeches about the importance of being a scout, regular status requests about funds raised and a knot-tying contest to help raise awareness. The winner would be honorably mentioned in the company newsletter, Ms. Worth recalls.

Just two hitches: Tying square knots and lariat loops wouldn't help her get her job done and she didn't feel free to make contributions as she saw fit. 'We all felt like if we didn't give enough, we would be on his blacklist,' says Ms. Worth. 'He knew who contributed and those who didn't.'

When the boss has a pet passion, staffers can find themselves engaging in activities they've never tried -- probably because they never wanted to. Sometimes an executive's personal pursuits can help build communities. But it can also stir mild guilt trips or bigger shakedowns. And so the staff is a captive audience for their manager's jazz-band gigs, elegies over his approach shot to the 17th green, or any other avocation mistaken as part of the vocation.

That includes the rabid love of chocolate of Paul Karlin's former boss. 'If you want to stay in this department, you are going to have to learn to love chocolate,' she told him.

At first, he thought she was kidding. Then colleagues warned him, 'It's a big thing to her.' So even though he doesn't like chocolate, he took some that she offered, waited until the coast was clear, and wrapped it up for later re-gifting. 'It was really strange,' he says. 'Really strange.'

David Woodburn, a former senior engineer, worked for a golf-obsessed division whose employees would discuss the Tuesday night golf league at great lengths on Wednesday morning.

He felt left out. 'Did I golf when I started that job? No. Did I start? Of course,' he says.

It's hard to rail against interests so often bathed with the best intentions. But that won't stop Russell Blair, a retired judge. 'People who insist on sharing their 'bliss' with subordinates should be required to wear a T-shirt that says: 'Now that my life is perfect, I'm going to fix yours,'' he says.

The line is crossed more than you think. Linda Konstan, an HR executive, has fielded all kinds of complaints from employees about their boss's imposed hobbies. That included one executive's penchant for tango. His own wife wasn't interested in lessons, so he dragged his administrative assistant to lessons.

'She really hated it,' says Ms. Konstan. When she advised the executive not to engage in this extracurricular, he told her, 'It's innocent. She'll love it.' Only when Ms. Konstan visited him again and reminded him of how bad it might look -- and potential legal bills if things got out of hand -- did he finally relent.

Research shows that leaders who blur the line between work and friendship can end up with employees asking the wrong questions: 'What do I need to do to make my boss like me versus what do I need to do to do a good job around here,' says Jennifer Chatman, a professor of management at the University of California Berkeley's Haas School of Business. 'In the most mercenary way, it's friends for hire.'

Every so often, a manager learns a lesson. John Phelan, who was vice president of international sales at a manufacturing company, warmly invited the sales force to ride in his glider during a conference. Five salespeople went along.

The first two rides went well. Then, 'ride No. 3 got off to a rocky start when the passenger began screaming shortly after liftoff and continued screaming until we landed a short time later,' he recalls. Ride No. 4 went well until they suddenly lost altitude and barely made it back to the runway. Ride No. 5 declined because he 'had time to talk to ride No. 3,' he says.

Looking back, Mr. Phelan concedes someone of lesser job title might not have had the same pull. 'My takeaway was that my hobbies should be left out of business functions unless the guest asks first.'

It reminds Kathleen Peterson, a consultant, of the kind of obligations engendered by her sister, a former college president who would invite her staffers, and family, to the school auction.

Ms. Peterson felt they were there simply to up the bids. 'Sometimes the consequence was we were the final bidder.' So she ended up with trips she never took and a still-unwrapped painting, an 'abstract, would-be landscape if you could discern it,' she says. 'Her retirement has saved all of us thousands annually.'

Similarly, Patrick Shaughnessy's former boss realized he shouldn't publicly post his sign-up sheet for Girl Scout cookies after sales for the Thin Mints and Do-Si-Dos were curiously high. People, seeing others signed up, felt pressured to buy.

The manager took down the sheet, but began cube-to-cube stops to gently invite people into his office to make a purchase. 'He didn't have a gun to your head, or your review,' he says. Still, 'I bought Savannahs.'

南•沃思(Nan Worth)对美国童子军没有丝毫的敌意。但是当一位新老板接管了她工作的公司后,她觉得自己在被迫向童子军捐款,这不禁让她感到不快。现在沃思已经离开那家公司了。

这位新老板曾当过童子军,他的办公室里摆着各种各样的荣誉徽章,墙上贴满教人们如何打各式复杂绳结的海报。他发起了一场捐款行动,在大厅中竖起一个用硬纸板剪出来的童子军人形,宣讲作为一名童子军的重要意义,时不时地询问捐款进度,还举办打绳结比赛来提高人们对童子军的关注。沃思回忆道,获奖者将会在公司简报中被“荣幸”地提及。

只是有两个问题:打平结和套索对她完成工作毫无助益,而且她感觉捐款也不是自发性的。她说,大家都觉得如果捐的不够多,就会被老板列入黑名单。他知道谁捐了,谁没捐。

当老板有某种嗜好的时候,员工们会发现自己需要参与一些从未尝试过、而且根本也不想尝试的事情。有时老板的个人爱好能帮助建立交际圈。但也可能会使员工心存愧疚,或是造成更严重的问题。所以员工们就成了上司的忠实听众,听他们的爵士乐队表演、对高尔夫球的高谈阔论或其他被错当成工作内容的业余爱好。

这也包括保罗•卡林(Paul Karlin)的前老板对巧克力的狂热。他的老板对他说,如果你想留在这个部门,你就必须要学会爱上巧克力。

开始的时候,他以为老板是在开玩笑。后来同事们警告他说,这对他们的老板来说可是一件大事。所以即使卡林不喜欢巧克力,他还是会接受老板给的巧克力,等到警报解除,再包起来以后转手送人。他说,这太奇怪了,真是太奇怪了。

大卫•伍德伯恩(David Woodburn)曾是一名高级工程师,他工作过的那个部门都是些高尔夫球迷,他的同事们会在周三早上不厌其烦地讨论周二晚上的高尔夫联赛。

他感觉自己被孤立于他们的圈子之外了。他说,“我开始从事那份工作的时候打高尔夫球吗?不,我不打。那么后来我开始打球了吗?当然开始了。”

对类似这样常常出于好意的兴趣分享很难说出“不”字。但是退休法官罗素•布莱尔(Russell Blair)却不愿做出妥协。他说,那些坚持要与下属分享“好东西”的人应该穿上这样的T恤衫,上面写上:既然我的人生已经完美无憾了,我要开始修理你的人生了。

混淆界限的程度超出人们的想象。琳达•康斯坦(Linda Konstan)是一位人力资源主管,处理过员工对老板强加爱好的种种抱怨。其中有一位热爱探戈的主管,他的妻子对探戈课程不感兴趣,于是他就拉着自己的行政助理去。

康斯坦说,那位助理真的很不愿意这样。当她建议那位主管不要参加这样的业余活动时,他说探戈没有害处,他的助理会喜欢的。直到康斯坦再度与他面谈,提醒他这个活动看上去会有多糟糕──如果情形失控的话还可能引发法律问题──他才最终平息下来。

加州大学伯克利分校哈斯商学院(University of California Berkeley's Haas School of Business)的管理学教授珍妮弗•查特曼(Jennifer Chatman)说,研究表明,模糊工作与友谊界限的领导最终会导致员工提出错误的问题:“我需要做什么来让我的老板喜欢我”,而不是“我需要做什么来在工作中好好表现”;这样“出租友情”是一种最惟利是图的方式。

管理者经常会从中得到点教训。约翰•费兰(John Phelan)是一家制造公司主管国际销售的副总裁,他在一次会议中盛情邀请销售人员乘坐他的滑翔机。有五位销售员跟他去了。

费兰回忆道,头两个人乘坐的时候都很顺利,然后到第三个人时,起飞有点摇摇晃晃,而乘客在升空后不久就开始尖叫,并一直叫个不停,直到片刻之后着陆。第四次飞行一开始也很顺利,但他们突然下降,好不容易才回到跑道上。第五个乘坐的人谢绝了,因为他跟第三个人聊过了。

回想起来,费兰承认如果是职位比他低的人可能不会有同样的吸引力。他得到的教训是,除非客人首先问起,否则不应该将爱好同生意混为一谈。

这让咨询师凯瑟琳•彼得森(Kathleen Peterson)想起她姐姐给手下人造成的负担。她的姐姐曾经是一所大学的校长,喜欢邀请手下职员和家人参加学校的拍卖会。

彼得森觉得她们去就只是为了抬价。有时结果就是她们成了最后的买家。因此她最终得到了一些从没去过的旅行机会,还有一幅至今仍未打开包装的绘画作品。她说姐姐的退休让几千人每年都少遭了一回罪。

同样,帕特里克•欧沙那希(Patrick Shaughnessy)以前的老板公开张贴女童子军饼干的定购报名表,而薄荷饼和Do-Si-Do的销量都高得吓人,然后他才意识到不应该这样做。人们看见其他人签了名,自己也不得不买。

那位主管把报名表拿了下来,但却开始礼貌地挨桌邀请人们去他的办公室购买。欧沙那希说,他也没拿枪指着你的脑袋,或者亮出来给你看,但自己还是买了Savannah。
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