The Pettiness Of Power

Have you ever noticed how some people become incredibly petty when they suddenly get a little power, like in a work situation? These type of people are often ignorant, ill prepared for their new position, and have few if any people skills…I have a friend who works in a pharmacy in a large company, and when a new pharmacy manager was hired, the new manager fired her…. (Or more accurately, reassigned her to another store in the chain ) !

In fact, this was a systematic pattern, the new pharmacy manager immediately began purging every single one of the old employees in her department and replacing them with her friends shortly after she was hired herself…She did not care how valuable, how intelligent, resourceful or skillful at their jobs each person was, she just wanted to clean house, from top to bottom…

A different store employee who works in another department told me that there was only one person left from the staff the pharmacy manager had inherited when the old pharmacy manager retired…I can imagine her days are numbered as well…

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Why do people have to act so petty when they get a little power in their hands? I believe it is basically insecurity and lack of intelligence on their part….I could see maybe replacing one or two employees that the new pharmacy manager had a personality clash with, but ALL of them? Sorry, but this reeks of arrogance, ignorance, pettiness and insecurity…..Why did she do it? Because she could….There is no other logical reason….

She certainly did not do it for the customers, many of whom, like me, had developed a bond with several of the older workers over the years and are disturbed by this wholesale changeover of staff, maybe a dozen people in all ….I realize change is an inevitable part of life, but this kind of mass purge in a work world situation is nothing more than the new manager flexing her muscles; she must be one of those petty people who gets high on power….Her own actions have damned her and branded her as a weakling and a coward….

And what is power in work world anyway? It is an artificial designation of authority given to one person over another, and that is all it is....I personally have witnessed this myself in my 45 years as both a blue collar worker (truck driver) and a white collar, corporate employee (Administrative Assistant)….I have seen the abuse of power up close and personal, and it is not pretty….This often sudden ascension to power turns people’s heads, makes them think they are better than the rest, that they are some kind of a special breed, that they are special, that they are the anointed ones instead of what they really only are, the appointed ones…

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When I was a blue collar truck driver, our dispatcher would assign routes to each driver every day, mostly based on his knowledge of their strengths and weaknesses, and this system worked out very well for the most part….But if our dispatcher was sick or on vacation, one of the other drivers would temporarily inherit his position and function to assign routes, to decide who got sent where that day, and what tasks they had to perform that day, and OMG!

Suddenly they were giving away all the easy routes to their personal friends and all the hardest routes to the people they didn’t like, no matter the requisite skill level or expertise for each job that was needed!….They weren’t mixing and matching, they were smashing and grabbing….It was all about the power….It was like a drug to them…

It was like they were suddenly “king for a day” and this sudden tiny bit of power immediately turned their heads…They became brusque, overbearing, and dictatorial, even knowing that as temporary dispatcher they would soon be relegated back to their regular positions as just another truck driver as soon as the regular dispatcher returned…This small taste, this experience of power completely turned their heads!

And it was even worse in the corporate setting, because here you had people who were hired at entry level positions who were scratching and clawing their way to a more prestigious (again, read power) position in their lifelong quest to get to the the top of the corporate ladder….As the best boss I ever had once told me, “Every rung up that ladder gets more slippery, difficult and treacherous to attain”….I have nothing against the capitalist system, I am an American and as they say, the business of America is business…But being a bully is not good business…

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But what I DO strongly object to is the misuse of power by unqualified ignorant people over people who are technically “under them” and who are technically placed “over them” because it is all a facade, a sham, a display of their own ignorance, insecurity and arrogant pettiness…And after a while, they actually start to believe that they are somehow superior to their subordinates, because they have attained a certain level of power, and that this designated authority makes them somehow innately better than their fellow employees…Unbelievable!

They completely lose sight of the fact that their authority was given to them at some point, and that it can be taken away again at some point, but they are so drunk on their power trips and so stupid they start believing that they are untouchables… They end up getting caught up in the heady mix of arrogance their designated position of power allows them, and they start to become ever more arbitrary, obstinate and short sighted…

Ultimately, of course, they almost always crash and burn, and are themselves fired, banished and disgraced, but it will remain an eternal mystery to me why they were ever given the power in the first place, but more importantly, how dare they misuse and abuse their power over their fellow employees! This kind of behavior by bosses is not only undignified, unjustified and morale sapping, but also counterproductive as far as achieving results….As Rodney King once said “Can’t we all just get along?”

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The Illusion of Power

So my friend, an excellent pharmacy worker, will have to accept for now being unfairly dismissed by the latest in a long line of petty tyrants and bounce around the store chain till she finds a more humane, sympathetic boss…. Meanwhile the new pharmacy boss will surround herself with her own hand picked toadies and go home at night and glory in all her new found power, too stupid to realize it is all just an illusion, a facade, a fantasy she is living out, and that she will inevitably get replaced herself one day…

People like this new pharmacy boss and my last corporate boss are like the gollum in “Lord of the Rings” when they suddenly get their “precious” ( power), get their coveted ring in their greedy hands and find out that their reach really did exceed their grasp… Well, as the French say, “C’est la vie !” or “That’s life”

I guess they never learned that old karmic wisdom in time: “What goes around, comes around”…

For more blogs by John Whye, see http://www.johnwhye.com

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