It’s a near universal pastime to slag those in charge. The boss – whoever he or she may be – is almost always considered out of touch, out of step or simply out of their mind. This notion is so pervasive that it has become accepted wisdom that just before “good ol’ Fred” becomes “CEO Fred” he stops at the threshold to the executive suite only long enough to empty his pockets of any remaining common sense, ethics and integrity he might still mistakenly possess. Once inside, the now un-encumbered boss/twit becomes free to dedicate his life to little more than breathing the rarefied air he believes he deserves.
Knowing this, the rest of us salve our passed-over selves by convincing one another we’re far more intelligent and insightful than he, thanks to our shared position in the trenches. We then wile away the days pissing and moaning about the unfairness of such mindless trolls wielding power over the rest of us as we bray incessantly about how ill-equipped such mutton-headed boobs are for the jobs they “lucked into.”
But is this a good thing?
Kayak.com – a new travel site whose raison d’etre is supposedly aggregating all the other travel sites through one quick search - has a new commercial ad that illustrates this all-too common belief system perfectly. The ad is called “Bright Man” and it features a thick headed CEO sitting in a hopelessly dated wood paneled office staring at his computer screen. His open-mouthed stare belies a comprehension more akin to a caveman studying a newly discovered dinosaur turd than a genuine corporate titan. Still, CEO lunkhead tic tacs away on his keyboard while a clearly long-suffering boot-licker stands waiting nearby.
Confused by his behavior, the assistant gently questions his actions: “You search a dozen travel sites for hours and then go to where you think the best price is.” CEO lunkhead answers, “That’s right.” Then, standing up he points to the door and indicates she best follow. As the two move through an identically appointed outer office, CEO lunkhead gets quizzed by his girl Friday. “Why don’t you use Kayak.com? Kayak.com compares hundreds of travel sites in seconds. “ CEO lunkhead stops just long enough to answer. “Because I’m a moron. That’s how you get to the top.” Dumbfounded, his girl Friday can’t believe her ears. “What?” she says. CEO lunkhead then attempts to educate her by calling out to an elderly gent standing directly beneath a very large, painted portrait – a portrait of himself. “Mr. Carroll – are you a bright man?” The old fellow – who can only be the firm’s founder - raises his cane in the air and answers proudly “No, I’m not!” CEO lunkhead doesn’t even flinch as he continues striding out of the room, suggesting that his assistant “Try and keep up.”
The idea on offer is simple enough to grasp. “Dear long suffering assistants to idiot bosses. Use our travel site and feel smarter than the low-forehead you serve. It will make your toils that much easier to bear and give you a much-needed feeling of superiority over the buffoon you currently report to.” Logical choice I guess when it comes to aligning with the rubes out there. The world has far more Indians than Chiefs, so if you want sales you better pick the bigger market.
However, what I still don’t understand is that if bosses in general really are that stupid – if being bright is truly an impediment to success – why ever would I want to be the smart one Kayak suggests I ought to be? So what if the assistant had an easier time booking a hotel or flight on Kayak. She’s still the boot-licking assistant to the dunderheaded moron. Who’s the idiot in that equation?
Adam Carolla of “The Man Show” has a theory about smarts. Basically, it’s that it doesn’t matter how much schooling, skills or degrees a person has when it comes to determining how smart or dumb they are. His attitude is that people should be judged smart or dumb depending on their ability to accumulate the things they want in life. For example, if you’re as thick as a plank but all you want in life is a big screen TV and a leather couch - and you managed to get one of each - then you’re smart. Conversely, if you have three degrees, two doctorates plus tenure at Harvard but you never climbed Mt. Fuji like you always wanted to then you’re stupid – pure and simple.
So, all things considered it might be high time to put to rest the idea that the boss is always an idiot. If you as an individual really can do a better job than he or she does please, step the hell up and show the rest of us how it’s done. If you don’t have what it takes to even get the job in the first place maybe you’re not quite as smart as you think you are. And when that happens, you best start repacking all that attitude right back where it came from before you confirm who the real idiot is after all. Unless of course complaining about things is all you ever wanted to do in life. If that’s the case, then have at it. I know I do.