Truth is nicer than fiction
A horrible film is generating a lame debate
Jul 30th 2011 | from the print edition
HORRIBLE bosses come in many flavours. There are psychopaths, bullies and prats. Incompetent bosses are irksome, too. The bosses at New Line Cinema are not incompetent, in that their films make money, but they are still villains. For “Horrible Bosses”, their latest offering, is a crime against art and common sense. The viewer is expected to believe that being propositioned by Jennifer Aniston is so traumatic that it would drive a man to plot her murder. Kevin Spacey (pictured) plays a more convincing psychoboss. But his talents are wasted on a lame script.
To make matters worse, the film has inspired a torrent of management drivel. OfficeTeam, a recruiter, warns of “Horrible Boss Syndrome”, which “can have serious implications” for morale. An American survey finds that 46% of employees have worked for an unreasonable boss at some point. Nell Minow, a critic, says the film reflects “the bitterness of the post-meltdown era”.
All this fuss suggests, not that bosses are growing more horrible, but that employees expect them to be more agreeable. Laws ban discrimination, the internet allows people to air their complaints and the prevailing management culture emphasises sensitivity.
The monsters of the past knew no such checks. John Henry Patterson, who founded the National Cash Register Company in 1884, would set the desks of inept employees on fire. To find similarly forceful bosses today, one must look East. When Zhang Ruimin took over Haier, a Chinese white-goods company, in 1984, he smashed one of the company’s products to pieces with a sledgehammer to show what he thought of its quality. Hollywood could use a few bosses like Mr Zhang.
过去的恐怖老板不懂得这样对待员工。1884年一手创立美国计算机服务公司的John Henry Patterson会放火把无所作为的员工的桌子烧掉。今天要想再找出同样强有力的老板，必须把目光投向东方。当1984年张瑞敏接管中国白色家电公司海尔之时，他用一把大锤子把公司的一件产品砸成碎片，以表明他对公司产品质量的看法。好莱坞可以用些像张先生这样的老板。