It is never late to admit when in the wrong

It is never late to mend ties with your boss in case of cold shoulder. FILE PHOTO | NMG
It is never late to mend ties with your boss in case of cold shoulder. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

When a senior colleague got appointed as head of our department last year, I said he was not qualified as there was someone who was, but who soon left after that appointment.

The boss came to know about what I had said a few months ago and he is now often cold towards me. I want to quit. Is that the right decision or can I mend things?

Allow me first of all to restate what I think you seek to know from us. In essence, you are asking for help because you now find yourself in a fix, because you spoke your mind at work and things have come back to haunt you.

From your question, it is self evident that your new head of department is aware of your feelings about his qualifications for the job and you have now concluded that this is the only reason that he “is now cold towards you”.

That could well be the case but there are other equally plausible explanations.

As a young student, I came across the first case of corruption, and the sequence of events at the time, remain deeply ingrained in my memory.

My job was that of a clerk in a government department. Our job was simply to copy names from a list provided to us and the boss would sign the form, that way giving license and authority to the company or person to carry this or the other business.

The list was prepared by a committee that met twice a month and we, the clerks and our boss had no authority to remove or add anything to the list. The first cartel at the time was run by two senior clerks, who knew how to insert new names to the list.

The second cartel was run by the boss and his secretary. Neither knew (at first) what the other was doing. Both were making lots of money.

The first by giving persons who had not qualified authority to do business, the other by withholding licenses until a fee for facilitation was paid.

In the course of things, both groups got greedy to the extent that the matter reached the ultimate boss. At first people were complaining about delays in the processing but in time the deeply entrenched corrupt practices became obvious.

Things soon became serious and both teams were dismantled. Money changed hands and we found ourselves in a situation similar to yours.

We knew of another man, who was with the senior clerks in their deal and we (rather naively) made our views known to “inspectors” who came to deal with the matter.

Tragically, the very clerk who was in the cartel became the new boss! In that position he came to know what we had told the investigating team.

Like you, he became cold towards us. In time, life became very difficult but luckily it was time to go to university and life moved on. Years later, we learnt that the law had caught up with him and he had spent time in jail.

This now brings me to your question. This man who now takes a cold stance towards you might have been the whistle blower who recognised the possibility that you and the other man were very close and possibly you knew the underhand deals he was involved in.

This is clearly a rather extreme example and there may be simpler explanations. It is, however, possible that you were wrong in your assessment of the two people and the truth of the matter is that the person you thought was good was not, and that for the function of the job in question, the other man was much better.

This now brings us to the nature of the job and in particular personality and the job choices we make.

To give another extreme example, we talk of a person being “as sober as a judge”. The job of a judge requires (typically) a serious character.

A second hand car salesman has to be able to sell his way to the customer by sweet talking the buyer. As you can see, it is not wise for you to judge the book by its cover. In the event that you can, go to the new boss and explain these matters.

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