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What we need are people who can “dream, imagine, and envision the future.” [reported on CNN, 07/28/12].

Patsies address the boss with obsequious niceties. They are the corporate version of manservant, bobble heads who readily do their manager’s bidding. As testament to their dependence, they act much like trained seals. Bosses use patsies as a prop to prove their point, as collateral to stake a claim, or as an alibi to affirm their position. Patsies are a far cry from the irrepressible spirit that bucks authority.  

Sycophants are docile individuals (at least toward their bosses), “kept” employees who dare not bite the hand that feeds them. Corporate marsupials who have found a comfortable space in their boss’s pouch desire to remain in its confines. Their very livelihood depends on their obedience.

I’m reminded of the film The Remains of the Day, in which the head butler appeared to have no opinion apart from ones his employer espoused. Patsies are organizational butlers, on call for the person who pays their salary. With “fitting in” or person role congruence argued as a precursor to success, an alteration of employees’ worldview to suit his organization’s purposes sometimes occurs. Patsies are an ever ready source of agreement for whatever position is on the table.

Self-serving management is the antithesis of what a fast moving economy (driven by global competitors and rapidly changing technology) necessitates. Egoic fixation is a relic of bureaucratic management. “Yes people,” or company Stepford creations, simply cannot compete with free thinking employees who can think outside the box.

Company pets take up precious space that should be occupied by people who will tell you what’s wrong – how else can firms stay cutting edge, and their products and services improve? If you what you need is servile followers, then perhaps you’re in the wrong business. People do what’s rewarded – correspondingly, they’re not going to express a viewpoint unless they think you’re receptive. If employees truly said what was on their minds, you would hear a symphony of disparate viewpoints – rather than a lone few gasping for air. All workers need is an invitation.

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All viewpoints expressed by Jackie Gilbert are her own, and not of her employer.

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