Oscillating between the sublime and the ridiculous; in fact more of ridiculous than sublime is the unique hallmark of a rambling manager. These types love their voice, regardless of its general hoarseness. It is rare that rambling and babbling can be without offense. Those who strike with their tongues must ward with their heads.
We are made aware at a very young age that speech is silver and silence is gold. Yet, we only amass a lot of silver. A wise head makes a close mouth and a close mouth catches no flies. A fact, we forget.
Life at office can be interesting if the rambling managers are good conversationalist, but alas, most of the rambling managers are not necessarily well-read, in fact the number of those who have extensive reading habits is dwindling. The current crop of mangers do not read books to develop anything profound to narrate, their sources of clumsy information and knowledge are the numerous “forwards”, they receive on the social media apparatus of WhatsApp, e-mails, Instagram, Twitter, etc. Therefore to expect the rambling managers discourses (that’s a respectable word I have used for babbling, with great pain) to have any profundity is to expect the moon to show its glory during daylight.
The rambling managers will always have an anecdote or two to narrate on any subject as diverse as to what relates to their specific industry or to research by National Aeronautics and Space Administration of US, on some farthest planet in the solar system.
At work place, how often we get reminded of our third standard proverb, “He who killeth a lion when absent fearth a mouse when present”. At one point of my career, I had three senior colleagues, albeit my reporting line was to none of them, but being in the same office, we met every day and took decisions by debate and discussions.
The exquisite beauty of such meetings would be, when one of the trio, would stray from the agenda and discuss or narrate, some incident from his life and experience; the interesting part would start and end here. There would descend an avalanche of a nightmare of listening to the other two, who without exception, would always have an almost “akin story” to narrate, with each attempting to make their version more juicer than the others- all ridiculous, with nothing sublime. Time was a major victim. The gentlemanly protest of mine, seeking freedom from this undeserved torture would be met with more than one more of the same type of story.
Upon reflection, I kind of miss those sessions because too much of business focus and serious precision time management are actually injurious to health of any Pakistani manager, including this scribe.
Rambling managers’ narrations are largely imaginary. They may be far from truth. The bigger the drum, the hollower it is - makes more sound, but fails to recognise its hollowness. Talking is a devilish feature, silence is full of divinity. Talking comes by nature, silence by understanding.
The supervisor, who loves to talk, genuinely believes he is not only a gift to the organisation but actually a gift to mankind. I have come across these types too, who do not even offer credit of their “ill-conceived greatness” to those who were responsible for their procreation -they even belittle their parents. Such wrongfully believe themselves firstly to be the ‘chosen and blessed’ ones, and secondly they are in positions of authority because of their amazing intelligence and hard work. You would find them trumpet such attitude before colleagues with remarks like, “what will you all do without me?” Most of the audience will refrain from answering this megalomanic query truthfully. Or still better, “Is there anybody else here, who thinks, works harder or has creativity?” The rambling manager loves his output of work, no matter how shoddy it may be.
Many speak much who cannot speak well. The flow of words is essentially a leak of the mind, where everything runs out without much knowledge to the talkative manager. What is missed in speaking is largely full of repentance and hearing mostly a road to wisdom. With the rambling manager there is no room for sympathy or empathy. His mind is so preoccupied with what to say next, that he, in the process, loses sight of what to say now -hence the lack of relevance or substance in conservation.
The ‘talking’ supervisor loves to swing from one subject to another. Without concluding on the issue under deliberation, they jump into another arena of no relevance. In doing so, what actually the rambling person does is hide with great skill and dexterity, his personal inadequacies.
He would normally end a meeting on “……. so you all know now what is to be done” note. The dull cows in the board room shake their necks for their bells to chime, “yes we do”. In every organisation, the rambling manager has the unconditional support of the bootlickers, who with the continued and deafening applause of such ranting, make the manager rise to his hitherto unknown levels of incompetence. I refer to those species as corporate ‘Nauratans’ (Nine Jewels!).
What a rambling person conveniently forgets is that he actually through uncalled for speeches disempowers his team. Colleagues stop contributing to the process of decision-making by choosing to remain silent. They realise their manager is like a Great Wall of China, who also like the wall itself considers himself to be one of the wonders of the corporate world. The rambling manager recognises only those who look up to him so that he has reasons to look down upon the rest.
Those who talk unnecessarily consider themselves as extroverts. So for such, in speech it is best to be loud, overconfident and appear street smart. (Whatever the term means -if street behavior becomes popular and a norm then ‘God help us’ is my take on such a demeaning terminology).
Emancipated managers are expected to be well-versed in logic, reason and understanding, but if its effect is not noticeable, then we have a cheerleader to contend with. It is only when you imprison the tongue, it will force the mind. Managers are safe only when they speak less. Readers would notice that intelligent managers do not let their brains run away with speech.
This Chinese proverb, in my view, should be framed and displayed in the corridors of every organisation: “Although there exist many thousand subjects for elegant conversation, there are persons who cannot meet a cripple without talking about the feet”. Silence, is the best orator.
Responding to the rambling manager is the incentive you give him to ramble endlessly. Exercise caution, wisdom and hold your tongue. Let brevity in conversation become your weapon to counter the existence of the braying and bragging supervisor. Managers ought to be a man/woman of few words but more of action. As managers, we ought to speak fitly or be silent wisely, for reasons that ramblers are mostly emotionally insane individuals.
The writer is a senior banker and freelance columnist