An interview with Napoléon Bonaparte: How to work for an egomaniac
Last Christmas, a friend gave me a book “how to work for an idiot.” I took numerous photos with the book cover while posing in deep contemplation. Seriously, however, there is not much to ponder there. You work for an idiot by making sure they never realize how much smarter you truly are. See idiotic bosses don’t know they are stupid. The majority of the ones I have met think they are quite smart and management savvy. Why break that delusion? If you were to break that delusion, there would be serious repercussions. No need to bring that onto yourself for you have an actual job to get done. Let them think they are smarter by occasionally seeking their advice on both a workplace and personal matter. The latter always gets you brownie points. Trust me on that one.
Now, working for an egomaniac is an all-together different thing. I should note that being an idiot boss and being an egomaniac are not mutually exclusive categories. Ok. Got that? Now some egomaniacs have, in my view, the “right” to be so because of very major accomplishments. For instance, if you bring about world peace-sure go ahead and be an egomaniac. And, Alanis can sing away about the irony therein.
What can we learn from same famous and infamous past egomaniacs that can help us navigate the current workplace that is riddled with egomaniacs? To address this question, I decided to interview Napoléon Bonaparte. For every time I am faced with an extraordinary egomaniac I think of Bonaparte as do hundreds of thousand others. By most historical accounts, Napoléon was an egomaniac that would put Liberace to shame. However, Napoléon was not as stylish as Liberace nor was he particularly good-looking and he was quiet short in stature. Which of course lends itself to describing someone as having a Napoleonic complex. While short in stature, Napoléon’s remains are in a massive sarcophagus in the Les Invalides in Paris. The sarcophagus is placed on the ground floor of a large rotunda tens of thousands of visitors can look at it each year. As such, who better to interview?
Below is our conversation while enjoying some wine.
Psychologistmimi: You demanded complete obedience from anyone associated with you and…
Napoléon: But of course. I was the boss. Why wouldn’t I demand complete obedience? I knew what I was doing. I knew best. Other people didn’t see the big picture and they didn’t have the drive and vision that I did.
Psychologistmimi: Gotcha. Let me start this again. So, what if an employee felt there was a different way of doing things that could perhaps be more efficient, let’s say.
Napoléon: Not possible. That is why everyone addresses me by the title of “Boss”
Psychologistmimi: What if the employee used the tactic of saying “Hey boss. I know you’re the boss and that means you have the final decision. Would you be open to hearing about some possible different ways of doing things that some of the staff have researched?” How would you respond to that employee?
Napoléon: That is a start. However! That employee should be quick to note and start her request acknowledging that I am the boss because of my brilliance and dazzling personality.
Psychologistmimi: Egomaniac bosses tend to get bored and lose focus quickly in meetings where minutiae need to be considered. How can one get that boss to focus?
Napoléon: Dangle a mirror in front of that boss and remind him that due to his intelligence you really want his guidance in this matter. It’s ok with you, correct, that I use the word “his”? I’m not into politically correct his and her statements
Psychologistmimi: That is totally fine Napoléon, I pass no judgment. [What an egomaniac I kept thinking. So Napoleonic]. Great. So if I hear you correctly, mirrors should be part of most management meetings. Let me ask you another question. You abandoned your troops at one point mid-way through a trek because it was too cold for yourself. Kind of reminds me of those egomaniac bosses that begin every conversation by talking about themselves or by regaling their put-upon employee audience about what they did over the weekend even while that employee worked all weekend long. How should the employee deal with that type of situation?
Napoléon: Simple. You must listen to his weekend adventure stories. Given that he is the boss, his story must be filled with life lessons that can be of benefit to you. Always, but always, be willing to begin most conversations with him about…him. It will make him happy. Once he is finished with his story, if you are personable enough and can relate the work-matter to a lesson you just learned from his story, then you can start talking shop.
Psychologistmimi: Hmm. I was thinking that drinking cocktails at such a moment would be the appropriate response. You know to drown out the tedium.
Napoléon: Tedium? That’s very judgmental of you. If he, the boss, is imparting wisdom you should be grateful. However, a gin and tonic is a very healthy thing to drink out on the seas. Therefore, yes, go ahead and drink in that situation.
Psychologistmimi: Oftentimes when employees try to let their egomaniac bosses know how they feel they get challenged and made to feel guilty about feeling burnt out, tired or overwhelmed.
Napoléon: Why should they feel tired or burnt out? I never did. There is no such thing. You work hard because that is what is expected of you. What a wimp that person is. I would most definitely ridicule them and leave them to rot on the battlefield.
Psychologistmimi: I see. So, ostensibly never let your boss see you sweat?
Napoléon: I am not versed in that modern-day verbiage. However, I would suggest that every employee find their Josephine. My lovely wife inspired me to greatness leading me to overcome challenges and rise to the occasions on the battlefield. I do not understand this concept of burn out. Find your passion.
Psychologistmim: That is actually some good sound advice Napoleon. Thank you for sharing your wisdom with me and the blogosphere.
Napoléon: Of course, for I am the boss. Have you forgotten child?
Psychologistmimi: Not at all. Which is why I thanked you so profusely. Last question, though. So, what happened at Waterloo?
Napoleon: What can I say? I thought I was king of the world and turns out I wasn’t. Sort of like that man that directs movies nowadays. What’s his name, that rather abrasive man?
Psychologistmimi: James Cameron?
Napoleon: Ah, yes. He is the modern king of the world that got beat by his former wife for the Oscars, right?
Psychologistmimi: That is correct.
Napoleon: Don’t tell anyone but eventually kings of the world proverbially go down with the ship.
Psychologistmimi: Word, Napoleon. Word.
Categories: Film, History, Humor, Leadership, Management, mental health, Psychology, weird, work, workplace
Brilliant writing. Loved it. Especially the jab at the taller, Hollywood version of the King of the world. 😉
Thank you for writing this! But of course your brilliance would not have resulted in anything but such a perfect piece…
This was thoroughly enjoyable! 😀
I’m sure you know there are some other broad categories of bosses that are also pretty terrible to work for. My most recent personal nemesis was one who lived in an ivory tower and expected all her employees to feel honored when she made commitments for them, expected them to do things that were outside the job description, then provided no support and personally and directly threw them under the bus when these commitments were not met. I called her princess fairy dust.
Sounds horrid. Definitely have seen that type
It is stunning to stand in that house in Ajaccio and see that little bed in an alcove, and think where we got to in 35 years.
Surely the rebuilding of Paris as part of the Napoleon cult was done by Haussman, to give Napoleon III credibility?
Our accounts of his battles often rely on his bulletins, and his soldiers had an expression, “to lie like a bulletin”.
Who was it who said that Napoleon needed an income of 10,000 men a month?
I have always felt that there is something very Italian about Napoleon. Only an Italian would have made his immediate family kings and queens, and would have assumed that his father in law would not make war on him.
lol. interesting. I had never heard that quote of his income need. But I love that quote now. thanks for sharing. have a great holiday season