A man is a good deal like a horse—he knows the touch of a master, and no matter how lightly the reins are held over him, he understands that he must behave. But let a fellow who isn’t quite sure of himself begin sawing on a horse’s mouth, and the first thing you know the critter bucks and throws him.
You’ve only one pair of eyes with which to watch 10,000 men, so unless they’re open all the time you’ll be apt to overlook something here and there; but you’ll have 10,000 pairs of eyes watching you all the time, and they won’t overlook anything. You mustn’t be known as an easy boss, or as a hard boss, but as a just boss. Of course, some just men lean backward toward severity, and some stoop down toward mercy. Both kinds may make good bosses, but I’ve usually found that when you hold the whip hand it’s a great thing not to use the whip.
It looks like a pretty large contract to know what 10,000 men are doing, but, as a matter of fact, there’s nothing impossible about it. In the first place, you don’t need to bother very much about the things that are going all right, except to try to make them go a little better; but you want to spend your time smelling out the things that are going all wrong and laboring with them till you’ve persuaded them to lead a better life. For this reason, one of the most important duties of your job is to keep track of everything that’s out of the usual. If anything unusually good happens, there’s an unusually good man behind it, and he ought to be earmarked for promotion; and if anything unusually bad happens, there’s apt to be an unusually bad man behind that, and he’s a candidate for a job with another house.
A good many of these things which it’s important for you to know happen a little before beginning and a little after quitting time; and so the real reason why the name of the boss doesn’t appear on the time-sheet is not because he’s a bigger man than any one else in the place, but because there shouldn’t be any one around to take his time when he gets down and when he leaves.
You can tell a whole lot about your men from the way in which they come in and the way in which they go home; but because a fellow is in the office early, it doesn’t always mean that he’s panting to begin work; it may mean that he’s been out all night. And when you see a fellow poring over his books after the others have quit, it doesn’t always follow that he’s so wrapped up in his work that he can’t tear himself away from it. It may mean that during business hours he had his head full of horse-racing instead of figures, and that he’s staying to chase up the thirty cents which he’s out in his balance. You want to find out which.