You can’t afford to give your men a real grievance, no matter how small it is; for a man who’s got nothing to occupy thin but his work can accomplish twice as much as one who’s busy with his work and a grievance. The average man will leave terrapin and champagne in a minute to chew over the luxury of feeling abused. Even when a man isn’t satisfied with the supply of real grievances which life affords, and goes off hunting up imaginary ones, like a blame old gormandizing French hog that leaves a full trough to root through the woods for truffles, you still want to be polite; for when you fire a man there’s no good reason for doing it with a yell.
Noise isn’t authority, and there’s no sense in ripping and roaring and cussing around the office when things don’t please you. For when a fellow’s given to that, his men secretly won’t care a cuss whether he’s pleased or not. They’ll jump when he speaks, because they value their heads, not his good opinion. Indiscriminate blame is as bad as undiscriminating praise—it only makes a man tired.
I learned this, like most of the sense I’ve got—hard; and it was only a few years ago that I took my last lesson in it. I came down one morning with my breakfast digesting pretty easy, and found the orders fairly heavy and the kicks rather light, so I told the young man who was reading the mail to me, and who, of course, hadn’t had anything special to do with the run of orders, to buy himself a suit of clothes and send the bill to the old man.
Well, when the afternoon mail came in, I dipped into that, too, but I’d eaten a pretty tony luncheon, and it got to finding fault with its surroundings, and the letters were as full of kicks as a drove of Missouri mules. So I began taking it out on the fellow who happened to be handiest, the same clerk to whom I had given the suit of clothes in the morning. Of course, he hadn’t had anything to do with the run of kicks either, but he never put up a hand to defend himself till I was all through, and then he only asked:
“Say, Mr. Graham, don’t you want that suit of clothes back?”
[Illustration: “Say, Mr. Graham, don’t you want that suit of clothes back?”]
Of course, I could have fired him on the spot for impudence, but I made it a suit and an overcoat instead. I don’t expect to get my experience on free passes. And I had my money’s worth, too, because it taught me that it’s a good rule to make sure the other fellow’s wrong before you go ahead. When you jump on the man who didn’t do it, you make sore spots all over him; and it takes the spring out of your leap for the fellow who did it.
One of the first things a boss must lose is his temper—and it must stay lost. There’s about as much sense in getting yourself worked up into a rage when a clerk makes a mistake as there is in going into the barn and touching off a keg of gunpowder under the terrier because he got mixed up in the dark and blundered into a chicken-coop instead of a rat-hole. Fido may be an all-right ratter, in spite of the fact that his foot slips occasionally, and a cut now and then with a switch enough to keep him in order; but if his taste for chicken develops faster than his nose for rats, it’s easier to give him to one of the neighbors than to blow him off the premises.