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Bosses Inherently Suck and the ‘Cool Boss’ Myth is Bullshit

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By Ian Firstenberg

Bosses suck. It’s not exactly their fault. They suck for largely structural reasons — unless they’re just abusive and mean — but overall, they’re positioned to exploit your labor as much as possible. Because that’s what drives profit. 

This sentiment is not new or even particularly radical, unless you’re reading this as a boss, in which case, please check out this hyperlink for a publication more suited to your class interests. 

Bosses sucking is universal enough for people from wildly different backgrounds with wildly different work experiences to come to the same conclusion. 

What’s the point? 

The economy is increasingly centered around the service industry, which is often reliant on nonunion work with irregular hours and high-volume expectations. The profits are churned out of the physical work of laborers overseen and managed by sometimes eight different bosses on any given day. 

It becomes harder and harder to identify who your actual boss is or which ones have opposing class interests to the people they’re supervising. Sure, there are plenty of ‘cool’ bosses. But at the end of the day what they really want is your labor for as cheap and as long as they can possibly get it. Not that cool, after all. 

No bosses are cool. Period. And that’s fine, but just don’t be deceived when one of them tries to be your friend. Capitalism dictates that bosses and workers have directly oppositional class interests. As such, the myth that a boss is ‘cool,’ or ‘chill’ or is somehow ‘on your side’ is a total lie. Not necessarily a malicious lie — some bosses want to think they’re on your side and some even believe it, but as most of us know, they are not. 

The cool boss myth is a real issue in the service realm particularly. It’s easy to identify the owner and even general manager as working against your class interests, but what about the supervisor who works on the line with you? Or the other supervisor who you take smoke breaks with? What about your friend who was recently promoted? It’s hard to see those people as the ‘bosses,’ but if their job is to keep your production flowing, they are indeed bosses and they’re fundamentally against your side, because your side is labor. 

Restaurant cooks on the line. Photo by staxnet/Flickr.

Coming to that realization sucks almost as much as the bosses do. But understanding that is an important aspect of survival in the workforce.

You work for a shitty hourly wage in front of a hot grill with scant benefits and fewer employment protections. In order to obtain any kind of substantial labor protection, it has to be clear which side is which and, furthermore, what each side really wants. 

The only path to meaningful change in the service industry is by way of unifying with fellow workers and reckoning with the cool boss myth. 

It’s probably redundant for many of y’all, but the super green workers out there may not yet know this: The cool boss myth is a huge obstacle on the path of an equitable economy and it is time to dispense with it fully. 

They are not your friends. They are not on your side. They are not cool. They are bosses, and that’s okay. But let’s cut the shit and stop pretending they’re trying to help workers because, as I’m sure most of us are already painfully aware, they aren’t.  

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