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Look, I am your father

I can’t take it anymore,” says my friend Bert (not his real name), who is in his late 40s.  “Papa is driving me crazy.”

Bert has been working in his family’s food enterprise since graduating from college.  An artist at heart, he nonetheless majored in business because as the eldest son, he is expected to take over someday.

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Bert wanted to be in marketing, but his father placed him in operations and sales.

“For papa, the core of the business is sales,” he says.  “Operations is second.  I wanted to try digital marketing, design our website, do promotions but papa said those were a waste of time.”

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“Your father may have a point,” I say.  “Without increasing sales, you cannot sustain your business.”

“He is always criticizing me!”  Bert says.  “He wants reports done right away.  He pounces on every typo.  He shoots down every idea I have.  He nitpicks our operations.  He even threatened to cut my pay, for tardiness. Can you believe it?”

“Are you often late?”  I ask.

“He arrives abnormally early, at eight. Traffic is horrible, so I get there at nine.”

“Can’t you negotiate starting your day at nine and then leaving work an hour later?”  I ask.

“The company rule is everyone gets in at eight.  No exceptions.  He is so rigid!”

“Your father is a self-made man, he is extremely hardworking,” I say.  “But the shadow side of his personality is perfectionism. He has high expectations of himself as well as of you.”

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I tell him about US consultants Grant Gordon and Nigel Nicholson, who in their book “Family Wars” discuss “the double-sided face of power and personality, [where] each positive aspect of character has its dark side.”

“It’s not fair,” he says.  “I don’t want to work for him anymore.”

“Fairness is not the issue here,” I say.  “Sorry, Bert, but all of us have our dark sides.  You, too.”

“Come on, what do you mean?  Ako ang inaapi rito (I am being maltreated)!”

“How often do your reports contain errors?”  I ask.

“You know me.  I am a creative forced to work in a box—just a couple of minor errors. Papa wants reports done quickly.“

“That’s no excuse,” I say.  “You are no longer in school.  Errors in sales reports matter.”

“Papa does not respect me at all! Last month, I proposed three plans to improve operations, but he said they were unrealistic.”

“Last year, he gave you the green light to implement a system to streamline operations,” I say.  “How did that go?”

“We tried it for two months.  Then it needed some tweaks.  Papa said we were wasting money, so he shut it down.”

“Bert, every time we meet, you tell me about yet another plan,” I say.  “I like your enthusiasm, but you have no follow through.  You have the mind and soul of a creative, but business requires you to be on top of things also.  Creativity is not an excuse for you to be sloppy, just as your father’s perfectionism  is not an excuse to demand the same from you.”

Viewed from these dual sides, “a weakness is just a misplaced strength,” say Gordon and Nicholson, “and vice versa!”

For personal effectiveness, they suggest three steps:  “Know yourself.  Read the situation.  Discipline yourself.”

“Turn weaknesses into strengths,” I tell him. “Do not lose your creative spark, but use it to improve your facility for details.  You used to be meticulous in your artwork, so you can take more care in your written documents.  To keep numbers in mind, create mnemonics and make a wallpaper, you get the idea.”

“What about papa?”

“Have a heart-to-heart talk with him.  Tell him how you feel.  He loves you, but he is disappointed in your tardiness, report errors, flimsy plans.  Recognize his strengths, and tell him to use his experience and wisdom to guide you rather than put you down.”

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