Joseph Addison and Richard Steele were 18th Century English writers of periodicals. Their Coverly Papers were essays published in the ‘Spectator’ periodical wherein the fictitious character of Sir Roger De Coverly: an ideal Knight, an old fashioned country gentleman, simple, generous, was created. Sir Roger is shown to stay for some time in the town and at other times in the country. He belonged to the aristocratic family where a whole county comes under the rule of the Squire. He is as good as the King of that place. He is the master, and the butler, chaplain, groom, coachman and all the tenants consider him the ‘best master’. they all have grown old together and form a strong bond which is based on mutual admiration for each other.
For sometime, let us keep aside the other interpretations of the text by other people. Let us concentrate on what Addison’s point of view was. Whenever I read about this character drawn by Addison three centuries back, I get a feeling that we all are missing such an environment in our offices. The boss and the office staff from the peon to the Assistant Manager perhaps all grudge many things. The overall atmosphere of the office is one of mistrust and unhappiness. On the other hand, whatever the financial condition and prospects of the employees of Sir Roger were, they were very happy to serve their master. Rather they wanted a chance to work for him. They were genuinely concerned in case the master was in trouble.
Is this love and admiration for the master/boss altogether a fictitious thing? Can it never be realized? Addison observes in one of the essays that ‘the general corruption of manners in servants is owing to the conduct of the masters’. It means that he places the onus on the masters.
If we try to apply the same logic in our work places, we will need to first consider the boss as the master (which in the days of democracy and ‘opinionated voices’ sounds impossible) and the employees as tenants and servants. Let us for some time, not have that condescending tone. Let us only consider one, as the project manager or the boss, and, the other as the team who is employed with the task in hand.
Now let us again come to our idea of finding satisfaction in our work by establishing sound relations with others. Instead of looking at the job as an isolated thing, let us consider it as a symbiotic relationship between all the stakeholders. What are the qualities of Sir Roger which we find ideal? Can those qualities be enlisted and followed by us? Can we make our offices ‘happy places’?
- Sir Roger was the best master according to all the servants and tenants. This shows the quality of treating everyone equally. He never had favorites. Favouritism breeds jealousy and discontent amongst the others.
- Sir Roger did not confine his love and care only to the employees. He extended it to include their children and their grandchildren too. This concern with the family would bind the employees to the boss/company.
- Sir Roger was generous to a fault. He saw to it that all his people should be provided for. Moreover, he never boasted about the help he extended to them or opportunities he gave them. This selflessness would go a long way!
- Sir Roger never scolded the servants especially in front of others or spoke ill about anyone. Rather he held a conversation with all of them. It is recommended for the bosses to establish a cordial relation with his employees.
- Sir Roger treated the animals also with love and care, even after they were old and no longer in use. Humanity and sensitivity is required to gain popularity.
- Sir Roger provided for his people, gave them salaries and pensions, and saw to it that their old age would be spent comfortably. He shared his profit.
It can be an ideal thing to have a boss like Sir Roger. Whatever faults he had (for who from faults are free), let us ignore them. If the boss is able to create a space in the office to which we all would wish to go to every morning, then he is our Sir Roger!!!! Let us not expect him to be perfect. We want him to be human!!!!