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Haiku in the Workplace: The Ideal Boss

My brief stints as a boss do give me some insight into how difficult the position can be — if you are troubled by conscience. If not, then anything (I say) goes. Your submissions made apparent that most of your bosses are untroubled.

This, however, serves more as a detriment and distraction to your poetic musings than an opportunity. Egotism and willfulness make for easy targets, primarily through satire and caricature, and neither of these techniques lends itself amiably to haiku, though they are the very stuff of senryu. So we should consider all of the following to fall into this latter category.

The most unusual poem submitted for this topic was

off stage —
a piano tuner
enjoys success
	[David Dayson]

and though it doesn’t exactly fit the description, it’s a good enough poem that I wanted to make sure it received some attention. More typical of your responses is

an ideal boss —
ascends but transcends
their own self
	[David Dayson]

I’m not sure this entirely works (“ascends their own self?;” and if that is too fanciful a reading, then “ascends” what?) but we take the point. This poem falls more into the line of an apophthegm, and the sentiment it expresses probably stands for nearly all of our respondents, and a good many other laborers as well.

My third choice this week is

My generation’s
ideal boss must be
me, Me, ME!
	[Sarah Leavesley]

A bit of self-parody always lightens our mood. This poet has taken the opportunity to spoof himself, the notion of the boss, and his entire generation, all in one swell foop! Nicely played.

My second choice casts a colder eye on the role:

my boss is perfect:
right stance, right rules, right until
the new chief arrives 
	[Sarah Leavesley]

I first read this poem to mean that the boss’s boss had been replaced, and that the boss now was experiencing the same upheaval that the workers undergo on a more regular basis. In this reading, the boss, who has perfected a way of being that the poet extols, is forced to change, with who knows what consequences for the workers. But upon second and third consideration, I think it is the boss himself who has been exchanged. The poem then is more a cautionary tale that not all is as it seems, and that even the most exemplary of leaders is merely a cog in a machine, whose purposes is veiled, and who is easily replaced.

My top choice this week draws on literature and folk tale:

the best boss knows —
it’s Pinocchio’s honesty
with Cyrano’s flair
	[David Dayson]

The homely pun (“the best boss nose”) leads us into a quick study of character as exemplified by two well-known tellers of “truths.” I’m not sure everyone would agree with the poet’s opinion, but calling into play the range of possibilities a boss has at her disposal does highlight one of the nuanced responsibilities of leadership. How much do we tell, and to whom? And how to couch it within the needs and goals of the larger enterprise? Her employees, however, are at a disadvantage: it’s unlikely the boss has such an easy “tell” as either of these characters, so knowing what to believe is all the more challenging. It’s probably best to presume none of what we’re told is true, to a greater or lesser extent. For the rest, we must rely upon the value of “flair” . . .

New Poems

birthday wishes —
a precious book
on my desk
     — Doris Pascolo
the ideal boss —
George Clooney
who else?
     — Anna Maria Domburg-Sancristoforo
working the job on demand
a sharp blade
     — Ernesto P. Santiago
what! an ideal boss?
read the inscription
the boss is never wrong!
     — Celestine Nudanu
my perfect boss
smiles at me
through the mirror
     — Maria Laura Valente
making my coffee just the way I like it the ideal boss
     — Angelee Deodhar
the boss hands me
a cash bonus
     — Roberta Beary
hardly in his  seat
does not bother
     — S. Radhamani Sarma
another stress-filled day
my boss talks me off the ledge 
     — Amy Losak
planting seeds . . .
my garden in spring 
the ideal boss
     — Rachel Sutcliffe
nothing works!
my perfect boss can tame
the shrew in me
     — Marta Chocilowska
the ideal boss
in the corridor between
my two bosses
     — Mark Gilbert
the ideal boss
goes and gets us
all fired
     — Michael Henry Lee
Taking a break
My boss and I take a walk
To the grand cafe
     — Kristjaan Panneman
ideal boss —
he/she sees my work
and my face
     — Maria Teresa Sisti
Cocked glasses
Soiled tie and trousers
Yup . . . the ideal boss
     — Katherine Stella
Head well
who also knows how to listen
Is it just an ideal?
Dirige bene
chi sa anche ascoltare
E’ solo un ideale?
     — Angela Giordano
I have a dream . . .
a charismatic and brave leader
like Martin Luther King
     — Eufemia Griffo
ideal boss
the smooth talker 
even if ticking off
     — Madhuri Pillai
company culture
the ideal boss climbs
through “snakes and ladders”
     — Adjei Agyei-Baah
an ideal boss —
the mirages i chased
all along
     — Arvinder Kaur
teabreak al fresco!
the new boss 
adding sweetener
     — Brendon Kent
snipping the micro
out of management 
a new bloom
     — Devin Harrison
the ideal is real: 
my two adorable 
little bosses
     — Elisa Allo
the perfect boss
balancing sticks
with carrots
     — Olivier Schopfer
mantra for a boss 
hear no evil . . . see no evil . . .
speak no evil
     — Valentina Ranaldi-Adams
indulgent, kind, caring
unsparing in her praise
sadly, not my boss
     — Marietta McGregor
Captain Kirk
who would not follow you
boldly, for benefits
     — Ron Scully
Boss planner —
important job appointments
and birthdays
     — Nazarena Rampini
what a difference
a diacritic makes
the ideal boss
     — Lee Nash
not there tomorrow
but you guys know exactly
what should be done, right?!
     — Adrian Bouter
hot desking —
the boss’s squash kit
goes home with him
     — Martha Magenta
the ideal boss:
admitting his errors . . . 
capo ideale:
ammettendo gli errori …
solo una volta
     — Lucia Cardillo
Lead well
who also knows how to listen
Is it just an ideal?
Dirige bene 
chi sa anche ascoltare
E’ solo un ideale?
     — Angela Giordano
at the end
of the rainbow —
the ideal boss
     — Debbi Antebi
tough but 
oh, so gentle 
his fresh carnation
     — Paul Geiger
branches shelter
the sprouted acorns; 
we grow together
     — Timothy J. Dickey
night patrol
a firefly flickers
then moves on
     — Jennifer Hambrick
teacher’s bus
my boss hands me
just picked persimmons
     — Carmen Sterba
field error
the boss’ tap
on the shoulder
     — Willie Bongcaron

Next Week’s Theme: Working Late

Send your poem using “workplace haiku” as the subject by Sunday midnight to our Contact Form. Good luck!

kacian_jimFrom October 2014 through April 2016 Haiku Foundation president Jim Kacian offered a column on haiku for the London Financial Times centered on the theme of work. Each week we share these columns with the haiku community at large, along with an invitation to join in the fun. Submit a poem by Sunday midnight on the theme of the week, from the classical Japanese tradition, or contemporary practice, or perhaps one of your own, which you might even write for the occasion. The best of these will be appended to the column. First published 1 June 2015.

This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. Thanks for publishing one of mine.

    I liked the ones by –

    Anna Maria Domburg-Sancristoforo
    Maria Laura Valente
    Ron Scully
    Debbi Antebi

    1. Hi Pat,

      You should, that’s a mighty fine verse!
      my ideal boss
      his Buddha
      Pat Davis

      I think that’s a brilliant verse!
      warm regards,

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