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Haiku in the Workplace: The New Boss

Change is good. It recharges the battery, refocuses our vision, gets us out of the old familiar. That’s especially welcome at this time of year, after the excitement of the holidays wanes and we return to our old routines. A cocktail of change — comprised, as it often is, of a shot of fear, another of uncertainty, blended with adrenaline and served neat — can be just the picker-upper we need to get through what’s left of the winter.

But a new boss — well, she’s a pitiable object, ripe for lampooning:

a new boss
with charismatic smile —
botoxed for a while
	[David Dayson]

However much we might need her, fear her, possibly even like her, she is an adversary who bears watching:

replacement director
a new footfall
to be learned
	[Marion Clarke]

It is worth our while to come to know the enemy:

employees 
orientate to the new boss —
reading Sun Tzu
	[David Dayson]

and to know that we are not the only ones confronting change:

rites of passage —
a new boss sacrifices
the old board
	[David Dayson]

Still, this too is a passing fancy, and it’s only a matter of time

new boss
such excitement
until noon
	[Marion Clarke]

before we return to the comfortable rut. So it’s not so much the newness we celebrate with the new boss as the time it takes to break him in to the old ways. My third choice this week knows this from the outset:

the new boss
invites us on a journey —
in a hot air balloon
	[David Dayson]

The poet invites us on a journey as well, and the first two lines open to endless possibility, bounded only by imagination. The third line is a wonderfully apt prick in the metaphorical balloon — we’ve been here before.

Second choice goes to this rendering of a completely modern malady:

adapting well

to the new manager

a cable bug
	[Ernesto Santiago]

The ambiguity of this poem — is it the persona of the poem who is adapting well, or the cable bug? — seizes our attention, and its lack of resolution makes it hard to forget. This is not a strategy that works all the time — in fact, the vast majority of such poems fail for just such uncertainty — but here, given the ambiguity of just what kind of bug a “cable bug” is, I think it strikes just the right note. And given the additional frisson that a cable bug, just as an office manager, is an entity wholly created by the workplace environment, one morphs neatly into the other, both minor nuisances that inflict a bit of surprise and pain but are for the most part harmless. This is the first time I’ve encountered “cable bug” in a haiku, so it also has the added value of novelty.

My top selection is not a novelty, but rather an image that seems so familiar that we feel perhaps we could or should have written it:

swinging round
in his old chair
new boss
	[Marion Clarke]

I chose it because of the perfection of its rendering — nothing wasted, nothing out of scale. There is fine energy in the poem — “swinging round” brings in action, and is so suggestive of characteristic gesture that we already feel we know this person. “his old chair” breaks two ways — the old boss’s chair (hence, the old regime), and the new occupant of the old chair (hence, the new). And the fine trochee of the third line — terse, to the point, just the opposite of the playful sweep of the gesture. Altogether, it is reminiscent of The Who and our personal experiences of just such moments. We know exactly where we are, and we know everything we need to know about just what sort of change has taken place. Nicely done.

All right, enough lolligagging with your haiku, get back to work!

New Poems

boyz 2 men
suddenly silent 
the new boss introduces
herself
     — Roberta Beary

          *

new boss —
funny jokes
fake laughter
     — Doris Pascolo

          *

three years since the takeover
by the Irish powerhouse
yet to glimpse a leprechaun
     — Mark Gilbert

          *

due date
the imminent arrival 
of a new boss
     — Rachel Sutcliffe

          *

it’s more than likely
heads will roll 
arrival of the new boss
     — Celestine Nudanu

          *

ending up
with a new boss
the old boss
     — Ernesto P. Santiago

          *

the new boss . . .
some re-arrangements
in the office
     — Willie Bongcaron

          *

all new artwork
in the corner office . . .
pink slips for lunch
     — Michael H. Lester

          *

the new boss
fixing everything that
wasn’t broken
     — Michael Henry Lee

          *

first CEO meeting
everyone’s year-long experience
at a glance
     — Stefano Riondato

          *

first day on the job 
the first blush 
of a new blemish
     — Amy Losak

          *

meet and greet
the new boss in jeans
with creases
     — Pat Davis

          *

bruised ego
the new boss
half my age
     — Olivier Schopfer

          *

the new boss —
a scent of perfume
in all rooms

il nuovo capo —
una scia di profumo
in tutte le stanze
     — Angela Giordano

          *

his first day talk
incentive a month’s paid leave
best performer
     — S. Radhamani

          *

the new boss arrives
to straighten the plant out
fur flyin’
     — Marilyn Appl Walker

          *

the new boss’s smile
a broken front tooth
ceases mine
     — Marta Chocilowska

          *

the new boss —
with a smile and a gaze
I’ll seduce him
     — Rosa Maria Di Salvatore

          *

boss new just as old the goals
     — Adrian Bouter

          *

new boss . . .
the voice precedes
his presence
     — Madhuri Pillai

          *

our desks
now face east —
new boss
     — Arvinder Kaur

          *

central expansion . . .
the new boss loosens
his belt
     — Martha Magenta

          *

high tech company 
no one bothers 
about the new boss
     — Hifsa Ashraf

          *

position of boss —
ONE advances
from the hopefuls
     — Valentina Ranaldi-Adams

          *

new boss
the water cooler’s
bubble burp
     — Agnes Eva Savich

          *

cicada chorus 
in the shadow of the new boss
a sudden hush
     — Karen Conrads Wibell

          *

her oversized suit
our assistant principal’s
sudden promotion
     — Frank J. Tassone

          *

here he comes
please welcome new CEO
good old Chairman
     — Ashoka Weerakkody

          *

welcome party
baking two jam tarts 
for let me notice
     — Elisa Allo

          *

the new boss
prepares himself reading
Machiavelli
     — Tomislav Maretic

          *

time for a change . . .
same old lines
from the new boss
     — Angelo Ancheta

          *

cake at lunch
with the new manager
separate checks
     — Gail Oare

          *

change
no one smiles
in the corridor
     — Christine Eales

          *

breky with the new boss
buttered croissants edge out
plain bagels
     — Alegria Imperial

          *

a clean sweep
the old boss’s sofa
disappearing
     — Mike Gallagher

          *

new boss —
calling me in the morning
forgotten alarm on my phone
     — Ana Drobot

          *

Googling
the new boss’s name
one step ahead
     — Karen Harvey

          *

distant thunder
the profile pic
of my new boss
     — Deborah P Kolodji

          *

and finally, though not really a haiku, the new boss’ mantra:

we are the boss
we win the toss
and suffer no loss
     — Adjei Agyei-Baah

          *

Next Week’s Theme: The Office Ghoul

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 26 January 2016.

This Post Has 9 Comments

  1. Roberta Beary,
    Always like reading your latest stuff!

    as the Cubs 🐻
    bear down
    up we go^

    Mike Schoenburg

  2. Dear esteemed poet,
    greetings! How the new boss is viewed,anticipated and seen by the
    writers! really wonderful,going through the various observations.

    with regards
    S.Radhamani

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