Sarah Sands: The boss is always right. Just remember who the boss is

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Let us remind ourselves that Jose Mourinho's title, "The Special One", was not bestowed on him by his fans. He came up with it himself. "There is God, there is Jesus and then there is me," he said.

What is the flaw in that sentence? Exactly: he does not mention Roman Abramovich.

Mourinho is guilty of the greatest sin in office politics – the failure to "manage up". Why didn't he pretend to his boss that the fans were singing "Stand up for the Russian One" rather than "The Special One"? Why did he never fully embrace the boss's pet player Shevchenko?

Managing up is overlooked by many big shots, until it is too late. They imagine that their bosses revel in their protégés' celebrity and popularity. Puffed up by a sense of self-importance, they believe their bosses when they talk of independence.

There are few bosses who are genuinely in thrall to the "talent" and admire it even more than they admire themselves. One is the new head of Peters Fraser and Dunlop literary agency, Caroline Michel. And look where all her massaging of her staff has got her. Understaffed. Otherwise, bosses have deeply ambivalent feelings towards independent power bases. They encourage stars while wanting to destroy them.

The story of Michael Ovitz, the Hollywood super agent, is cited like an Aesop fable in business schools. Ovitz was appointed by the Disney boss Michael Eisner, but as soon as he arrived at the company, Eisner's attitude towards him changed. Ovitz found himself mysteriously out of the loop, his orders countermanded, his initiatives ignored.

Bosses cannot make you succeed but they can make you fail. Some Chelsea fans believe the dive in the club's fortunes coincided with Abramovich's clumsy insistence that Shevchenko had to play key matches. They wonder why Abramovich wasn't satisfied with handing over the cheques and giving

his manager all the power and the glory. Imagine how the Russian billionaire must have brooded in his box. All that money and no respect.

What the anonymous boss class find most infuriating are front men who have a nicer time than they do. They hate them even more when they play the heroism card, a trick that Mourinho has used to good effect. There is nothing more thrilling than guerrilla warfare against your own boss.

Before I was fired as an editor of The Sunday Telegraph I was threatening to bar the doors from a boss – not the big boss, a little boss – who I thought had been unnecessarily imposed on me. I said I would regard any direct contact between him and my staff as an act of war and I paced up and down in my office like Mary, Queen of Scots. Strangely, my boss did not see the funny side of this. I was replaced by a steadier and wiser editor, but she's gone too.

Her departure surprised media commentators, but not me. I predicted it, once a jaunty paragraph in a newspaper diary had congratulated her on sending back an expensive bottle of champagne said to have been presented to her by the Telegraph management as a reward for making cuts in staff. "That's it," I said, sliding my hand across my throat.

No bosses really like showy acts of heroism, not even army generals. Colonel Tim Collins was lauded by the press for his rousing eve-of-battle speech in Iraq. But among the high-ranking officer class he was accused of showing off.

Jose Mourinho was too special for his own good. Bosses have the last laugh. How special are ex-managers of Chelsea?