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Being the boss

Updated: 02/04/2013 @ 1:55pm

I saw an article in the newspaper that said we might be seeing some bipartisanship in Washington, that some of the senators are actually beginning to work together.

And, the person writing the article seemed to think that was a big deal.

It made me think of a story by Anthony Bourdain.

Anthony Bourdain is a well-known chef, but he’s also a writer and has starred in a couple of TV shows. He wrote a book called “Kitchen Confidential,” which was a behind-the-scenes look at being a chef.

The kitchens Bourdain worked in usually functioned in a state of organized chaos, with much cursing, flinging of food and, occasionally, pans. While he was in the process of writing the book, he visited the kitchen of a famous chef to do an interview – a man he idolized for the quality of food he produced.

Bourdain was stunned to discover that this kitchen was quiet. People made polite requests and worked together to turn out remarkable meals. In the interview, he asked the chef how he dealt with his employee problems in order to produce such a calm, productive atmosphere.

The reply was something along the lines of, “I don’t deal with people problems. If someone comes to me saying they have a problem with another employee, I tell them to fix it or neither one of them is going to be working here anymore. My job is to put out great food, not referee people who are supposed to be professionals.”

I’d never really thought of that before. I’ve worked on governmental boards, shingling crews, and church committees, and the first assumption is that everyone is going to get along, because it’s the only way to get things done.  

That doesn’t mean everyone is going to be buddies, but there’s a level of professional behavior that is absolutely mandatory if you’re going to be productive. If the crew doesn’t know that on its own, the boss is going to point it out.

That’s us, by the way. It’s not the president or the Speaker of the House or the chief lobbyist for any high-powered business. If you’re talking Washington, “we the people” are the boss. Sometimes I think we forget that. I do it myself, find myself saying things like, “…those people in Washington.”

Well, “those people” were sent there by “we the people” and they work for us. We should insist that they get along. I don’t care if they go bowling together or have a House vs. Senate dart match - I just want them to be polite, ask serious questions, and honestly look for real solutions to real problems.

I know a lot of people who I don’t always agree with. Some are friends, some are colleagues, some are just folks I say hello to on the street.  I’m guessing I’d be a little distressed to find out what some of them really think of me and my opinions, but the bottom line is that every day people who disapprove of me or my beliefs in one way or another work with me to get things done.

And that’s my point. “Getting along” isn’t something Washington should be proud of. Being polite, thoughtful, and reasonable shouldn’t be applauded; it should be seen as the bare minimum requirement for keeping their jobs.

Copyright 2013 Brent Olson  

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PAULA BARBOUR 02/04/2013 @ 1:54pm Good column, Brent. In public remarks by members of Congress, there is so much defensiveness and criticism . . . All you hear after a while is, "He started it!" And "She made me do it!" Or, "Nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah." Gosh, it's disappointing. I like to believe there is adult dialogue that happens in private settings. Surely. There must be.

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