Social media folks claim relationships have gone horizontal. Presentation coaches, such as myself, explain to Fortune 500 bigfoots that the terrain they're walking is now flat; yes, the audience expects you to add value, but on a peer basis. Experts, at least with the Big "E," are so 20th century [Read "The Black Swan" by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.]
Yeah, all well and good until a former boss contacts me and maybe you.
When I was in the auto industry and attended GM parties, I wondered how retired mid-level employees would continue to defer to their bosses. Seemed strange. Someday I planned to write a piece about that.
Now I am. I went into an identical hierarchy default when a boss who hadn't been my boss since 1981 sent me an email.
Evidence of my inner boss conditioning? I responded to the email. I could have ignored it. I do that frequently with other people from the past. Caller ID helps that. Then I continued with an email conversation. It was the boss who finally signed off, but not before giving me suggestions for articles I could pitch to TIME Magazine. Was I ripped? Yes. Part of a flat world is holding the advice. In Buddhism, the student must request advice from the teacher three times before the teacher will give any. Incidentally, Taleb recommends that we charge those who dare to deliver us unsolicited advice.
Right after the email ordeal, all the gains I had made in the past four years seemed in peril. Yeah, I assumed that I had put the lessons of a career meltdown, top-drawer Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, a vow of poverty to prevent bad professional choices because of greed, the wild success of blogging and marketing communications [new niche or long tail businesses for me] between me and a past I'm ambivalent about.
Two nights in a row I had nightmares. Just last night it was all about the bullying chairman of the English Department at my alma mater Seton Hill who put me in tears first semester freshman year. The night before that it was about a landlord who wouldn't rent to me with pets. I was carrying my late dog Molly Mittens who died June 30, 2006.
Some of us seem to be still burdened with an inner boss figure or an angst about those who communicate that they are superior or our superiors in some way. Can I shake this? Maybe not. But now I realize it can shake me. I won't open that door, not again, not ever.