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Do I need to let my boss beat me in the swimming pool?

Oct 10 2011, 04:33 IST
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SummaryMy employer offers subsidised membership at a local gym. I swim before going to work, but recently my boss has started doing so too.

My employer offers subsidised membership at a local gym. I swim before going to work, but recently my boss has started doing so too.

Despite being roughly the same age as me he is less fit, but is so competitive that when we are swimming side by side, he keeps trying - and failing - to overtake me. In the changing room afterwards he is in a huff and back in the office has started to put me down.

Do I really have to swim more slowly than is comfortable for the sake of his fragile ego?

Manager, male, 32

Lucy’s answer

Your early morning swims sound pretty awful to me. It is not merely the fact that your boss is so keen on overtaking you, it’s having to start the day seeing him in his Speedos.

But as this dawn apparition doesn’t appear to upset you unduly, I think you ought to try harder to turn it to your advantage. You have all that time with him first thing, when he is protected by neither clothes nor lieutenants, yet instead of making the most of it by striking up a jockish rapport with him, you have done your best to alienate him. It’s a poor show.

Otherwise you reveal yourself to have some promise as chief executive material. Winning means so much to you that, no matter how much another person tries to overtake you, you swim faster to thwart him. The idea of deliberately losing, even in casual swimming, upsets you so much that you write to me about it. But you are so politically stupid, you are throwing it all away.

You, of all people, should know that sport is a very serious business for business people, and that it runs in parallel to working life. This means that people who don’t care about sport (ie most women, fatties and bookworms) are disadvantaged when they work for a sports-mad company. In these places there is an etiquette that must be observed, and rule one says that you must not disregard the workplace hierarchy on the playing field (or pool).

The boss must never be caught out on first ball - or be out-lapped. The ideal is to give him a good game, but to let him win in the end. Not necessarily every single day, but on the vast majority of them.

You have already blown it badly by serving your boss a watery humiliation every morning.

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