"...they exercised the old middle-class male prerogative of being permanently in a most filthy temper," writes John Mortimer in his autobiography, "Clinging to the Wreckage".
I don't know whether he's writing re the 40s or 50s, but I certainly encountered it later than that: men in senior positions whose bad temper swirled around and radiated from them, so that one approached them, on the most innocent mission, with trepidation and something close to obsequity. Girlish deference, anyway.
Management is much more enlightened these days, I am told. However, I read: "Since when did displays of rude, aggressive behaviour get you ahead at work? .....according to research from the University of Amsterdam, people behaving badly often.....forge ahead in their career." (The Age. 4/7/2011).
I was reminded of this this week when I saw the unaccustomed photos of Rupert Murdoch smiling. Yes, I know that the files may be full of such, and the newspapers have chosen not to print them. But, these were current. I speculated as to whether the smiles were saying, "What, me worried?" Or perhaps, "I'm a nice person, really."
I was reminded also of ex Prime Minister Paul Keating saying of him: "He's a big, bad bastard and the only way you can deal with him is to make sure he thinks you can be a big, bad bastard too....the only language he respects is strength".
Then RP returned to the USA. He announced that the crisis had been handled absolutely faultlessly. The photo accompanying this story had his usual grumpy expression restored. Whew! Everything back to normal.
It's certainly true that some senior women have now perfected these techniques also; taking them, I'm told, to a new level of viciousness. What a pity. They all need to learn to play nicely.