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Manager or Monster?

March 16, 2008

A couple of years ago I did a small study across a few companies about what people thought a good manager should be. Here’s a near-unanimous poll of what they said.

  1. Listens to his people
  2. Empathizes with their struggles
  3. Protects and fights for them
  4. Rewards them well
  5. Treats everyone fairly

My next question was, how would you rate your current boss? Here’s what 6 out of 10 said.

  1. They don’t listen
  2. They make life more difficult
  3. They demotivate them
  4. Reward? What reward?
  5. They play favoritism

On top of that, about three in 10 said their bosses were clueless imbeciles.

Reality check: in the eyes of their staff, most managers are jerks or morons (or both). So why the large gap between what is and what should be and why is the feeling so pervasive?

My opinion, after having worked a number of years, is that if you believe in a perfect boss, you also believe in a perfect spouse. They don’t exist. Well okay they do – in text books.

Now what happens if a manager decides to take the text book approach as I once did when I was first promoted? I listened, empathized, coached, played fair. Turned out I didn’t score too well. Some thought I was too lenient, some too harsh. Some thought I was too by-the-book, some too flexible.

I did learn my own lessons. As a manager, being nice and accomodating doesn’t always get you there. There’s never enough resources, money, or time to go around. While some people are spirited, some are out to game the system. I guess people are people.

I’m my own manager now. Am I happy with him? Generally yes, although I sometimes wish he’d spend less time messing around on the internet. 😛

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