It was a fairly standard document and practice. Sam was writing a proposal for the department to do some work for another department. He had written these many times before, had a template for it, and knew pretty much what to put in the document.
At least he thought he did, before his new manager showed up. Right from the very beginning, she made it very clear that she was an ‘expert’ in these things and was going to show all of them how to do things the ‘right’ way, at least according to her way of thinking. So, a new template was drawn up, the new manager told the staff what had to be placed into these proposals, and announced that each and every one of them had to be personally cleared by her before going to the customer. Though the staff was rather insulted by this behavior, they complied, if only to keep their jobs. The took deep breaths and began to do their work this new way.
Sam was one of the first to experience what this new way involved. He wrote the proposal the way that the new manager had indicated, sent it off to her, and awaited her response. A couple of days later it came back, and when opened, revealed that, on a two page document, she had made 24 separate comments on how it had to be improved. The amount of electronic red ink on the paper alone threatened to overwhelm the word processing program.
That wasn’t all, though. The comments were not the type where there was a suggestion of how things might be put differently. No, they were direct comments about how to write each and every bullet point, or comments about how the items Sam had written down were poor, ineffective, or not of a quality nature. What the new manager had done was remake the document in her image, according to what she thought was right, and schooled Sam in how things were going to be. What the new manager had also done, in one big swath of red ink, was to sap any remaining motivation or love of his job right away. Judging from the looks on the other faces of the employees around him, she was doing a good job in that respect to all the other staff.
We all have our ways of doing things, according to our own style. Look for assessments of this and you will find dozens of tests to determine your personality or way of doing things. It is human nature to do things a bit differently from someone else. What’s more, a good manager knows this.
The good manager, if they want something done to a certain specification, leads the employee to that realization by questioning, self-realization, and explanation. That manager knows that, while you may get things done with the stick, the carrot is much more effective in making sure people’s actions change to how you want things done. This approach leads to learning, growing, and, in most cases, getting what you need without many hard feelings.
If you come in as the great hope of the department, determined to show how much you know and determined to convert the masses with the force of your personality, you are going to see a lot of backs turned to you. If you tell instead of suggest, order instead of lead, and demean instead of persuade, you will get just what you intended: a group of drones, not an engaged workforce.
A good manager does their job so their people learn and grow.
A bad manager does their job so their own ego can grow. And they do it awash in a sea of red ink corrections. That same sea of red ink will wash away your people as soon as they can get the chance to leave. What will that do for your ego and, more importantly, your productivity?