The 24 Comments

Edited Text

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?

Post Number 200 — An Affair of the Heart

Heart and hands

It started around post 195.  I realized I was about the come across a milestone in this blog that I began a few years ago.  I would be publishing my 200th post.  For many, that would not very much, but to me, it was, and is, incredible.  Over the intervening weeks, as the post counter in WordPress slowly climbed to that magic number, I began to think of what I wanted the official 200th post to be.  For inspiration, I looked down the road past the 190+ posts I had written as part of my crusade to make the world safe for employees.

As I read about the misbehaviors of Sarah, of Maxine, and of all the others who I have chronicled, an old question came back to my mind.  It was early in this blog when a friend of mine and I met in a restaurant in Irvine, California.  Over many topics of conversation that night was a thought that she might want to begin studying organizational psychology.  She wanted to do this because she wanted to answer a question.  That question?  Why, after all these years of books and studies telling us how to manage effectively, so many managers and leaders still fall way, way short of that goal.  As I went over the various posts on this site, the answer to that question, or at least a partial answer, came to me.

I can’t say that the thought is original.  As a matter of fact, when I first read it, I didn’t think much of it.  Over the years since I read that book, chronicled in this post, I have seen the wisdom in its very simple premise.

A good manager is one for whom management is an affair of the heart.  They are in management and leadership for all the right reasons.  They are there to be helpers and enablers.  They are there to grow their people, help them in their career, and make them more than they ever thought they could be.  They are there to be supporters, a shoulder to lean on in times of need, and a cheerleader.  They fight for their people when necessary.  They develop a bond with their people that goes beyond just the manager-employee relationship, making them someone who their employees would walk through fire for on any occasion.  Their employees feel safe and respected.  They also know that, when they screw up, that they will be told, but even that is okay. Their manager has built up their good will bank account so thoroughly that a withdrawal can be taken out now and then.  Those good managers have employees who will work harder and longer than ever expected.

What is a bad manager?  A bad manager is one for whom management is an affair of the ego.  Their wanting to lead others can be read as wanting to have power over others.  They want someone to do their work, especially the work they don’t like.  The bad manager doesn’t care about overburdening their people, as long as the result makes the manager look good, all in preparation for the next step up the ladder.  Their employees are disposable commodities, to be used, abused, and refused.  When there is nothing left of the employees, there is no rehabilitation.  Rather, they are fired, disposed of, and a fresh batch of servants brought in.  There is no encouragement, no genuine kindness.

A bad manager sees employees as stepping stones, as those who should be told and not heard from.  The bad manager thrives on false flattery and praise — anything to keep the ego going.  No introspection is allowed.  Any dissent from those who might want to disagree?  Punishment is swift and humiliating.  After all, we can’t have the ego attacked now, can we?  When there are indications that the employees en masse are unhappy, the entire blame must be placed on the employee.  Nothing can be allowed to penetrate to citadel of their own self-importance.

I could not have ever imagined writing post #200 in this blog when I began.  Now, at this point of the journey, with story ideas coming at me from so many areas, it is difficult to believe that there is so much more to write.  There is, however, and, if you don’t mind, I think I’ll keep writing a bit longer to expose those with the affair of the ego and celebrate those who have an affair of the heart.

Thank you to those who have been kind enough to follow these writings, to those who have given comments and feedback, and to those who have stopped in to read some of my words on paper.  Thank you as well to the Sarahs and Maxines of the world, for without you, I would have nothing to write about.

To paraphrase Buzz Lightyear:  “To post 300 and beyond!”