Today Business Insider ran my story around how companies need to rethink how we hire, train and evaluate managers and bosses, and I wanted to take you all a level deeper into where I think this problem truly resides.
In my working life, I have mostly been beset by some of the worst examples of management one could imagine, from executives that manipulated younger male reports to see them as “father figures,” to managers that outright said that not only were they throwing people under the bus, but they’d happily drive it. Management in the average corporation is about compensating someone with power and money, with the unspoken promise that yes, you can bully people below you, because that’s what management is.
What management is meant to be is something more akin to a guardianship — a person that is responsible for making sure others are taken care of and doing their best, rather than someone ordering them around and reaping the rewards. While management requires by nature there to be some kind of power dynamic, there is rarely (if ever) a delineation between “I am going to give you things to do so that the company runs” and “you are going to do stuff I don’t want to do, because I have power over you.”
I also think this leads into the other false presumption about management — that a manager is a mini-boss, and thus has a mini-company that they run. The big problem with this (extremely common) construct is that it creates a situation where you work “for” a manager, which is not how this is meant to work. You work for the company — and the manager does too — and creating a power dynamic where you “work for” someone that is not the company itself, you are creating a structure where there is no compensation for good work other than the success of the manager themselves.
An easy solution to this problem is to vow to never promote another person to manager ever again, unless there are specific criteria for both what a manager is and how their success is evaluated. This means that the manager has to be held to specific metrics that evaluate their peoples’ success, which has to include a kind of moral compass — something that promises heavy punishments for the kind of abusive, cruel management that has made us all hate managers.
I also think — as I’ve said repeatedly before — that we need to have less managers in general, and that these managers should not be allowed to just “manage.” A manager should do the job of the people they are managing, and be…