The Janus (named after the two-faced Roman god):
The Employee Approach: First, employees must recognize that they’re being misrepresented (or un-represented). This generally comes indirectly from others who recognize what’s going on. Once they know, employees can begin to act. They should directly approach their Janus to ask him/her why they are being misrepresented. A Janus will often back down once confronted. They should try to get someone in the group to attend some of the meetings between their Janus and his/her bosses. It’s much harder for a Janus to misrepresent his/her people when one or more are there. They should ask if one of them could present directly to the bosses, making evident their contributions. If there are some major problems going unreported, they should find a way to make them known to those above their Janus, through status reports, project reviews, or other means. If they became aware of the situation through one of their Janus’ peers, then they should approach that peer and get his/her suggestions on how best to correct the situation. If one of the subordinates knows one of their Janus’ bosses, they may approach that boss, recognizing that going around their Janus could backfire. Still, all they are really asking is for visibility. They are willing to accept responsibility for problems, but they would also like recognition for successes.
Old Yeller (with the emphasis on YELL!):
The Employee Approach: The best thing an employee can do with an Old Yeller is to educate him/her to feel more comfortable and confident with the technology area he/she is responsible for. This lack of understanding is typically what causes Old Yeller to react so emotionally and vocally. However, such education must be done subtly, so that Old Yeller doesn’t think he/she is being put down. By getting Old Yeller comfortable with the technology, he/she will likely be more understanding when problems arise. Another approach is to provide Old Yeller with frequent status reports (both written and verbal), which cover status, issues, and recommendations, in terms that Old Yeller can understand. This will help to inform and further educate Old Yeller on what’s going on, the technology issues, and what’s being done to address them. In all interactions with Old Yeller, respond calmly and logically; responding emotionally, as Old Yeller does, will only make things worse (see Pound the Facts, Not the Table). You should set a good example, even if Old Yeller can’t. If none of this works, try a direct appeal to Old Yeller to let him/her know the negative impact he/she is having on the group. Or try to approach peers of Old Yeller to get their help. If none of this works, try approaching Old Yeller’s boss, but going around Old Yeller can backfire. If nothing else works, then it may be time to look for a transfer, or even for a position in another company (see Know When To Fold 'Em and When It's Time to 'Walk Away', Don't Turn Back!). Being constantly yelled at by your manager is no way to live!
These are just two of many Mis-Manager personality types that you will come across in knowledge worker-based organizations. I’ll get into more in subsequent Mis-Manager blog posts. The negative impact of Mis-Managers on companies cannot be overstated. The key is to recognize the various personality types and to approach them in the most effective way to help both groups and their Mis-Managers. Employees must recognize that Mis-Managers hold positions of direct authority over them, and so must approach them carefully. They must walk a fine line and find what works best for them. Their work environment, and future, may depend upon it.
[Note: If you have a Mis-Manager personality type you would like to see spotlighted, please let me know. I will do my best to accommodate you.]
[Note: The Old Yeller personality type was requested/suggested by my daughter, who had such a terrible Mis-Manager at a prior position. She tried all of the above to varying degrees of success before finally making the decision to leave the company, primarily because of this Mis-Manager – she had had enough! She was extremely relieved when she was out from under Old Yeller.]