Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Mis-Managers 7: Hands-Off, Wheeler-Dealer, Credit Taker/Thief & A$$hole

In a recent blog post, Mis-Managers: How Bad Managers Can Poison the Well, I raised the issue of Mis-Managers and the damage they can cause to not only their direct reports, but to the organization as a whole. I also discussed how such Mis-Managers typically got promoted into their positions and “reached their level of incompetence”. This blog post is the last (for now) in the Mis-Manager series (see also Mis-Managers 2: Janus & Old Yeller and Mis-Managers 3: Builder-Upper & Tearer-Downer, Mis-Managers 4: Micromanagers - People, Design &amp: ProcessMis-Managers 5: Power Tripper & Turf Builder, and Mis-Managers 6: Mentor, Tactician & Strategist), that describes some specific Mis-Manager personality types, the ways they create problems, and some suggestions as to how employees can attempt to survive, and hopefully prosper, with such Mis-Managers. The challenge of effectively dealing with Mis-Managers can be daunting, as they typically determine (or significantly influence) their employees’ futures.  As with my Herding Cats series, (see Herding Cats: The Art of "Managing" Knowledge WorkersHerding Cats 2: Problem Child & Elitist BastardHerding Cats 3: Boss Wannabe & Social ButterflyHerding Cats 4: "Wally" & Prima DonnaHerding Cats 5: Solid Citizen, Valued Expert & Rising Star, and Herding Cats 6: Complainer/Whiner, Eternal Optimist, Chesire Cat, Loner, Credit Taker/Thief & A$$hole), which discuss knowledge worker (see Knowledge Is Power!) personality types, this one describes Mis-Manager characteristics, and concentrates on one specific attribute, rather than the mix of characteristics that will normally be the case. Clearly every Mis-Manager is an individual with characteristics that are unique, and most have a variety of personality characteristics. Every situation is also unique and should be treated in a unique fashion. The suggestions I make for approaching such people are just one person’s view – mine. Given the position of power that a Mis-Manager may occupy, think carefully about your best approach.


The Hands-Off Manager:
The Characteristics:  The Hands-Off Manager basically ignores his/her employees. He/she does his/her thing, and the employees do theirs. When an employee goes to such a manager for advice or guidance, that employee may hear bromides or clich├ęs, but won’t hear anything meaningful; his/her employees are basically on their own. The Hands-Off Manager won’t stop employees from trying things (which can be a good thing, as employees need to stretch and try new things), but won’t help them or prevent them from making known mistakes. They basically treats their employees as “latchkey kids”. The employees really have no leader or manager, no one to run interference when appropriate, and no one to back them up or support them when questions arise. For the Hands-Off Manager’s employees, it’s learn as you go, and support yourselves. This is not a healthy environment.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Mis-Managers 6: Mentor, Tactician & Strategist

Not all Managers are Mis-Managers. In my recent blog post, Mis-Managers: How Bad Managers Can Poison the Well, I raised the issue of Mis-Managers and the damage they can cause to not only their direct reports, but to the organization as a whole. I also discussed how such Mis-Managers typically got promoted into their positions and “reached their level of incompetence”. This blog post is the sixth in the Mis-Manager series (see also Mis-Managers 2: Janus & Old Yeller and Mis-Managers 3: Builder-Upper & Tearer-DownerMis-Managers 4: Micromanagers - People, Design & Process, Mis-Managers 5: Power Tripper & Turf Builder, and Mis-Managers 7: Hands-Off, Wheeler-Dealer, Credit Taker/Thief & A$$hole), but this one discusses some positive Manager types, and not Mis-Managers. As with my Herding Cats series, (see Herding Cats: The Art of "Managing" Knowledge WorkersHerding Cats 2: Problem Child & Elitist BastardHerding Cats 3: Boss Wannabe & Social ButterflyHerding Cats 4: "Wally" & Prima DonnaHerding Cats 5: Solid Citizen, Valued Expert & Rising Star, and Herding Cats 6: Complainer/Whiner, Eternal Optimist, Chesire Cat, Loner, Credit Taker/Thief & A$$hole) which discuss knowledge worker (see Knowledge Is Power!) personality types, this one describes Manager characteristics, and concentrates on one specific attribute, rather than the mix of characteristics that will normally be the case. Clearly every Manager (and Mis-Manager) is an individual with characteristics that are unique, and most have a variety of personality characteristics. Every situation is also unique and should be treated in a unique fashion. The suggestions I make for approaching such people are just one person’s view – mine. Given the position of power that a Manager or Mis-Manager may occupy, think carefully about your best approach.

The Mentor:
The Characteristics:  A Mentor is a manager who concentrates on and emphasizes the development of his/her people as a high priority. He/she provides meaningful assignments that enable his/her people to grow in technical, process, and people skills. A Mentor’s philosophy is, “Give a man a fish and he can eat for a day, but teach a man to fish and he can eat for life.” The Mentor seeks to provide the skills and abilities for his/her people to excel and grow. He/she respects them and enables them to express their opinions freely, take chances, make mistakes, learn, and develop. He/she believes in open and honest communication, and has a real open door policy, where any topic or problem can be freely discussed without concerns of retribution or recrimination. He/she provides meaningful and actionable guidance that his/her people can really use. A Mentor leads by example, and serves as a positive role model (see Learn From Good Role Models; Learn More From Bad). He/she encourages teamwork by demonstrating the success and synergy that comes from effective team efforts (see Pigasus - When Pigs Fly!).

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Mis-Managers 5: Power Tripper & Turf Builder

In a recent blog post I raised the issue of Mis-Managers and the damage they can cause to not only their direct reports, but to the organization as a whole (see Mis-Managers: How Bad Managers Can Poison the Well). I also discussed how such Mis-Managers typically got promoted into their positions and “reached their level of incompetence”. This blog post is the fifth in the Mis-Manager series (see also Mis-Managers 2: Janus & Old Yeller and Mis-Managers 3: Builder-Upper & Tearer-Downer, Mis-Managers 4: Micromanagers - People, Design & ProcessMis-Managers 6 - Mentor, Tactician & Strategist, and Mis-Managers 7: Hands-Off, Wheeler-Dealer, Credit Taker/Thief & A$$hole) that describes some specific Mis-Manager personality types, the ways they create problems, and some suggestions as to how employees can attempt to survive, and hopefully prosper, with such Mis-Managers. The challenge of effectively dealing with Mis-Managers can be daunting, as they typically determine (or significantly influence) their Employees futures. As with my Herding Cats series of blog posts (see Herding Cats: The Art of "Managing" Knowledge WorkersHerding Cats 2: Problem Child & Elitist BastardHerding Cats 3: Boss Wannabe & Social ButterflyHerding Cats 4: "Wally" & Prima DonnaHerding Cats 5: Solid Citizen, Valued Expert & Rising Star, and Herding Cats 6: Complainer/Whiner, Eternal Optimist, Chesire Cat, Loner, Credit Taker/Thief & A$$hole), which discuss knowledge worker (see Knowledge Is Power!) personality types, I purposefully describe characteristics that are more extreme, and that concentrate on one specific attribute, than will normally be the case. Clearly every Manager (and Mis-Manager) is an individual with characteristics that are unique, and most have a variety of personality characteristics. Every situation is also unique and should be treated in a unique fashion.  The suggestions that I make for approaching a Mis-Manager are just one person’s view – mine. Given the position of power that a Mis-Manager may occupy, think carefully about your best approach. 


The Power Tripper: 
The Challenge:  For the Power Tripper, it’s all about acquiring power. The Power Tripper does whatever is necessary to build and grow a base of power, and will eliminate any obstacles and step on any people (subordinates, peers, and superiors), that stand in the way. Such a mis-manager believes that he/she is the best, and that if you can’t recognize this “fact”, then it’s your problem. Any individual or group is insignificant to the Power-Tripper, except to the extent that person or group can be used  (and then usually discarded) to help achieve his/her goals on the march to the top. If your boss is a Power Tripper, don’t expect to be valued, respected, or appreciated. In any clash of ideas, he/she will fight any opponent “to the death” to win, not because his/her idea is the best, but because if his/her idea doesn’t “win”, he/she may be perceived as losing power. If the Power Tripper “loses” in such a clash, he/she will often move to discredit or disgrace his/her “opponent”, because doing so takes the luster of victory off of the “opponent”, and may help him/her to retain power. There is usually no logical reasoning with a Power Tripper, because it’s not about logic, it’s about power. Working for such a person can be a demeaning experience (see Know When To Fold 'Em and When It's Time To 'Walk Away', Don't Turn Back!). 

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Mis-Managers 4: Micro-Managers - People, Design & Process

In a recent blog post I raised the issue of Mis-Managers and the damage they can cause to not only their direct reports, but to the organization as a whole (see Mis-Managers: How Bad Managers Can Poison the Well). I also discussed how such Mis-Managers typically got promoted into their positions and “reached their level of incompetence”. This blog post is the fourth in the Mis-Manager series (see also Mis-Managers 2: Janus & Old YellerMis-Managers 3: Builder-Upper & Tearer-Downer, Mis-Managers 5: Power Tripper & Turf Builder, and Mis-Managers 6: Mentor, Tactician & Strategist, and Mis-Managers 7: Hands-Off, Wheeler-Dealer, Credit Taker/Thief & A$$hole) that describes some specific Mis-Manager personality types, the ways they create problems, and some suggestions as to how employees can attempt to survive, and hopefully prosper, with such Mis-Managers. The challenge of effectively dealing with Mis-Managers can be daunting, as they typically determine (or significantly influence) their Employees futures. As with my Herding Cats series of blog posts (see Herding Cats: The Art of "Managing" Knowledge WorkersHerding Cats 2: Problem Child & Elitist BastardHerding Cats 3: Boss Wannabe & Social ButterflyHerding Cats 4: "Wally" & Prima DonnaHerding Cats 5: Solid Citizen, Valued Expert & Rising Star, and Herding Cats 6: Complainer/Whiner, Eternal Optimist, Chesire Cat, Loner, Credit Taker/Thief & A$$hole), which discuss knowledge worker (see Knowledge Is Power!) personality types, I purposefully describe characteristics that are more extreme, and that concentrate on one specific attribute, than will normally be the case. Clearly every Manager (and Mis-Manager) is an individual with characteristics that are unique, and most have a variety of personality characteristics. Every situation is also unique and should be treated in a unique fashion.  The suggestions that I make for approaching a Mis-Manager are just one person’s view – mine. Given the position of power that a Mis-Manager may occupy, think carefully about your best approach. 

Micro-Managers: 
Micro-Managers (MM’s) come in different flavors, but all have some common characteristics.  They all get involved far too deeply in the minutiae of various aspects of their areas of responsibility (see To a Carpenter with a Hammer, Every Problem Looks Like a Nail). They refuse to let those charged with specific responsibilities carry out those responsibilities without excessive interference. In some cases, they are newly promoted managers who haven’t yet learned to let go of their individual contributor roles; there is hope for such Micro-Manager’s to learn and grow. In other cases, they are managers who are apparently born with a busybody gene that prevents them from getting out of the way and letting their people do their jobs. The result is disruptive and demoralizing to the entire group reporting to such Mis-Managers – they simply don’t trust their people, and their people know it and resent it. This is especially true for knowledge workers, who generally bring strong technical skills, training, discipline, and independence to their jobs and want to be given the opportunity and trust to do their jobs well (see Learn From Good Role Models; Learn More From Bad!). Below are three flavors of Micro-Managers, how their micro-management style manifests itself, and what employees can do to most effectively deal with them. 

The People Micro-Manager: 
The Challenge:  The People Micro-Manager wants to know what every employee is doing at every point in time, and will adjust every employee’s activity or interaction (minor or major) to satisfy his/her personal agenda. To such a manager, employees are pawns in a chess game, the objectives of which only he/she can see, and the contributions and initiatives that the employees can bring to solving problems are of little value or interest. Especially for knowledge workers, such a demeaning and arrogant attitude is devastating.  Knowledge workers want to be recognized and appreciated for what they can bring to the organization (see Pigasus - When Pigs Fly!), and they are not valued at all by the People Micro-Manager. It is as if they are just small cogs in some huge machine. 

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Workplace Burnout: Been There, Done That - Learn From It!

Do you suffer from workplace burnout? It can become all too easy to feel trapped in a workplace burnout situation. Take it from someone who knows and, hopefully, learn from it! I’ve been there, done that in a number of different companies and situations, and it is not a healthy situation for you, your loved ones, your friends, or coworkers. 


What is workplace burnout? One definition, by Mark Gorkin, LICSW, a Washington, DC-based expert on stress, from a recent article in The Healthy Haven, is, “Burnout is the gradual process by which a person, in response to stress and physical, mental, and emotional strain, detaches from work and other meaningful relationships.  The result is lower productivity, cynicism, confusion … a feeling of being drained, having nothing more to give.”  From that same article, per psychologist Sandra Paulsen, PhD, “Burnout itself is a process. It develops through stages of: (1) physical exhaustion (having reduced energy to maintain activity level); (2) emotional exhaustion (feeling depressed, hopeless, and helpless); (3) changed perspective on the world (feeling cynical, negative, and irritable); (4) pervasive, global feelings of negativity (feeling that you are doing poorly in all areas of life or feeling that you are not a good person).”  Again, from that same article, according to the Center for Advancement of Health, “various studies indicate a significant correlation between on-the-job stress and mental, emotional, and physical problems, such as heart disease and mental, immune system, and musculoskeletal disorders.  These affect your quality of life and workplace productivity.”  Hopefully you do not need to progress through all of these stages or suffer the potential consequences before recognizing the problem of job burnout and taking actions to address it.


Workplace burnout can originate from too many demands made by your boss(es), your peers, or your subordinates, or from external sources such as outside organizations, personal obligations, etc. However, in reality, it comes mostly from placing too many unrealistic demands on yourself. It comes from a sense of personal responsibility; of stepping up to the plate to do what you said you’d do (see Say What You Mean, Mean What You Say, and Do What You Say You’ll Do!), but it can turn into something much darker and starker. Personal responsibility is a good thing, but taking on too much personal responsibility, when it could and should be shared among others can sap your strength and even your health, and adversely affect your work, personal, and family life. It is often easier to spot signs of workplace burnout in others than it is in you.