“But it might be awkward.” — A common managerial excuse for avoiding conversations
No shit. Most of life is awkward. We’re all flawed human beings who periodically do weird stuff to each other’s rear ends, you know?
It takes humility to have these conversations. You must be willing to be vulnerable. You need to have trust to really engage in productive dialogue. You must also get permission from the other person. You can say something like, “I’m not sure how to say this, but I feel like we need to talk about this. Is that OK?” Or, “I realize this is awkward, but I truly want to understand more about how you are feeling. Would you be comfortable talking about this?”
Why are managers allowed to hide in this way?
Because we somehow got to this place where “management” is simply about execution — which is actually what individual contributor work should be about — and technology has now allowed managers to hide behind platforms (project management tools!) and process (once-a-year reviews!) and not actually ever talk to people who report to them.
Why do most people even become managers?
To make more money.
If you think it’s any other reason, you are lying to yourself in 9 of 10 scenarios.
So if they make more money, shouldn’t they actually “manage” others?
No shit, Sherlock.
In fact, now I want you to peep this article on loneliness at work (a big topic). I want you to hit this pull quote pretty hard:
Knowledge@Wharton: Is this an issue to address at the individual level, or should the company be concerned as well?
Ozcelik: I think both, but definitely on the side of the manager because they are getting the extra salary to take care of the work environment and to make sure that things are running smoothly.
Read the end 78 times.
“They are getting the extra salary to take care of the work environment…”
It’s not to check boxes or manage spreadsheets.
You make the extra money to take care of the work environment.
That means process, yes. Do that.
It also means people.
That part gets majorly missed.
Why has this fallen so far?
Simplest answer: we let HR “own” the idea of people, and no executive worth his bonus gives a flying fuck about HR. Why would they? HR doesn’t make money. Money is the game. You care about the elements of the game. You think Michael Jordan was warming up for Bulls games thinking about cricket? No. It’s a different game. He was warming up thinking about hoops. Execs think about their bonus, their revenue streams, their processes. People? Interchangeable. Different game.
So what do we do?
Option 1: Wait for automation to finally smash this shit over the head. Most will do this.
Option 2: Read a bunch of articles on Forbes about “human-centered workplaces,” nod, and ultimately do nothing. This is what we’re pretty much doing now.
Option 3: Bury our heads in the sand and assert our own relevance. This is what “work” means to most people.
Option 4: Actually give a shit about the fact that we are entrusted with managing the workflow and priorities of other human beings 10–12 hours/day. Very few are here, but this would be the “self-actualization” state of management.
But please, stop hiding behind technology, email, excuses about being busy, etc. Just be a human being. Interact. Socialize. Manage. Direct. It’s possible. Your salary sets that base expectation.