Why you think your boss is a wanker

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The concept of “employees” and “managers” is semi-doomed.

TINYPulse — wrote about them once — did a survey of 1,000 full-time employees (small sample size, yes) and asked them this basic question:

What would you change about your manager?

OK, cool. The results are summarized on Fast Company, and while 1,000 people is admittedly a small sample, I think it’s fairly universal. I conceptually kinda like what TINYPulse is trying to do as a whole, although I also think you can’t really solve an issue like “employee engagement” — real people stuff — with software.

Anyway, let’s get to their findings.

The top five things were:

  • Communicate better
  • Please retire or quit
  • Work on your people skills
  • I want a raise
  • You need to be a better leader

Let’s pick this apart, eh?

Communicate Better: This is everything. If you’re a manager, you have deliverables from higher than you. (That’s called “hierarchy.”) Those are often unclear, because your own manager probably sucks too — and is in a ton of meetings as well — and so you push them down the chain in an even-more-unclear-way. This is, ultimately, why only 1 of 2 people at most jobs even understands what they do. Think about that for a second: if you walk by 10 people at your office, 5 of them probably don’t know what exactly their job is. Um. That’s poor communication. You know why communication doesn’t matter, though? It’s not a revenue skill. People have been communicating poorly for decades/centuries/eons, and people are still making money. No one really gives a shit. If they did, they’d try to be better at it.

Please retire or quit: This is harsh/petty. The people saying this on a survey are probably in that “highly disengaged” bucket. Most managers are terrible. It’s a fact of life. Rather than worrying about them retiring (they won’t, because of 2008) or quitting (they won’t, same reason), think about how to work with them. Here’s one idea. Here’s another.

Work on your people skills: No shit. Here’s an idea: start with respecting your people. Then move to investing in them. Even if you’re a selfish prick, remember this: If they do well, you look good.

I want a raise: Again, petty and highly-disengaged. You’re probably not getting a raise. And even if you’re really good and passionate about your job, people probably are thinking about it all wrong.

You need to be a better leader: Yep. Here’s a quote from the marketing director of TINYPulse:

“Your role is to make your employees be successful,” she says. “Be willing to take a self-assessment and course correct. You have a great deal of control over your employees’ desire to stick with you or run for the hills. Any ambitious manager will want to know how they can do better.”

The core problem is that most managers don’t think that first sentence is their role. They think their role is chasing, and nailing, deliverables. That’s what they’re taught, and/or what’s reinforced. That’s where the problem lies.

The actual reality is that “leadership” is actually about coaching and empathy, and/or “the destination” (the goal) rather than “the path to the destination” (what managers often focus on). There are six million ways to skin a cat, and six million ways to hit a deliverable. Just because your team doesn’t do it the exact way you would doesn’t mean they’re completely off-task.

My name’s Ted Bauer; I blog here regularly and you can learn about hiring me for freelance and contract gigs as well. You can also subscribe to my newsletter.

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Blogging, largely about work and how to improve it. How I make (some) money: http://thecontextofthings.com/hire-freelance-writer-ted-bauer/

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