Why most managers suck

One of the most common complaints you hear from an employee at any company is that their boss just doesn’t “get it” and for the most part, a large portion of employees with this complaint actually have a valid point.

This past week, I was reading a book called The Lean Startup and it briefly touched on a key principle that is used by Toyota in their manufacturing process (a process that is considered best in the world by many standards). That principle is called Genchi Genbutsu and it loosely translates to English as “Go and See”. Essentially it means that problems need to be observed and understood where they are actually happening. No amount of reports or 2nd hand communication will substitute for this. This means that a manager sitting in their office all day cannot possibly understand their team and their problems to the extent they need to. So this got me thinking, why do so many people think their managers suck? Here are my observations:

1. Managers who are hired from outside, rather than being promoted from within,  tend to be disconnected from the team and have a hard time truly knowing what it’s like to work in their subordinates shoes day in and day out. This comes back to the Genchi Genbutsu principle. Managers who haven’t been on the front lines with their team in the company they are currently working in, only know the high level details of the needs of their team. The manager most likely won’t ever be fired for this type of disconnection from their team, but they also won’t be a great manager or supervisor either and in many cases, it may lead to instances of resentment from your team. Think of it this way, would you really respect someone telling you what to do if they had never actually done it themselves (doing it at a different company doesn’t count since there are some many unique challenges from company to company)?

2. Some managers get a big ego when they get promoted and think their days of doing “dirty work” is behind them and now that they can tell others what to do, the first thing they do is dish out the dirty work that they don’t want to do.  People who get promoted and immediately start dishing out dirty work to others are often met with severe resentment from their new team. That’s a great way to start off on the wrong foot with your new team.

3. Some managers are just dicks. There’s not much you can do about it. If your boss is an asshole to everyone and anyone, then that sucks. I suggest making snarky comments behind his or her back to your coworkers to make yourself feel better (j/k, this probably won’t work).

While I think all of these things are reasons why employees may dislike their managers (or at least the decisions their managers make), I really am intrigued by the first one. Why is it that so many companies allow this sort of thing to happen? How could you argue with the fact that being in the trenches on occasion makes you a better manager? You obviously aren’t going to be in the trenches all the time since your job entails more strategy and planning, but there is no way in hell that you can tell me that perfecting your strategy and overall plan isn’t leaps and bounds easier if you really understand your workforce. I sure wish more managers would realize that their job is not to tell others what to do. Their job is to lead the team do get a job done and that means they have to get their hands dirty as well. It’s the only way your team will respect you and you will become a great manager.

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3 Responses to Why most managers suck

  1. Richard Fall says:

    A excellent set of observations, and one I would mostly agree with.

    But let me take a counter-position for a moment: could one not make the case that if a company always “hired from within” to fill management positions, the lack of “fresh blood” capable of providing fresh insights might be a detriment to their creativity?

    My experience in management had lead me to believe that. as often as not, hiring new management from without–new management that, certainly, needs to have some experience with the product, or the market, or the technology–gives a team the change to look at things anew, and find better ways of doing things.

    Not to say this is all that easy–as an outside management hire myself a number of times, I had to be mindful of the need to take the time to understand what the team was like, how they thought, what their work environment was like, how hard or easy the tasks were, etc. Having done similar work myself made this a little easier, but it still took a mindful approach to make certain I was not one of those newly-hired, “I know what your problem is and I know just how to fix it” types.

    Thanks for this diary and thanks for the chance to provide some feedback.

    • Derek Homann says:

      Thanks for the comment. I think you bring up a good point. Bringing outside management isn’t always a bad thing, although if I remember correctly, in the book From Good to Great, some of the most effective managers were ones who worked their way up through the company and had a very deep understanding of many different segments of the company.

      With that said, “fresh blood” can be a good thing. New ideas are always a good thing. However, I feel that most of these new ideas may not necessarily “good” ideas unless the manager has a deep understanding of every part of the organization it touches. So if managers are to be hired from the outside, I think it makes a lot of sense to spend a good chunk of time making sure they are “in the weeds” for awhile and getting trained properly, instead of the baptism by fire approach that many places seem to take.

  2. Chris says:

    Shut the fuck up RICHARD! You’re response sounds like it comes from your vagina. Stop complicating simple tasks DOUCHE BAG! If you know what your doing management is easy, hire the right people, fuck people looking for a handout or who have been with the company 10, 20 plus years looking forward to retirement. Inovation is no place for the weak or useless – send them to lunch! Work isn’t work if you like what you do, doesn’t sound like you have the experience or desire to listen to new ideas – ur fucked.

    Chris

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