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Do you take credit for your employees' ideas? Hire your own relatives? Withhold crucial information from your staff? If so, you may be a jackass manager. Now help is at hand--read this short how-not-to guide, have a good laugh, and learn how to manage employees more productively. Whether you're just beginning your career as a supervisor or already have years of management experience, you’ll appreciate the useful pointers and cartoons in Traits of a Jackass Manager. Of course you may also recognize some bosses ...
Do you take credit for your employees' ideas? Hire your own relatives? Withhold crucial information from your staff? If so, you may be a jackass manager. Now help is at hand--read this short how-not-to guide, have a good laugh, and learn how to manage employees more productively. Whether you're just beginning your career as a supervisor or already have years of management experience, you’ll appreciate the useful pointers and cartoons in Traits of a Jackass Manager. Of course you may also recognize some bosses you've encountered yourself over the years. Either way, this quick primer will get you thinking, and talking, about how you can make your organization happier and more efficient. You may get more game-changing advice from the jackass than from all those thick books on management theory!
Because we are all human, a managerial blunder committed in ignorance is forgivable. Theoretically, once the error is recognized, the manager will work to correct it. However, there are those who understand their past (and present) mistakes, yet, for whatever reasons, persist in exhibiting these known flaws in their daily managerial style. These flaws then become entrenched and hereinafter are referred to as "jackass management traits."
It only stands to reason that employees who are resentful, disgusted, or disappointed; who feel cheated, underappreciated, ignored, or abused; or who are angry with their supervisors for any number of reasons are not going to do their best. Employees, who have a poor perception of their supervisor, and the employer are not going to perform as well as those who feel valued. This appears to be true in a wide variety of industries and at all levels of the supervisor–employee relationship. It behooves every supervisor to eradicate jackass management traits within their organization and to start by being an example to others. Knowing the managerial pitfalls – or jackass traits – is the first step in learning how to avoid them.
The Manager Who Seeks to be "Liked" Rather than Respected
Everyone wants to be liked; it is part of human nature. Being liked gives us confidence and a sense of well-being. However, the manager who strives to be "one of the gang," or wants to be liked by everyone, gets trapped into trying to please everyone by avoiding unpopular decisions or ignoring disciplinary problems. Generally, people prefer to work in a well-ordered environment. They do not really want their supervisor to always focus on being a nice person if it means sacrificing fairness or integrity. The managers who avoid saying "no" or "don't" simply make the workload more difficult for everyone else. Employees are not necessarily looking for a buddy in their supervisor. Most of them know that too much socializing can lead to a compromised leader. What they do look for is a fair, impartial, predictable, honest administrator or leader who sets, practices, and maintains standards. Those qualities gain respect, which is far more important in leadership than being liked (Fig. 1-1).
The Manager Who Ignores the Opinions and Advice of Employees
Also known as the "know-it-all," one wonders if this type of supervisor really believes they know it all; or if such a manager is actually insecure and is fearful of employees discovering that he or she does not have all the answers all the time. There is nothing wrong with not having all the answers all the time. In fact, there is nothing wrong with being honest and saying, "I don't know."
What really motivates and encourages many employees is to be asked, by their supervisor, "What do you think?" They think plenty! It is amazing how many smart people there are, and it is equally amazing what they can do in terms of solving problems and coming up with creative strategies and ideas. To ask individuals such questions as, "What do you think?"; "What are we doing that we shouldn't be doing?"; and "What are we not doing that we should be doing?" invariably brings out rich food for thought. To deny oneself and one's organization that input is akin to operating with one arm tied behind the back. After all, the collective wisdom of the group or department surely exceeds that of even the most brilliant managers.
The manager who can create the climate in which employees have some voice in the things that happen and in which they participate or somehow contribute to the operation as team members will get the most out of employees. They will feel that they are part of the team and therefore will want the team to succeed. And a successful team reflects favorably on its leader! (Fig. 1-2).
The Manager Who Fails to Delegate Properly
The true art of delegation includes giving responsibility with commensurate authority and then holding the employee accountable for his or her use of that authority. The primary mistake made by managers when delegating is that they give an employee a task (responsibility) but fail to give the necessary authority to discharge that task. Put another way, the manager keeps strings attached to the assignment in terms of insisting it be done his or her way, not the employee's way, and reserves for himself the final (as well as many intermediate) decisions, acting as "judge" (and jury!) on all issues.
Two key conditions develop with this managerial flaw: (1) the manager becomes mired down in nitpicking relatively unimportant decisions, which creates a bottleneck in the process and undermines the whole point of delegation and (2) employees lose "heart" because they know that their supervisor may arbitrarily override their plans and decisions in favor of their own. They say, "What's the difference what I do? He'll change it anyhow." Not only is it demoralizing, but it's a poor use of both managerial and employee time and a waste of the potential talent of all parties (Fig. 1-3).
The Manager Who Ignores the Training and Developmental Needs of Employees
This is the manager who attends his or her favorite training courses, seminars, and conventions but would not dream of spending the money to send employees. Often, this supervisor knows most of the information and data that will be presented at a seminar, so he or she attends primarily for the networking opportunities. The pity is, employees could learn a great deal from these trainings, even if the supervisor cannot! However, he or she cannot always seem to find the funds for employees to attend trainings or feels that other demands of the organization have priority. This is the same supervisor who might resent the training department's request or requirement that the staff attend company-sponsored programs because their attendance at these programs takes time away from the job.
Employees with potential and ambition thirst for education and training to help them grow. Denying them that opportunity stunts their growth, stifles their potential, fails to maximize their latent talents, and creates resentment. After all is said and done, the greatest resource any organization has is its people. Unfortunately, this type of supervisor is not sensitive to that (Fig. 1-4).
The Manager Who Insists on Doing Everything "The Company Way"
Some have cynically said that there are three ways to do a task: (1) the right way, (2) the wrong way, and (3) the company way. There really is a fourth: a better way.
The manager who is a stickler for compliance with doing things "by the book" (the company way) as though it were a holy tablet, and who is more concerned about the means than the end result is the one who blocks enthusiasm, interest, creativity, and motivation. Some flexibility in standard procedures on the part of the supervisor might result in reduced costs and increased production. This kind of manager, who is compliance oriented and avoids risks, typifies the person who has peaked out career-wise. He or she may very well not want to "rock the boat" in an effort to maintain their current position (Fig. 1-5).
The Manager Who Fails to Give Credit When Credit Is Due
Nothing is more deflating, disappointing, or demotivating than having a supervisor ignore or overlook an achievement. A sincere "Job well done" or "Thank you" goes a long way. A note or brief memo from the supervisor expressing appreciation for a task well done is valued by employees. Even a desk-side or hallway expression of thanks means a great deal. Thoughtlessness can be perceived as disinterest or dissatisfaction on the supervisor's part. Interestingly, the supervisor who appears to be blind to achievement more often than not is the same supervisor who easily recognizes mistakes. Slow to praise, quick to criticize. Everyone can spot this "jackass trait" a mile away. People expect praise and recognition when it is earned and accept constructive criticism when it is due.
A supervisor who fails to credit good work might be viewed as stingy or miserly with their praise. This same supervisor may also fail to promote employees or grant deserved salary increases (Fig. 1-6).
The Manager Who Treats Employees as Subordinates
Employees are people first and employees second. Each person is the center of his or her own universe. Gather a group of employees in a room and ask them who in the room is the most important person. They will likely each be thinking, "I am." And rightly so.
The manager who looks down on or treats employees as inferiors, intentionally or not, threatens their very sense of self-esteem. This attitude can lead to resentment by the employees and foster bickering, gossip, and an unmotivated staff. Employees will likely stay at their job out of necessity, but not give it their all – their potential, their energy, or their loyalty. Rather, they will simply show up to do the work at hand, without being invested in the organization (Fig. 1-7).
The Manager Who Ignores Employees' Complaints
Not listening is a luxury which only jackasses and dictators can afford. How many companies today are unionized because employees' complaints went unheeded? Employees do not necessarily vote for unions, they vote against management. Employees are easily frustrated by management that ignores their problems, real or imaginary. They want their concerns – whatever they are – to be heard by management.
Not only should a manager listen, he or she should find ways to encourage employees to get things off their chests, to point out unfair practices, and to complain about anything from dirty restrooms or poor cafeteria food to feeling overworked or underappreciated. Long gone are the days when employees stoically accepted what management had to offer. The supervisor who ignores employees' complaints today is the kind of jackass that should have been put out to pasture years ago (Fig. 1-8).
Excerpted from TRAITS OF A JACKASS MANAGER by CHARLES A. SENNEWALD Copyright © 2012 by Elsevier Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Butterworth-Heinemann. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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