We’ve all had bad days at work. Days when we are not at the top of our game. Days when we’ve missed stuff we should have spotted, been unneccessarily harsh, been unable to see the wood for the trees. But sometimes some people seem to have more off days tham on days. And some people don’t appear to have on days at all.
Sitting at the chef’s table in Maze a few months ago we were in the heart of the working kitchen watching people work whilst we enjoyed ourselves. Out of the corner of my eye I suddenly caught the head chef talking to one of his staff who was holding a tray of food. I do not know what the issue actually was or what had happened but what I could hear was a refreshing directness from the boss. “It’s not good enough. Exactly what have you done to sort it out?” He wasn’t shouting a la Gordon Ramsey (although it is his restaurant) but it was clear he was angry and what had happened was unacceptable and that this staff member now knew that he was utterly responsible for the cock up and had to ensure it was rectified.
During medical training there were numerous times that Consultants would indulge in ritual public humiliation when I didn’t know something or did something incorrectly. It was awful. Not all Consultants by any means, but enough. I used to feel sick in anticipation. And it made me sharpen my game. It was the last thing I wanted to happen and I knew I had to step up. Similarly, this underling in the restaurant could have been in no doubt he needed to improve if he was going to keep his job.
In contrast, I often see poor work performance allowed to pass by seemingly unnoticed. And I’m not talking in state run institutitons where people stereotypically think it is rife. No, successful private comapanies. Yet they let some people get away being shoddy and lazy. Repeatedly. Until people just shrug and say “Yes, he’s crap isn’t he?” but just accept it.
Is it because we don’t like confrontation? I do not manage anyone so don’t have these dilemmas, but I think it is often because bosses want their team to like them. I mean really like them. They don’t want to upset their team or make people think they are unreasonable or nasty. Which is commendable.
But as a boss surely you have to distinguish between being liked and being respected? Great if you can do both of course, but I think the respect is more vital to work relationships than being liked. Because whilst they are tippitoeing around the underperformer, the rest of the team are getting pissed off carrying this passenger and will start to resent the boss for not doing anything about them. It is demotivating to have a slacker as part of a team as others gradually start to question why they bother to pull their finger out if others get away with doing nothing and it becomes a vicious, lazy circle.
In contrast a high performing team engenders greater performance from each other as everyone strives not to be the weakest member. And the leader of that team will be not only be respected but worshipped for creating such a fantastic working environment.
The other possible fear that managers have is that there will be a complaint against them or the lazy worker will go off sick with stress and then sue them for unfair dismissal or somesuch. I agree complaints are stressful, but unless you have been a bully or completely unreasonable then you are likely to be able to show evidence of the incapability and poor performance. And if you cant then that reflects poorly on your capability as a manager.

Then let’s say they do sue the company. Firstly most people don’t and of those that do, many will not be found to have been unfairly dismissed. Then there is the money. I am not a lawyer but my understanding is an absolute max of about £85K. Worth it I’d’ve thouight not to have a drain on morale and performance. And if you don’t dismiss them you’ll be paying them the equivalent to do nothing well….


Crap managers

November 19, 2012

Being a freelancer affords me the luxury of being my own boss and spending time in lots of different workplaces with lots of different people. I don’t have bosses, they are my clients. It is not a master-servant relationship, but one of equals (even if they don’t think so!). And it allows me a perfect view of lots and lots of different workplace behaviours.

And sometimes one sees what one imagines is a great person to work for –  or at least I would find them great. No doubt my perfect manager is not neccessarily the same as yours. But the truly perfect would be able to manage both of us well.

Luckily for me and everyone else, I don’t have to manage anyone – which is just as well as I like very light-touch management. I had one client to whom I had been consulting for years. Literally. On and off, different projects, different teams, different issues. All going swimmingly based on my appearing one day a week and clearing a desk full of work.

And then a new manager was appointed and wanted me to spend at least one of my eight hours every week talking to her about how much work I was getting, was there too much, how was I feeling about it, would I like more communication……………. One hour as a one-off perhaps, but every week? One hour where I couldn’t actually do the job they were paying me for so it would pile up and I would be unable to complete it in the remaining seven hours so then people would be pissed off (not surprisingly) and so then the manager suggested I expand the time I spend with them to take in another day as there was obviously too much work…..   Which there hadn’t been until she took an hour off me every week.  Obviously for me that’s very nice – another day’s work thank you very much, but it’s so wasteful, so inefficient it drives me bonkers and I don’t want to be party to it. Plus (and probably more improtantly for me)  I couldn’t bear ‘reporting’ to her.

So I give you my

Top Ten Manager Behaviours That Annoy the Hell out of me

  1. People who simply talk in corporate speak jargon-shite so that no one actually understands what they are trying to say. Including themselves.
  2. Managers who are too busy to manage. They spend all their time getting their very important job done and leave no time in their diaries to actually manage the people they are paid to guide.
  3. Managers who don’t really know what they want. They often know what they don’t want when they see it (see 4)
  4. Managers who only ever crticise. Managers who never give direction on how they want a piece of work done all too often criticise the resulting output as it wasn’t what they had in mind. How the hell was the underling supposed to know what was in the mind of someone who doesn’t explain what they want? Is mind reading a core-competency now?
  5. Managers who never praise. I don’t buy this “I expect people to do the job they are paid for so why on earth should they get praised for it?” as everyone, no matter how confident, experienced, self assured or senior, needs praise. And even if they don’t, it’s still nice to hear.  And improves morale
  6. Managers who micro manage. They get so involved in the job they have allegedly delegated that it would be quicker and less painful for them to do it themselves. What is the point of delegating if you are not going to trust the person to get on and do the job? How are they ever going to learn how to do stuff if they don’t have a go, get it wrong, correct it and learn from there?
  7. Managers who set unrealistic deadlines and are on your case from the moment they set them. Get off my fucking case and give me space to actually do the job!
  8. Managers who pass other people’s work off as their own, or take the best ideas and present them. What the fuck is wrong with them? Can they not see it makes them look weak, insecure and petty? That if they gave credit to the apporpriate team member then in fact this would reflect well on them for managing a team that comes up with great ideas and being big enough NOT to try to hog the limelight?
  9. Managers who don’t deal with a lazyarse colleague. No one likes passengers in their team and if everyone is working their butts off, the last thing you want is to know that someone else is getting the same pay for doing fuck all and no one is doing anything about it.
  10. Managers who enjoy humiliating others. I’m not sure if they think this will make everyone respoect them or simply engender a culture of fear, or maybe they think it is funny. But whatever it is I see it as inappropriate and a form of bullying.
  11. Managers who never admit they are wrong.
  12. Managers who have obvious favourites. Teams are comprised of very different people, but often managers only appear to really like those who are replicas of how they see themselves. They give them the high profile jobs and the chances to be seen within the business, No chance for geek nerd-fests to shine…………
  13. Managers who fall for the pathetic ‘I’m so busys busy busy’ crap put out by those who have enough time to whine whilst those who are ploughing through shedloads of work just suck it up and get on with it.
  14. Managers who constantly move the goalposts or change their minds (see poinst 3 and 4)
  15. Managers who do not support and defend their team when criticised by others. You built the fucking team, you allegedly set the ground rules (and if you didn’t, what the hell were you doing), you should have been managing the work so you are responsible. Don’t take the improved pay and prestige if you can’t take the responsibility for what your team deliver. If they are not up to scratch the buck rests with you.
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