by Mr Meanor
How to deal with being a manager and being managed
|Dear Mr. Meanor:
I recently became a manager and now all of my people think that I'm a corporate cog. What should I do?
Still one of the guys
Dear Not Any More:
Managers are a breed of worker not normally found in the animal kingdom. Normally there is a leader of the pack, herd, covey, whatever, and then maybe one or two under-leaders and the rest are simply workers. Humans are lazy and do not like to directly make someone else do anything. Instead they have developed vice-presidents, managers, directors, supervisors, and an uncountable number of other people that amount to insulation for the big boss. What this means to you as a mere worker or a low-level manager is that you will receive many, many, many bizarre requests and directives. Let's look at an example.
Say that one of the mere workers requests a day off. You submit the request to your boss, and then they send it up the chain. Somewhere along the chain, someone is looking for something to make it appear that they are worthy of their salary and do not deserve to be sent to a Siberian gulag. That person will decide that this is a perfect opportunity to make someone else do something that has been rotting in their in-basket because they have no clue what to do with it. Mr Meanor knows that the day off has nothing to do with the thing in the in-box, but that is not the point. The point is that the gulag-bait will make someone else do the important thing (usually something vital to the security of the free world---like finding out if a comma or a period costs more to put on letterhead) if they want the mere worker to have their day off.
This can go one of two ways. Either the gulag-bait will find someone willing to do this totally thankless and useless chore or the person will refuse and pass it on to some clueless underling. Either will result in too much work for that person to care about granting the day off (that has been handed down to them, as well). When the time comes for the result of the request to be revealed someone will just flip a coin and send the "decision" back down the pipeline. They will not bother to put down a reason for the "decision", so someone will put down a boilerplate reason such as "staffing concerns" when the request is refused. This will result in the bizarre request. Even though the mere worker didn't get his day off you will be required to send people home because there are too many people and not enough time on the books.
You will also be required to relay instruction from on high to your people if you are a low-level manager. This will usually involve the words "I know it's stupid but...". This is usually because the idea coming down to you IS stupid. Say someone in top management has an idea to save the company money by limiting maintenance and repairs. This is passed down without any thought for the future and before too long managers are forced to assign mere workers to clean the bathrooms to avoid a typhus epidemic. You, as a low-level manager, will be required to tell your mere workers that they are now the janitorial staff AND expected to get all of their work done. You will be forced to utter the dreaded words "I know it's stupid but..." as you hand your mere workers a mop and hope like hell that they don't try to kill you with it.
Eventually you will develop coping mechanisms to be able to sleep at night. These usually involve not caring what the mere workers think. This is when management knows that you are ready to take a step up on the company ladder. Eventually you will think that it is important to find out if a comma or a period is more expensive to print on letterhead. When this happens, you can feel free to pass this vital task on to someone else. You have more important things to do, like finding out where this Siberia place is and if you can bill the trip to the company. After all, they have lots of money left over from firing the cleaning staff.