Management by Manual

This week I saw something that almost made my heart stop. 69% of managers are afraid to talk to their employees.

The survey is almost two years old. The results aren’t a knee-jerk reaction to the current “sexual harassment is everywhere” environment. They aren’t broken out by age group, so while I’m sure there’s an impact from the problems millennials have negotiating, that likely isn’t it either. So what’s the problem? Why are managers afraid to manage?

It’s insidious. It’s worried me for years. We’re in an era of management by manual.

I wrote about an example in this piece on laundry lists and management. Laundry lists don’t work as hiring practice, yet they keep getting used. Or misused. I’ve been worried that management has become more about reading a policy manual than actually managing for quite awhile.

We could circle around to a discussion of what bosses do, complete with Ayn Rand and Donald Trump references. But this problem is happening at much less visible levels, and that’s a greater worry. Rands and Trumps are what they are and remain such until one sort of revolution or another displaces them.

Management by Manual

Of course, Donald Trump doesn’t practice management by manual. And I think most people would agree Trump could use a management manual or two. But going too far—always reading policy instead of applying knowledge and experience—is a problem.

Being afraid to speak with employees is a prime symptom. While most people dislike confrontation, confronting issues is a part of management. And when issues are people-relative, confronting those people isn’t merely optional.

Now eliminate negative-sounding words like “confrontation”. Stop. Read that sentence again. it applies to people management, for sure, but it also applies to how you manage yourself. Trying to fix broken things isn’t confrontation at all; it’s process improvement.

Business process change is what we do here, and if you’re a good boss it’s what you do too. But the path from A or B isn’t always obvious. Need a hand?

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