Thursday, July 06, 2006

What Managers Would Say (If They Could Talk, That Is)

It's not easy being staff today - just ask anyone in the Bush administration - more work, longer hours, fewer benefits, less air…

However, if you think managers are the root of unease, ponder the other side of the fence where, reportedly, grass is greener and stars shine brighter. Sure, there are teems of hopeless, inhospitable and, well, outright malevolent supervisors around but, generally, most managers are evenhanded people simply trying to do best for those they supervise. In fact, being staff is a cakewalk compared to management: diminishing budgets and increasingly less staff with which to accomplish greater workloads.

In 2006, our Year of the Dog, let’s not regard managers as if the year were named specifically for them and consider that when they behave the way they do, they may have reason:

Short… Impersonal?
Probably, they are engaged in work they would rather not be doing. Your brilliant suggestion may interest the boss, but they may not have the approval or budget to immediately say ‘Bueno, bring it home!’ If a manager goes ‘corporate’ on a staff or is unforthcoming, it may be they are uncomfortable turning down the request. This approach protects managers from the fact that ‘it's them’ and not their ‘position’ that is disappointing the staff. A good approach when this happens is to ask, ‘is this awkward topic?’ which might allow opportunity for the manager to state the real concern.

Speaking of Concerns…
They care about yours, but can't turn each difficulty you encounter into an Article 23 march. Certainly, managers are there to ‘clear the path’ for us when those loafers in I.T. or bean counters in finance obstruct our operational progress, but there are only so many issues managers can address. Don't be disturbed if your manager doesn't immediately blast someone because they forgot to order your business cards again or couldn’t get you that aisle seat. Spend some additional time attempting to solve the problem yourself before taking it higher.

Managers don't want to be Big Brother…
…so don't give them reason. As overtime payments and comprehensive benefits are pretty much a thing of the past, within reason, most managers will let staff come and go as they choose, given the work gets done on time and to budget, etc. Just don't vanish when you're needed. Most managers will give leeway if you work with them, but if you don't…

Upset with a Manager?
Tell them. You could spend time on eyeball-to-eyeball stares, one syllable responses to questions, and other vague telepathic transmissions to show you're upset, but managers have a lot going on and will probably miss most signals. When they are not buried in work, schedule a meeting and tell them what's wrong. They will listen and, probably, without being defensive.

Problems on a Job?
As above… and, well in advance. When things are proceeding well on initiatives, managers love to be surprised… but not with bad news. If ‘Project World Takeover’ is off schedule, tell them - they may rough up the messenger somewhat, but it's better than what could be anticipated as last second complications are harder to solve.

Don't do Anything Really, Really, Really Irresponsible
Overall, most managers are decent enough to help you out of most jams. However, downloading pictures from or punching a colleague will definitely put a manager at a distance… and you out of a job. Try to remain sane.

What are managers saying in all of the above? ‘The work arena is already tough enough, so let's work together.’ To reduce stress and succeed with as little grief as possible, team up with your supervisor - you'll be surprised how much everyone benefits working it this way.


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