Confessions of a Dysfunctional Manager

Blog posts about dysfunctional managers are usually written by their employees. Not today, not here.

This management blog post inspired me by saying:

"Well, you know how I know all this about dysfunctional managers? Well, not only have I observed all this behavior in others, but I’ve done half of this stuff myself! Top that for honesty."

Since I have no boss, I can only rant about my own management mistakes, and I am sure I can top the above mentioned post in no time :-) Hopefully some other poor, well-meaning, misguided manager will take me more seriously if I write these lines as if I was talking directly to him or her.

So here it goes - a big, fat slap on my face.

Micromanaging everyone, especially web developers

You feel important and indispensable, giving detailed guidelines to everyone around, don't you? You must be thinking: this will make their job easier. But the truth is, able people don't need that much guidance. The only thing you must teach them is to ask for you when they need you. And by micromanaging every hour of their day, you are actually hurting their morale, their productivity and their passion. Hey, managers, leave them kids alone, and let them kids write their code in peace!

Not treating everyone the same

Do you have pets on one side and scapegoats on the other? What is this, a children's book, where good guys always save the day, and bad guys are always rotten to the bone? Maybe Denmark isn't so rotten after all - did you bother to look at the neighboring states? And El Dorado does have some rainy days, doesn't it? You should treat everyone the same - as good, old, fallible human beings.

Treating everyone the same

Do have double standards. Double standards are good. Having them will protect your best people when times are bad - and bad times do come. In bad times, the manager in you will be high on ego trips. You might temporarily forget what was it that your best people did to deserve their shiny badges of honor, and you will tend to treat them as everyone else. They will *not* be amused.

Trusting newcomer employees too much

Some dose of mistrust is, IMHO, a healthy default when you're dealing with a new employee. Don't make the mistake of entrusting this person with a very responsible position or task, without installing some control mechanism. It's too easy to get overexcited by the potential of the new guy. The best thing in a situation like this is to offer - not to enforce - some sort of supervising guidance. Don't put obstacles in their way form the very beginning. Do make them earn your trust by their results. Your trust is your most valuable currency.

Not trusting veteran employees enough

"Hey, this is me you're talking to, you know me, WTF?" If you hear this, it's usually a sign you've crossed some line. The point is: either you trust your people, or you don't. If you do, let them do their job. If you don't, fire them.

Expecting too much from people

There are assignments and levels of responsibilities that should never be delegated to other people. There is actually such a thing as "your job". Do your job and everyone on the team will be performing to the best of their abilities.

Expecting too little from people

You are not doing anyone any good by making excuses in their name and underusing their potential. Everyone has to exceed their imaginary limits and be held accountable for their job. Everyone is expected to use their one true superpower, whatever it might be, to the benefit of the company. People are receiving paychecks in exchange for their superpower. Supermen, who also leap tall buildings in a single bound, get paid more.

Putting your interests first

This one is called "human nature". And it really is - until it starts to hurt other people - colleagues or partners. If you are reading this blog post, chances are you either work for or manage a small software company (ten or so people). Big egos belong in big companies. Give your ego a rest.

Not putting your interests first

You are not doing anyone any favor by putting their interests first. I know, it sounds counter-intuitive - unless you're reading airplane safety instructions. "Always put the oxygen mask over your nose and mouth first" - not your child's, not your co-traveler's. Only after you are well-off and safe, are you able to give the same to others.

Being yourself

If yourself tends to be too nice, too forgiving and too weak - a little girl, precisely - stop it. Business of software is no place for a little girl. This world will be a man's world for a long time to come, so either put up or shut up. And have fun!

Not being yourself

Don't wear other people's characters, unless you're willing to make these characters part of the real you. To be genuine is the only way to be. Whatever your "genuine" is, or becomes.

Saying too much

In a business environment, where people (usually, hopefully) don't get physical, words become the mightiest weapons and create the deepest wounds. People sitting in the offices do have feelings, you know?

Saying too little

What is left unsaid, cannot become true. (Man, what did I just say?). So speak up, your people won't sing praises to themselves, will they? (Ok, some will, but those who do, better deserve the right to do so.)

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There is no black and white in management. It's obvious: For every decision you will make, there's good time and place, and there's bad time and place.

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