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Managers Are Stoopid And What To Do About It

July 22nd, 2008

These thoughts come from two specific discussions, and years of pondering, and reading Dilbert :)

(thanks to the B2BBlog for these, … you can read their post here)

On employee reviews. Last night I was talking to a buddy about his company’s annual review process. I remember my annual reviews, where were a joke.  They seemed to be an act, where there was no (or little) substantial feedback from the manager, and the better I did, the more nit-picky they got about what I needed to improve (becauase Dumb Manager 101 says you must help your subordinate to improve, right?).  My friend mentioned that once he had a review and didn’t even know it – he was told in the subsequent review “oh yeah, that was our review.”

On job search interview techniques. At a job search network meeting we were asked how the training process was for us unemployed souls.  I commented that we were getting armed with a lot of incredible knowledge and techniques, but the people who interviewed us came in significantly less sophisticated than we were (due to preparation).  It was frustrating to be interviewed by someone who seemed to be fumbling in the dark, asking questions they didn’t understand (they were reading from some list).  If they didn’t get the question, how could they appreciate the answers?

Why were these incompetents becoming the gatekeepers to my career future?

Definitely a frustrating experience.  In defense of stoopid, incompetent managers throghout the world, I’ll claim my own stoopidity.  As a manager I wanted to work with high-speed, low-drag employees who required no handholding.  However, as a judgement error, I’m sure I was too hands-off and didn’t do my managerial job as well as I should have.

So how do we, as CEO’s of Me, Inc, deal with this widespread issue?

  1. Recognize our place, and what that means. Submitting to this ignorance doesn’t mean that we are being ignorant ourselves.  But it might be job-suicide to do what you really want to do.  Put the manager in his/her place.  Go above them and tell the manager’s boss what’s going on (or the president).  Blog about it :p  I don’t suggest you just sit there and take it, but I suggest you think about what the consequences might be, and how much you can risk.  Is money not an issue?  Then you can afford to be more bold.  But if you are too dependent on the paycheck and benefits (health insurance, etc.), you better craft a smart strategy.
  2. Figure out how to get out without getting out. In my first “real” job, I had a manager who had a slew of problems.  One time I walked into her cubicle and she was lightly banging her head on the bookshelf whispering “I hate my job, I hate my job, …” over and over.  I was shocked ….!  I loved my job, even though I didn’t get any management or leadership from her.  Somehow, her boss took me under her wing and I got the mentoring and projects that shaped that learning period for me – it was incredible!  There was a little bit of tension between me and my direct boss, as I started to get some awesome projects, but I was definitely in a better place.
  3. Prepare anyway. Just because the interviewer isn’t sophisticated, or the boss doesn’t know how to do an annual review, doesn’t mean you can go in like a dunce.  Be prepared, have strong statements, stories and supporting evidence, and be sure you prepare them for a stellar performance.  You aren’t competing against the boss or decision maker, you are there to make a sale!  Do your best, and learn current techniques.
  4. Keep a long-term perspective. When I was at the FBI it was sometimes like walking around a Night of the Living Dead set.  It was normal to talk about lame stuff, problems, issues, and safe/boring things.  No one was out to over-achieve, or do more than asked.  There was no incentive, and no fear of getting let go.  If you are in a situation like this, which I feel is a direct result of the culture the management creates, either figure out how to cope with it with a long-term perspective, or figure out how to get out before it ruins you.  But don’t let it snuff your spirit!
  5. Do a great job! No matter what hell you might be going through at work, with no appreciation, etc., as long as you do a great job you can have a clear conscience AND you might be setting yourself up for bigger things.  That rotten manager might be making your life hell right now, but one day, management is going to figure out how to get rid of them, and guess what?  They might just be eyeing you, based on your performance.
  6. Realize you are in a job search. We are all in a job search.  We’re either actively doing it, or passively doing it (recruiters call people who are not looking “passive candidates.”).  This is where JibberJobber comes in – you should be doing certain things RIGHT NOW whether you are in an active search or not – employed, unemployed, unhappily employed, etc.  Taking control of your next job placement, to any degree, should give you a greater peace of mind!

What stoopid management stress have you put up with, and how did you deal with it?

7 Comments »

7 responses to “Managers Are Stoopid And What To Do About It”

  1. One boss offers a lot of ammo. I was in sales and my boss would only let me travel if I could book hotels that charged a maximum of $80/night. He was soooo tight on spending and shot down every idea to reward clients and target new ones that we had a hard time retaining clients and getting new ones. Of course that was the sales team fault. My colleagues there have all left. I was the first and now there is no one in sales when I was there.

  2. Rob Lewis says:

    Great post, but I agree and disagree with parts of it.
    1. Being bold is absolutely dead on! You have to be able to understand your role in your current position before deciding to do something about it. Don’t be afraid of being “out there” with your boss. If he or she doesn’t know how you feel about something then it really is YOUR fault and not theirs.

    2. I am a firm believer of “don’t go above your boss unless you absolutely have to.” I say this because you REALLY don’t know how close your boss and their boss are. I did this a long time ago and learned the hard way after some time in the dog house. You need to have the discussion with your boss. If you don’t like what they have to say and have a good reason to back it up, then you tell them you would like to bring their boss into it. They will know anyway if you go above their head, and in most cases doing so without their knowledge makes you both look bad.

    3. Totally agree, but you need to make the decision on if you want to be a part of this organization. If they are going to be your boss and they don’t know the answers to your questions, maybe better to wait a month or so until their job becomes available!

    4. Some organizations just aren’t right for some people. If you hate being inside all day, don’t work in an office environment that even when you move up you are in a corner office. If you don’t like to talk to people, don’t work in a marketing environment. Experience is great, but not at the expense of your personality. (Personal note, working for the FBI does sound AWESOME!)

    5. Totally agree. If your boss or your environment sucks, don’t let yourself be on that level. It may make you unpopular in the short term, but in the long term it will define who you are.

    6. Always be on the lookout for that next opportunity. I have had job offers in grocery stores! You never know who that person is you are talking to. I have people who look like ditch diggers that turned out to b the heads of some very powerful companies, they just like to work with everyone else. Active or passive, you have to always keep your mind open AND be personable.

    I have worked with both encouraging bosses and TOXIC bosses. The way you deal with it defines you. It defines your reputation, your perspective and most importantly your future. I love you post and look forward to more!

  3. Greig Harper says:

    I have to agree with Rob. I’ve always been a fan of being direct and bold with bosses. You need to be professional but if you can’t be frank with their boss are they being frank with their boss? Sounds like a doomed company where people can’t tell the truth.

    If you can’t do this with your boss, get a new job. Or a new boss. 😉

  4. Paloma says:

    I want to address the annual review part of the blog.

    In JJ premium there is a job journal, where you can log your activities and accomplishments (it’s under the Tools menu).

    My husband is gearing up for his 90 day review. The best way to do this is to gather all the info about what he’s done since he’s been there, in real time as it’s happening. I proposed that he should start a file the moment he fired up the computer for the first time. At NASA they did a WAR (Weekly Activity Report) that they could pull data from about their achievements and helps to the company. The WAR is an easy way to do your annual review. The most important thing to do is to make sure you put down the “attaboys” – You know – when you are complimented specifically about something. This would indicate that they a) appreciate what you did and b) it is something they are wanting to see but not usually getting since your boss wouldn’t necessarily go out of his/her way to comment on something that is status quo. So even if it doesn’t seem like something earth shaking to you, perhaps it is to the company who hasn’t seen it in a while or may not have seen it ever.

  5. SMoriah says:

    Actually, being bold can get you fired. And absolutely, DO NOT, take your problems to Human Resources! Human Resources are always on the side of Management, not the employee.

    And in regards to annual reviews, I’ve had managers who score you one point below “Pass” in order to force you out, lying about your performance, attitude, etc. and totally disagreeing with everyone of your associates’ positive review of your work, attitude, etc.

  6. Fred says:

    I once had six managers who worked for me. During the annual review process I gave all six of them the highest rating they could get, exceeds expectations. I told HR and my boss they were all great and that you get what you expect. If you expect them to exceed they will. Guess what happened. I was told I had to redo them all and rate them all in a typical curve, 2 high, 3 medium, and one needs improvement. What a joke!

  7. SMoriah says:

    Why is it that Business Schools do not teach a full-fledged course in “Humanistic Management?” Why can’t HR personnel, supervisors, managers, presidents, CEO’s, etc., be, to borrow a phrase from James Lipton, “human beings behaving humanly?” Why not a required course, or seminar, in human ethics in the business world, that must be demonstratively passed before being given such a position?

    Someone told me no one would take this course because all management, etc., is concerned about is POWER and CONTROL. Who in the 20th century CE does this remind you of?

    There was an article or survey done several months ago indicating that managers and managerial treatment are the number one reason 98% (or some other high percentage) of employees do not like their jobs.