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What kind of manager are you?

A recent conversation with a colleague got me thinking about the Q above.

He and I were talking about his earlier job and two bosses he’d worked with.

I knew both the bosses. The widely held perception is that boss 2 who we’ll call J was a much better person to work with than boss 1 who we’ll call M.

J was easy going, bright, approachable and had a reasonably good track record in the company.

M was bright, but a bully, low EQ, and generally not well liked, but a star in the company nevertheless.

They are both from the same background ethnically and from an education perspective.

And they were managing an office in an ‘alien’ culture.

I mention all this so that you have a context.

So back to the chat I had.

My colleague said that M was a greater success than J and that people in office remembered M more fondly than J.

I was, to put it mildly, flabbergasted.

M was known to shout at people, micro manage, etc. Yet he was viewed positively?

Then my colleague explained.

He said M treated everyone at start poorly. So essentially your opening account with him was 0. Then through interactions with him your score improved. And as the score improved you got treated better. Hence you felt a sense of development and achievement. This motivated the employee to do more and set off a virtuous upward spiral.

J was the exact opposite. Everyone was treated like they were a star. An extremely valued member of the team. You felt great. And as expected, as time went by and actual work interactions occurred. Some times you did well, and many times you did not meet expectations. And when you did not meet expectations, your ‘points’ reduced. Which meant that it impacted subsequent interactions. And this in turn set off a downward spiral.

So with M your relationship could improve and often did. With J there was only one way. Down.

So over a period of time staff felt a greater sense of achievement with M than they did with J.

Now factor in two other attributes.

Culture: Often this is an inhibitor in clearly defining expectations in the first place. And in this particular case J & M were in a land where English was not the first language. So one can imagine the issues around explaining expectations.

Feedback: As I blogged months ago, most organisations are not good at giving negative feedback. So in the case of J when expectations were not met, the true feedback never came. Just a sense of distance and ‘points reduction’

This got me thinking about Theory X and Theory Y and accepted norms of management.

Not for a moment am I suggesting Theory X as a style, but there is some kernel of truth in the impact of M’s management methods.

If people get a sense of progress then they feel motivated them. This of course sounds like common sense.

But I sense that with new management methods actively promoting Theory Y it becomes an excuse for lazy management and good employees can become disillusioned quickly.

If I were to give J feedback, and he was my boss once upon a time too, it would be ‘set clear expectations’. ‘give clear feedback’ and ‘use the fact that people like you to help them improve their performance’. The good start of the relationship is a great asset that should be utilised.

Neither J nor M is recommended, though M seemed to end with more motivated staff!!

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  1. Priya
    September 18, 2009 at 8:46 am

    Provocative with a strong kernel of truth , but sufficent ‘aha’ factor still, if you get my drift.
    Neat perspective. Shall think about it .

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