The Essential Guide to Angst-Free Management

As we carefree, flower-children types age, we find ourselves in increasingly responsible positions at our workplace – often against our will and much to our chagrin. This can cause stress and panic because we of the free-love-peace-and-brotherhood-of-all era find it very difficult to take charge, control the work lives of others, give orders, be corporate.

I’ve worked for a lot of different managers, and tried a bit of management myself (and didn’t like it much) so of course I feel completely qualified to be dishing out advice to those who now, reluctantly, find themselves in management positions and want to know how to be effective manager types. The best thing of all, of course,  is to avoid management positions. The added money is never worth the joy it sucks out of your life. 

However, if you absolutely must manage:

  1. Ignore all the management manuals, books and motivational speaker advice.  These people only care about making money by preying on your insecurities.  They don’t care about you and making your working life easier and better. I do. Overall your instincts will be your best guide – much like parenthood. The “experts” are all very interesting, but they’re not living in your shoes.
  2. Don’t fret about your staff.  No matter how kindly they may feel about you, and no matter what you do, a part of them will always resent you for being their financial and hierarchal superior. That’s the way it’s supposed to be.
  3. Your main focus should be on getting the job done you are in charge of getting done. Every decision you make should be in support of that.
  4. Your staff will not be entirely comfortable having you for a friend. Do not try to be their friend. Do not follow them to lunch or coffee breaks. They want to be alone to bitch about you.
  5. To show you’re still part of the team, however, and not just an overlord, host a pot-luck lunch at your house occasionally or take them off somewhere for a “team building session” that drags on for the rest of the afternoon. You pay for something to make it a real treat, but not everything
  6. People love to be asked their opinions. Get your staff in one at a time periodically to ask them their opinions on: a) how they feel about their job/how things are going, b) anything they think they could be doing/would like to be doing that they’re not, c)what makes them want to come to work in the mornings and/or is there anything that could be implemented around the office to make them want to come to work in the mornings, c) any ideas they may have to improve productivity, bottom line or whatever it is you’re supposed to be accomplishing.
  7. Bosses are invariably really good talkers.  They have to be because they give lots of presentations, chair meetings, convince people of stuff, double-talk their way into and out of trouble.  Beef up those public speaking skills so you can make short shrift of your peers and competitors.  Then shut-up when dealing with your staff. Let them talk. There is nothing worse than a boss you calls you in to ask your opinion on something and then goes on to give you his for the entire meeting.
  8. Implement some of the ideas and changes your staff suggest. Not all of them – you don’t want to be a pushover – just the ones that makes sense. Talk without action is demoralizing.
  9. Pay people what they’re worth and if you’re not in control wages, give those who particularly deserve it added privileges – something that means something to them. (perhaps a free day off, work on a project that excites them, a new chair/desk/keyboard/office. This shows that you appreciate those that give a little extra to the job. By the same token, show that you notice the slackers by not giving them a raise, a free day off, new office furniture, etc. Equality is all well and good, but it sucks as a motivator.
  10. Lead by example. Very important. Think of what you would consider your ideal employee and then be that person.  Your staff will look to you (perhaps subconsciously) on how to dress, deport themselves around the office, when and how they clock in and out, how much attention to detail they give their work, how they treat and talk about clients; how they treat and talk about their co-workers, and so on and so forth.

All the best in your future endeavours and please be aware that my resume is current and always available for consideration.

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15 responses to “The Essential Guide to Angst-Free Management

  1. I like numbers 3, 6 and 10 especially. If only everybody thought this way!

    The evidence of “lead by example” is glaringly obvious in every company or organization and you can often get a taste of it just be observing the receptionist’s attitude. Poison at the top leaks down and ruins everything below it, even in spite of good intentions. You just have to be following the National Gallery kerfuffle in the Citizen to see that one.

  2. Well said !

    Love #9, particularily the part about showing that you notice the slackers by NOT giving them a raise, a free day off, new office furniture. There is nothing more de-motivating than seeing a slacker obtain more and more and more privilages for doing nothing.

    I also have an issue with placing a long time employee into a ‘management’ position simply because they’ve been a long time employee. Not everyone is management material and happens way more than one may think.

  3. Julia – Excellent points. It’s hard to stay positive and focussed when your manager is always running down his/her superiors, the company, other employees.

    Raino – Government has particular problems with this because there is no substantial way to punish slackers or to reward anyone who might be giving that ever-elusive 110%

    Meanie – Our lives are running some sort of weirdly bisectional course. Good luck in management. Don’t let it go to your head.

  4. Well, seeing as I’ll never be a manager, this wouldn’t apply to me, but damn, some of the managers I’ve had should really have had access to your list.

  5. Yes I am a manager, yes, I am pretty good at it (at least that’s what my boss and staff tell me, so that must count for something, eh?), and yes, I HATE it. Lottery tickets..must buy lottery tickets….sigh….

  6. As a confirmed slacker with 30 plus years of experience I’d just like to say you give us short shrift.
    There is very little harder than actually slacking off day in day out for years on end and I for one am glad that it is often rewarded by bosses who just give up and give the work to someone they know will do it.
    That way everyone is happy. The 110ers get to do more and feel good and I get to do nothing.
    BY the way if you’re not used to constant slacking don’t try it all at once you might strain something.

  7. Great advice! #8 is so important. It’s nice to be asked your opinion,but if no one ever does anything with what you say, it gets pretty old pretty fast.

  8. Jazz- how very clever of you to organize things so you’ll never have to manage. Being a manager takes 15-17 years off your total lifespan, you know (that’s just my guess anyway)

    UP – That’s what I like to see — a manager who can’t wait to get the hell out of his/her job.

    Aggie – Why, yes I did. First I was feeling really sorry for you for having to have a job like a regular schmoe; then you were having all these anxieties about being in a managerial position; then when you begged for help from your ESI friends they just sloughed you off with some meaningless drivel. So, I took it upon myself to pitch in. Because I’m a pitch-inner. Maybe some of it will even be useful.

    Bandobras – you should write a book – 7 Habits of Highly Ineffective people.

    Kimberly – Right! Some managers seem to have clued into the asking for opinions and advice thing, but not the “implement the opinions and advice” thing.

  9. Too much effort. Must rest now in preparation for afternoon nap.
    Perhaps you could assign someone else to write the book for me. You seem really busy. Would you mind doing the book tool.

  10. #4 cracked me up.
    #5 on the other hand – in case anyone needs clarification, it’s essential that these potluck lunches and team-building exercises take place during regular working hours. People hate giivng up their free time for work-related social activities. (At least I do.)

  11. Bandobra – Also, probably the people for whom you’d be writing the book, would be too damn lazy to read it.

    Zoom – Goes without saying — although I did say something about making sure it drags on through the afternoon, strongly implying worktime. Social activities outside of worktime are just plain mean.

  12. Being stuck in a ‘middle-management’ position where you don’t actually have any control over many of the decisions also puts you in an untenable position. The people under you think you have so much more power than you know you have.

  13. Violetsky – Middle-management is the pits and how did a smart gal like you get roped into that? It usually means they make you responsible for a lot of shit that the real bosses don’t want to get their hands dirty doing. You get a “management” title, a few cents more salary and you give up your life for the company.