Thursday, September 16, 2010

Everybody is NOT a Manager

You all know I started a new gig about two months ago.  It's not my dream job (no TV involved, I can't take my doggie with me, and the paycheck could stand a couple of more zeros) but it's much more tolerable than my old job which still brings shivers down my spine when I think of it.  But this rant isn't about current gig or really any gig in particular -- just the whole dang manager concept. 

I've been working a long time now -- you wouldn't know it from my bank account (that's a whole separate post) but I've been around a while in the work force.  One of the biggest beefs I have with Corporate America (as it's so warmly referred to by us who are indentured to the structure to eat) is the fact that the only way "up" seems to be to make manager of or senior some-fancy-name-that-means-nothing-to-those-outside-of-the-company.   The problem with that structure is that there are so few companies that actually train those up-and-comers to be really effective and GOOD managers of people.  It doesn't mean they're bad people, they're just horrible managers of people.

Managing people takes an entirely different skill set than what most people learn in school or even learn with experience.  You need a set of "soft skills" that I've not seen many MBA programs focus on.  You need the ability to deal with different people -- cultures, ages, genders, learning styles, and personalities.  The manager needs to be able to deal with all of those differences, yet, somehow or another treat everyone the same from a policies and productivity standpoint.  They need to be cheerleaders, ass-kickers, and still keep their personal biases and opinions out of the decision making as much as possible.  I feel for them.  I recognized a long, long time ago that I would not be an effective manager of people.  It's hard as hell to be a good one and I've yet to work somewhere where the trade-off seemed worth it.  I'm okay with that.   But I digress.

It sucks that the only path to financial and professional growth in many companies requires becoming responsible for the growth and development of a staff.  Especially as many folk are thrust into that role long before they have been trained to be an effective manager.   In my experience, manager has meant "I'm the boss now dammit".   Too many times they don't lead a group as much as they babysit (i.e. make sure the staff follows antiquated company rules) or break their necks implementing an idea of some fool that has the ear of the CEO or someone in a high enough position to make it happen.  

I wish corporations could either a) find a way to make a growth and development path for good employees that don't necessarily lead to managing a group of people or b) train the managers to be good leaders.  I think b would be easier but that's just me.

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