People Management in Real Life
For years I have been analyzing work of many companies in different countries. As a result, quite often I came across the fact that a lot of managers at different levels of organization do not know basic people management techniques, for example, how to:
- assign a task to a subordinate,
- monitor team members’ performance and why a manager needs to measure the performance at all,
- find out the motivation of a subordinate, and why, in general, a manager needs to know this motivation,
- build a competent salary policy in your company,
- deal with employees’ mistakes,
- impose a penalty,
- and many others.
So, it is really frustrating that all these incompetency examples are blooming in offices while people management techniques are not secret and widely available to anyone interested.
But have you ever asked yourself why then modern managers have so poorly mastered basic people management techniques?
Why Managerial Incompetence is so Popular Worldwide?
I investigated this issue and came to the conclusion that there are several main reasons:
- First, there is managerial incompetence propaganda;
- Second, employees learn incompetence from their incompetent bosses and leaders. When in Rome, do as the Romans do, right?
- Third, you don't really need to be competent to succeed. Yeah, this is The Great Mystery of humankind. Dr. Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic gave an interesting speech at TEDx on this very topic, heavily based on research.
Each reason deserves a separate article. But today I would like to focus on the first reason.
Glaring Example of Managerial Incompetence Propaganda
Did you notice that mass culture promotes incompetence in managing people? I would even say, it glorifies the incompetence. Take, for example, the movie Whiplash (2014), which received 16 awards, including three Oscars, and two more Oscar nominations. J. K. Simmons won an Oscar in Best Supporting Role nomination for his character Terence Fletcher, the conductor of the most prestigious jazz ensemble in the USA.
The main plot line is: Terence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons), an instructor known for his terrifying teaching methods, discovers Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller), a first-year student and talented drummer, and transfers the aspiring drummer into the top jazz ensemble at the prestigious Shaffer Conservatory, where he cruelly mocks students, devalues their work, insults and keeps them in constant fear and trembles. This semi-criminal perverse behavior is presented in the movie as an advanced method of managing people and developing competencies: only under the extreme pressure of bullying and humiliation the true talent can be nurtured.
Further along the plot, Andrew has a nervous breakdown due to constant bullying by Terence. For this, Andrew is expelled from the conservatory. At the same time, it turns out that one of Terence's students, Sean Casey, committed suicide, unable to bear the bullying by Terence. The punishment for such a crime (incitement to suicide) committed by Terence was… dismissal from the conservatory. And that, only thanks to the testimony of Andrew. Otherwise Terence would continue to do what he did.
Inevitable Consequences of Incompetent People Management
No doubt, the movie itself is an outstanding drama. But I would like to focus attention on the topic of the aggressive people management technique. There are a lot of supporters of "squeezing all juices" out of subordinates, as the most effective technique of managing people. This technique is based on fear, because it is a very strong motivator. However, I’m sure that everyone who had experienced such a technique is familiar with consequences, such as: decrease of motivation and poor performance, loss of self-confidence, apathy, depression and psychosomatic illnesses. In some cases it may lead to aggression, violent behavior, domestic violence and more.
Meanwhile, our society is very concerned by the consequences, but very little attention paid, in my mind, to the reason that have caused such consequences.
Thereby, the problem is not only in the incompetent people management itself. The problem also is that incompetent management is being popularized in mass culture. So, a lot of people are convinced that such behaviour is the norm.
Thus, thanks to the Oscar-winning movie, aggressive leadership is perceived as a blessing. And therein lies the danger and the main problem – people place incompetent people management upon a pedestal. Indeed, why develop your managerial competence, if you can just throw a chair in the subordinate’s head? It's simple. Everyone can do it. And a subordinate cannot respond in the same manner.
How many managers are inspired by this technique?
How many subordinates will take it out on family members or even commit suicide like Sean Casey?
At the end of the movie, it turns out that Terence is a hero, savoring his victory. And the fact of incitement the student to the suicide is provided as a collateral loss. Such a minor event. Not worth your attention. The movie director seems to hint that it makes Terence the Great Conductor (Manager). A Great Manager who has no time for such “trifles”.
So, this is how propaganda of aggressive people management based on fear, humiliation, achievements devaluation, bullying and insults penetrates into the mass consciousness.
What can we do about it?
I think that the most essential thing we can do is to raise awareness of future and current managers about competent management methods. So, one of the most important missions of management experts is to popularize the idea of competent people management through workshops, master classes, coaching, articles, books, lectures, podcasts, webinars and so on.
Because it is very unlikely that somebody creates a movie about a competent manager. Obviously because, when a competent manager rules the team, there is no drama, no dead people, no suffering and pain, and no chair coming to a head.
Managing effectively, respecting subordinates, supporting and growing up your team is what, in my opinion, we need to popularize among managers. Because Terence Fletcher's seeds had been planted in their heads…