So You Think Your Manager’s Like a Bad Joke? Part 1: The Setup

A critic, a control freak, and a micromanager walk into a conference room… Do you know the punch line to this joke? No?

That’s because it’s not a joke. Each of these folks can squelch creativity, suppress innovation, create process bottlenecks, and demoralize staff. And yet countless employees work for these types of managers and sit in their meetings every day.

So, if you’re one of those employees, how can you cope with these types in a way that lets you feel more confident and competent? And if you act like one of these management caricatures, how can you shift your behavior so you can actually lead — not lean on your staff?

The first step toward solving any problem or changing any pattern is to identify it. This week, I’ll lay out the patterns. Do any of these descriptions fit you or your manager?

The Critic

Organizational Damage: The Critic takes away employees’ sense of competence by always finding something wrong and constantly pointing out what they could have done better. They don’t so much do it for the sake of the employee’s development and achievement, but rather as a way of showing their own expertise. They may be very incisive and analytical within a narrow range, but may not know how to build.

Fear: They won’t be perceived as smart or credible enough if they don’t keep pointing things out.

Sounds Like: Not like that! Don’t do it that way! That’s not the best way!

Warning to the Critic: Your team may not be able to absorb all your “suggestions” or apply them. When you keep subtracting from what others have done through your criticisms, and adding to what others should be doing through your normative statements, your employees may end up without enough confidence or self-possession left to hold themselves together.

The Control Freak

Organizational Damage: The Control Freak takes away employees’ sense of accomplishment and meaning. Every idea, every accomplishment belongs to them, not to their employees. They may be content with mediocre or low-risk performance rather than anything that could rock their boat.

Fear: They’re in over their heads and will be found out.

Sounds Like: It has to be the right way. I can’t tolerate anything else. So just do it the way I tell you to do it.

Warning to the Control Freak: If you don’t want your employees to think for themselves, believe me, eventually they won’t. Or at least, they certainly won’t think for you. And you still may not know what you’re doing.

The Micromanager

Organizational Damage: The Micromanager takes away employees’ sense of confidence and autonomy by insisting that everything has to be the way they would do it. They can be highly status-conscious, and can pull rank frequently. They have very little sense of the big picture and very little possibility for breakthrough learning. They constantly complain, “Why do I always have to do everything myself?!?”

Fear: They’ll be blamed and thought less of if other people don’t do things their way and screw things up.

Sounds Like: If you don’t do it the way I tell you, I’m going to have to take it over. Don’t let me catch you not doing it the way I want it. I don’t care how much you’ve thought about it or how hard you’ve worked on it.

Warning to the Micromanager: If you can only hire people or manage employees that you have to sit on to squeeze the job out of them, then they’re not adding value — and neither are you. Sooner or later, that will become clear to everyone, including your management.

Next week, I’ll offer some suggestions for helping these stock characters improve their management behavior.

Onward and upward,

LK

You might also like:

When Service Is Two Chairs and a Napkin Short

A few weeks ago, we attended a gala event, and a series of service bobbles reminded me again that even when service people are perfectly nice, the service itself might still be inadequate. How much does a customer’s response to service results from the communication between humans? And how much of it is caused by […]

Read More

How to Cope When Colleagues Don’t Play Nice, Part 2: Taking Action

It’s frustrating to try to get through your own work or to help your team make progress when you can’t get your colleagues to cooperate. Last week’s post covered some of the reasons that you might be hesitant to address this lack of support directly. Whether you prefer to avoid conflict and confrontation or you’re […]

Read More

How to Cope When Colleagues Don’t Play Nice, Part 1: Confront Your Fears

Some midlevel and senior executives are perfectly comfortable holding their staff members accountable for their responsibilities, but they get flummoxed when a peer is unenthusiastic, uncooperative, or downright obstructionist. These execs may not perceive it as their job to correct or manage a colleague. They wonder, in disbelief, “Isn’t everyone supposed to know how to […]

Read More

What’s the Workplace Equivalent of Making the Bed?

The right ritual can get your day off to a productive start. For me, the best mornings begin in a quiet house, making and drinking my coffee just the way I like it. Everybody’s got their own way to meet the day. Some people believe in heading outside immediately to stand for a moment in […]

Read More