Business Development & Marketing Finance General Interim Management & Executive Support Rescue, Restructuring & Recovery Turnaround

Do you manage your staff or do they manage you?

word cloud people skillsRecently I have come across a situation that I call Upward Management.
This is where staff are managing their managers rather than management setting goals and managing their staff.
An extreme example was a situation where an administrator was supposed to complete their daily workload before leaving the office but instead they often went home leaving critical work unfinished. This meant that her boss was having to complete client reports due that day under service level agreements.
Despite frustration and resentment, the boss was not confronting the staff member or the situation in order to resolve it. Instead the boss simply made oblique comments to the person concerned which triggered an emotional and somewhat aggressive response.
There can be a number of reasons for this, including a failure to set measurable goals, or having set them failing to monitor performance.
This situation can also arise where a manager is either afraid of confrontation or has not been properly trained to manage people. Perhaps they have risen to manager level but are not entirely comfortable with it. Perhaps they fear that staff might walk out or hold the threat of doing so over their manager’s head.
In this particular example my personal view was that the subordinate controlled their boss through passive aggressive behaviour.

The qualities of an effective manager

To manage people effectively a manager should be able to empower people, motivate them and be confident about delegating work.
Effective empowerment is about setting boundaries so that people understand and take responsibility for their work. It also means encouraging them to stretch their abilities and to be innovative. This will work provided there are proper support structures in place.
When staff are motivated they are likely to perform better, and this does not depend solely on salary or bonuses.  An effective manager should be able to motivate people with interesting work, creating a sense of their being part of a team and most importantly by recognising and appreciating hard work.
Delegation works well if a manager understands people’s strength and weaknesses and is able to match the person to the task in a way that stimulates them and shows that they are considered competent to carry out the work successfully.
Ignoring poor performance is not helpful either to the staff or ultimately to the business.  Dealing with the situation does not have to mean an uncomfortable confrontation. A supportive conversation that identifies, what is the problem and what support a person needs to improve may be a more constructive approach.
When the situation like the example cited involves a level of bullying, it is crucial that the inappropriate behaviours are highlighted and addressed.
Finally, it is worth remembering that the longer a problem goes on the harder it will be to remedy.
(Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at

Business Development & Marketing General Rescue, Restructuring & Recovery Turnaround

Corporate psychopaths: motivation is about being firm but fair not ruthless and rude

A few years ago the Journal of Business Ethics published an article on “corporate psychopaths”, identifying several senior figures in the financial sector as typifying this approach to management.
Examples of such people exhibiting this rude, ruthless and cold-blooded behaviour include Dick Fuld, former, former CEO of the Lehman Brothers, and, the late Steve Jobs in the earlier days of Apple.
However, particularly when a business is in difficulty and hard decisions may have to be made for it to be restructured to survive, it is often necessary to have the support of employees if changes are to be implemented.
More than 20 years of research by Professor Christine Porath of Georgetown University have shown that actually to get the best out of people, regardless of whether a business is in trouble or doing well, shouting, rudeness and lack of empathy from the business’ leaders is actually counter-productive.
Her evidence has shown that this kind of aggressive behaviour can result in higher staff sickness rates, can stifle creativity and can also affect staff retention.
Shouting at people, she says: “robs people of focus and they don’t perform”. Frankly it undermines them and will not get their support even when shouting appears to work.
While it may be understandable that the senior management and CEO of a business under pressure will be worried and stressed and therefore prone to aggression, such behaviour is not likely to help the business to recover.
Firm but fair is likely to go further towards getting the best out of others, whatever the situation, than being ruthless and rude.