By Bruce Tulgan — Forget the idea of being a hands-off manager. That doesn’t help anyone. In the early 90s it became popular for managers to not manage. Today’s mangers need to reverse the trend.


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11 replies
  1. christin
    christin says:

    how interesting that you post this today, because I am facing a situation right now with a nonconfrontational, “work out your own differences” type of boss, and I’m reaching my breaking point.
    Which really disturbs me, because I’m a hard worker, and I work well with people – but I can’t take not getting even a little recognition for my efforts, compounded by an underserving co-worker who is giving assignments she’s not capable of – assignments that should go to me. It’s a loyalty issue – she’s been there a bit longer, her husband is one of our best engineers. I’m in a pretty impossible position. Anyway – maybe it’s time to press the issue.

  2. Leets
    Leets says:

    Lots of people (esp. in my field) become managers because there’s no other way to get a salary hike and stay with the same company. Either you stay in your current position with your lowly salary or you agree to manage because you need the raise. Never mind that you have no business being a supervisor. Peter Principle in full effect.

  3. Scott
    Scott says:

    Well it’s not a simple thing really – it’s more of an art than a science. Good managers know this, the poor ones DO NOT. “Management” really is “Managing PEOPLE”. People are vastly different from one to the next. The manager who excels is the one who can quickly identify what motivates any given individual and then utilizes those mechanics to encourage healthy productivity and spawn growth of ability and efficiency. People DO NOT want to reminded constantly that their boss is around to make them do things that they do not necessarily like and that their boss is making the task even more unappealing in the way he’s managing the task and/or the situation. People want to feel motivated and excited about their job. They want to feel appreciated, respected, and needed. Under these circumstances, some individuals flourish, others, feeling as though there is opportunity, take advantage of the situation. This is where a manager must see the dynamics and approach the situation appropriatly. It’s been said before, but is SOOOO true, managers make you work, leaders make you want to work. I’ve worked for both.

  4. Jacqui
    Jacqui says:

    I think the mark of a good manager is the realization that each person needs to managed differently. I, personally, love the fact that my manager is so hands-off in her style. I function best this way, and have actually left a job much more quickly than I otherwise would have because I felt like I was being over-managed.

    It’s my feeling that if you can’t give me a task and a little direction and trust me get it done (or share my ideas on how it could be done more effectively) then you had no business hiring me to do the job.

  5. Pirate Jo
    Pirate Jo says:

    Jacqui, I think I’m a lot like you. My needs are simple: Give me a lot of responsibility, and then leave me alone to do it. I hate it when I’m not busy, and I hate being micromanaged.

    I can see, though, that if someone is a star performer – your accountant who automates the month-end closing cycle from eight days down to four, for example – you need to recognize them. Not by shoveling more grunt-level work at them, but by giving them raises, promotions, and more challenging tasks. They’ve already proven they can handle a challenge, right?

    Employees who are process-improvers save companies a ton of money. Once that streamlined process is in place, it will always be there, continuing to save money, long after the employee is gone. But of course you don’t want that person to leave, so make sure they can’t find a better deal elsewhere!

  6. diane jones
    diane jones says:

    I work for a technology company in which the owner/manager has a hands off style. There are no set rules as to the time to come in, what to do if you are going to be late, etc. The only time someone mentions a problem to you is when you step over some invisible line.
    Although this was somewhat confusing when I was first hired, I am a self-motivated individual and I did very well. However, I am now a manager of eight other scientists.
    I find that I somehow exceed my place and am reprimanded because I said something or did something outside of my area of responsibility. I am the most “hands on” of the managers at my company, and my team is the highest rated.
    Although I have been told by the owner that I am a “natural manager”, I do not seem to just know where my responsibility ends. When I ask for guidance, I get one of those goofy “well, what do you think you should do?” answers rather than any real set of guidelines.
    Also, I have noticed that women (I am a woman) seem to need a totally different approach than men. Men are relatively easy to manage because they follow rules more easily, especially in a team environment, such as the one I foster. Women seem to want to be competitive with me and challenge every guideline (as you see, I do this myself!).
    For example, our company will grow from 100 employees to about 500 within 2 years. I believe that it is important for there to be some uniformity in form and in the systems each manager uses to schedule work and also in the general format of the work. Then, if a manager leaves, any other manager will be able to take over his/her workload with little transition time. The women I manage want to argue about my system and about these rules. How do I handle this?
    Also, the other managers at my level balk when I try to amend or suggest changes in the way that we are doing things. I think that they do not like the idea that I am trying to manage any area over which they have purview.
    I feel like there is a lot of short-sightedness in the management and that no one seems to understand that we are going to have a nightmare on our hands if there is not some infrastructure in place in the near future.
    The management style that works for 50 employees is not going to work for 500-or am I wrong?

  7. Margaret LaBeur
    Margaret LaBeur says:

    This is an interesting and astute observation. I have worked with bosses who aren’t “people persons.” That translate into closed doors, hands-off, feigned ignorance, inability to manage confrontation successfully and letting “the chips fall where they lie.”

  8. Greta Wexman
    Greta Wexman says:

    I didn’t know there was a tag assigned to what I actually do ever working weekday…..UNDERMANAGE. I knew that the day to day operations were greater than what one person could possible manage efficiently, I know that I am uncomfortable with the amount of time spent at my desk as opposed to be out on the unit with my staff. The endless e-mails marked urgent; the projects that are still a work in-progress; the original messages forwarded to me again by my director asking, “status???” Not to mention the over-due Performance Appraisals. Do I leave my office door open or close it and be tagged as “unapproachable”, or “too busy?”

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