The Misunderstood World of Management: An Insider’s Perspective

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AGILEREAL-LIFE TALES

Eduardo Alvim

5/15/20243 min read

Ah, management – the eternal scapegoat of organizational woes. "The problem is management," they say. "Agile transformation is failing because of management." And my personal favorite: "They just don’t have the right mindset." It seems like whenever there's a hiccup in the workplace, fingers point straight up the chain of command. But let’s pause and think for a moment. Managers are people too, believe it or not, and they’re often just as lost as the rest of us.

Imagine being a manager. You’re stuck in the middle, squished like the filling in a corporate sandwich. On one side, you’ve got the higher-ups breathing down your neck, demanding results, progress, and let’s not forget, the occasional miracle. On the other side, your team is looking at you, expecting guidance, support, and maybe even a bit of magic. Caught in this crossfire, managers do their best, but it’s no walk in the park.

Take Sarah, for example. Sarah was a top-notch software developer, the go-to person for solving the trickiest bugs. One day, she got promoted to a management position. Suddenly, Sarah found herself in charge of a team. She was expected to handle project timelines, mediate conflicts, and inspire her team to greatness. The problem? Sarah had never managed people before. Her expertise was in coding, not in dealing with the diverse personalities and expectations of her team. She spent sleepless nights worrying about deadlines and team morale. Despite her best efforts, things didn’t always go smoothly. Her team sometimes resented her for what they saw as a lack of leadership, while her superiors pressured her for better results. It was a classic no-win scenario.

Let’s address the elephant in the room – bad managers do exist. We’ve all encountered them. God knows I have had my fair share of those!

Sometimes it’s the technical whiz who suddenly finds themselves in a management role. They can debug code in their sleep but can’t navigate the murky waters of team dynamics. Other times, it’s someone who lacks the experience or the soft skills necessary for effective leadership. How many managers out there have actually undergone proper training for their roles? Spoiler alert: not many.

Consider John, who was promoted because he was the best salesperson in his team. John could sell ice to an Eskimo, but when it came to managing people, he was out of his depth. He didn’t know how to motivate his team, struggled with delegation, and found it hard to provide constructive feedback. The result? His team’s performance dipped, and morale hit rock bottom. It wasn’t that John was a bad person; he simply wasn’t prepared for the role he was thrust into.

The real kicker? Many managers never wanted the job in the first place. They were fantastic at what they did, so the natural progression was to promote them. But this well-meaning decision often backfires. You lose an excellent technician and gain a mediocre manager. It’s a lose-lose situation, like swapping your delicious coffee for a cup of tepid tea.

But hey, it’s not fair to blame it all on management. We’re in 2024, folks! Gone are the days when your boss had the ultimate say over your career trajectory. People need to take charge of their own professional paths. It’s about time we all started owning our choices. Want to improve your skills? There’s an online course for that. Want to move up in the company? Seek out mentorship and opportunities. It’s not rocket science; it’s responsibility.

What we need is a fair game. Management and individual contributors should meet halfway. Managers need to be equipped with the right tools and training, and employees need to take ownership of their growth. It’s a balancing act that requires effort from both sides. When expectations are aligned, and responsibilities are shared, that’s when the magic happens.

Take the example of a company that decided to invest in leadership training for its managers. They recognized that promoting the best technician didn’t necessarily make for the best manager. So, they offered courses in leadership, communication, and conflict resolution. They also provided ongoing support through mentorship programs. The result? Managers felt more confident and competent in their roles, and teams reported higher satisfaction and productivity.

So, the next time you’re tempted to throw management under the bus, take a moment. Remember that they’re juggling pressures from all directions, doing their best in a tough spot. And who knows? With a bit of understanding and a pinch of cooperation, we might just find that middle ground where everyone wins.

In the end, it’s all about balance. Let’s stop the blame game and start working together to create workplaces where everyone – managers and employees alike – can thrive. After all, we’re all in this together, navigating the crazy world of work one day at a time.