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Determining How You are being Managed

Updated on October 17, 2012
If the boss looks for mistakes, he or she will find them
If the boss looks for mistakes, he or she will find them

SURVIVING THE BOSS FROM HEAVEN OR HELL-Understanding How you are Managed

Based on numerous employee surveys regarding their perceptions of their boss, if many employees were asked the question, “How do you think you are managed by your boss?” they would answer, “Very badly, if he or she manages me at all”

It is no revelation that most employees list their boss at or near the top of the list of things they hate most about their work lives. This negative perception not only applies to bosses the employees think are from hell, but also, to some extent, to bosses they consider be from heaven, or close to that place. What is the reason for this? I think it is because most employees do not understand how most bosses tend to manage their people and how they can avoid being innocent victims of the boss’s management approach, which is so universal, regardless of the boss’s personality, education level or age, that one might conclude it is a natural part of their human nature. So what is the universal people management approach? Here it is. See if you recognize it in the way your boss manages you:

Management by Exception

This approach is used by the boss when his or her span of control-or the number of people that report to him or her-is more than just a few people. The more the people, the greater the tendency for the boss to use this technique. Very simply, this approach is for the boss is to spend most of his time managing, observing, communicating with and noticing the exception to the norm, or those employees that capture his attention either positively or negatively. On the positive side are those employees the boss considers to be high producers, smarter, more innovative and more ambitious; and those employees who are more dependable, loyal, herder-working and indispensible. On the other end of the spectrum are those employees who have come to the negative attention of the boss. These are, in the eyes of the boss, the trouble-makers, the rule breakers, the poor performers and those with bad attitudes. Most bosses devote much of their time to the positive employees because he or she likes to, these are his or her favorite employees. He spends a lot of time watching, inspecting and disciplining the negative employees because he is forced to because he considers these employees high-risk.

Thus far, we have not described anything very surprising. In fact, in some respects, management by exception may seem understandable and common sense. But there is more:

The Eighty-Twenty Rule

This is a well-known rule and seems to work for many things. Essentially, the rule says that 80% of any result is produced by 20% of the producers. For instance, in a typical sales operation, 20% of the sales people will produce 80% of the sales. Or, as far as the work place is concerned, the rule would hold that 80% of the problems in an operation are caused by 20% of the employees. This rule specifically applies to the management by exception approach used by many bosses. The rule would say that the boss spends 80% of his or her time paying attention to 20% of the employees-the good ones and the bad ones. The reverse side of this coin is that the boss spends 20% of his or her time giving attention to 80% of the employees. The bulk of the people who report to him never really catch his eye until they come to his attention negatively, by doing something bad or positively by doing something good. It is no wonder that many employees who are part of a large workforce report that they do not believe that their boss even knows they are alive!

As bad as management by exception is for most employees, there is an even worse variant of this practice that is hell for all employees and it is practiced by most bosses from hell:

Management by Negative Exception

This is a management approach straight from hell. This approach looks for the exception, but only the negative exception. Bosses who practice this expect the worse from employees; they expect to find the bad in employees, they predict that employees will make big mistakes and fail and their prediction becomes, very often, a self-fulfilling prophesy. They expect that an employee will fail in a task. They communicate this low expectation to the employee, which pushes the employee to fail. The boss then responds, “See, I told you so.”

Bosses who have this negative mind set are the type who will receive a report from an employee who has slaved over the product day and night to make it the best thing since sliced bread. The boss scans through the report, page after page in silence until he comes to page 5. Then he cries, “Ha! I see a typo in the middle of this page. This report is no good!” and throws it back in the face of the employee.

Bosses in this category-and they are all from hell-define a good or even excellent work product as that which is absent from any mistake or imperfection. They equate the good with “not bad”. This theory of theirs is, itself, bad and very imperfect because it encourages employees-even the best employees-to stop wasting their time on trying to improve quality and simply cover up any noticeable mistakes. In other words, it encourages mediocre performance and work products.

While many bosses from heaven practice management by exception, some of them, with training and more management experience, change and see the wisdom of treating all of their employees fairly. But bosses from hell are hard to change and will probably practice management by negative exception until the end. The best the poor employees of such bosses can do is to shop around for a better boss

Knowing Your Boss

How do you like the way you are managed?

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