Our guest blogger today, part of the Classically Educated core team, has decided to remain anonymous, since they suspect their boss reads this blog. But anonymous or not, we think you’ll enjoy it!
For those who’ve never been corporate zombies, it might come as a bit of a surprise that not everyone in management fits the stereotypes. Not every manager is a serious-minded analytical guru, not all are whiz-kids, there are nearly no crooks and Dilbert’s boss, though iconic, doesn’t really represent a significant cross-section. As a blog that self-describes as “eclectic”, we couldn’t let the opportunity of having a look at this, especially as many of us still spend a significant portion of our waking lives at work.
Most managers are just regular people who do regular things. They have the same feelings that you or I do, have the same questions (What is the meaning of life? Will I ever be successful? What should I have for lunch?) and, like us, they are dissatisfied with the standard answer, 42. They get home and watch something mind-numbing on TV, and the last time most of them read anything that might be considered classic literature is either in college or in high school, depending on what they minored in.
They are, essentially, Jane and Joe Shmoe with a bit more money and a BMW, with the big difference that they are under pressure to do better than their competition, a company that is staffed by people with exactly the same qualifications and exactly the same IQ. That other company will be trying to do exactly the same things in mostly the same ways. This means that most managers are desperate to fins something to set them apart – but they, like you or I, secretly believe they aren’t up to the task, and also know that they stopped maturing at some point near their fifteenth birthday, just like everyone else.
Many people attain a sense of security by being part of a group, and managers are no different, which means that, like 1980’s hairdos, which seemed like a safe choice at the time but have since forced you to pretend that “I didn’t take any pictures during that whole decade”, management fads that everyone is doing are adopted by everyone else, in a sort of self-creational cycle that the best business writers are at a loss to explain (conspiracy theories are welcome in the comments).
There are many articles that talk about bad management fads, and this is another one, but we are funnier, snarkier, and have a fad in the #1 spot that we haven’t seen elsewhere!
So, without further ado, I give you the five dumbest management fads that the crew at Classically Educated have observed firsthand:
#5. Consensus Management. This is one that sounds great on paper, especially to millennials who have decided to democratize everything, from music to internet content (said the blogger). They feel entitled to be a part of every decision and that we should all get along, yay!
Verdict: Consensus is a bunch of people who think “A” getting together in a ten-hour meeting to compromise on “B”.
#4. Use of Quality and Production Tools in Commercial Areas. Raise your hand if your company has forced you to qualify as a green or black belt, or applied Kanbans to your processes, or used some other production-sector quality tool to make your working life more organized. Hmm, thought so. Now raise your hand if you work in marketing, sales, Human Resources or any other area of the company in which the capacity to think on your feet and deal with situations that never arose before and will likely never arise again are more important than trying to bash a bunch of round pegs into square holes. Sad, isn’t it?
Verdict: Who the hell promoted all those engineers and accountants into top management positions, anyway?
#3. Shiny! This is perhaps the fad that most clearly shows the connection between management and normal human feelings such as insecurity, especially in the internet age. Here’s the deal: a very high-level manager reads an article that states that social interactive image and sound conflugialization is beginning to take off, and that there are already thousands of happy users sharing their conflugialistic infotermics, and that it’s the greatest thing since Facebook Ads. Then they read the fateful sentence: “XXXXX (being a company in their industry) has already signed on as a beta test partner”. The manager immediately assigns a slightly lower-level person (say an EVP) to the task of implementing the thing, and gravity ruins the lives of a bunch of middle managers for months. The justification: “We can’t fall behind XXXXX.”
Verdict: Did anyone bother to ask what the ROI on your Facebook Ads is?
#2. Cross-Functional Teams. Cross-functional teams are another one of those that sound good on paper: let’s have all the stake-holding departments involved in the productive process, that way ensuring that nothing gets overlooked. We’ll save a ton of time in not having mistakes. The problem? Mistakes happen anyway, and you basically have people from sales sitting in on long arguments between the guy from the factory and the guy from finance regarding how to shave a cent off procurement costs by importing gear oil from Myanmar instead of Paraguay.
Verdict: The ancients once said something about “too many cooks”, and it still holds true. Some of those ancients would have been excellent CEOs, but they’d if they’d been willing to bathe more often.
#1. Power Ties. This one is embarrassing to even write about. I can’t imagine how it must have felt to be subjected to it – fortunately, it died off about a year before I entered the workforce, but my coworkers were so scarred by it that it dominated lunchtime for ages. Essentially, Power Ties were red ties, which, some behavioral psychologist had decided projected power, which gave you a psychological advantage over the people you were meeting with. Many organizations mandated them for meetings with clients, and especially with C-Level managers visiting from headquarters.
Verdict: He’s a millionaire C-level manager in a huge corporation. He’s reached his position by backstabbing thick-hided insensibility. He’s fought in four wars, and has the skulls of the enemy soldiers (and one insubordinate corporal) that he killed mounted in his trophy room. He specifically requested that you serve him grilled interns for lunch. But show him a red tie and he’ll cower, blubbering, into the nearest corner. Let me know how that works out.
Anyway, feel free to add any you might like – that’s what the comments are for, after all!
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