Management Is Seldom Incompetent

Employees sometimes disrespect management because they fail to notice what managers do. Perhaps a little clarity would help.

Management tends to break into two parts with the space between the poles the most common location.

At one extreme is administration.  The doing of deeds, the applying of rules, over watch of details.  At the other end of the spectrum is the executive function.  The arranger of resources,  the one who decides what is and will be the business, the delegator of tasks.

Once you are above shop foreman, or below chief executive officer in the corporate organization chart you will be in the middle space with a little of each extreme in your job description.

Employees who actually preform the tasks often do not see much above the foreman or plant superintendent.  They know little of budgets or the tradeoffs that others make between labour at a price or automation at another price.  About one product line surviving and another being killed.  About consolidating similar operations somewhere else.

Those decisions matter.

The essence of middle management is that others make the framework and provide resources and it is up to the middle manager to creatively apply those by properly organizing resources, deciding local priirities, and supervising the employees who carry out the tasks.  By the time the employee on the floor sees the job, there have been hundreds of invisible decisions already made.  Some of those will inevitably be wrong and it is not impossible that the employee on the floor could have been a useful resource.

Smart managers ask for that help.  It is a management style called management-by-walking-around.

At the end of it all though the employees on the floor sees tactics and they have too little information to make good strategic observations.  That does not, of course, mean that they do not voice opinions.  Usually all negative.

Perhaps there is a clear way to see the dichotomy.

If an employee performs poorly, the costs of the business go up slughtly and eventually the employee will be replaced.  If senior management performs poorly, the costs of the business go up a great deal and everybody loses their job.

Employees should seek employment where senior management has been and is competent, for that is their greatest job security.  Beyond that they should look for safety, fairness, and personal growth.

If you are an employer, encourage involvement.  Most entries in the “suggestion box” are unworkable or naive, but there will be the odd one that is profoundly valuable.

Everyone understanding and contributing is the ideal.

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Don Shaughnessy is a retired partner in an international public accounting firm and is now with The Protectors Group, a large personal insurance, employee benefits and investment agency in Peterborough Ontario.

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