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DC and Virginia HR Consulting and Executive Coaching Newsletter - Issue #17

My Favorite Manager Quotes

Everyone has a story about something that their boss did that was probably, well, kind of stupid.  Some of these are from bad managers, but most are from good managers who may not have known how to handle a certain situation on a given day.  Over the last 20+ years that I have been in the management and HR field, I've been keeping a mental list of statements that I have heard managers make over and over that may not have been out of the good manager handbook. I thought I might take a moment to share some just for fun and to see if they ring a bell with you!

Before I start, I want to once again thank those of you who took the time to forward my April newsletter to your colleagues and friends.  I still need your help to increase my readership, so please take a second to use the button above to give others an opportunity to subscribe.  Thanks!

So, in no particular order, here are some of my favorites.  Please excuse in advance my attempts at humor.

  1. Work smarter, not harder.
    This has to be my all time favorite manager cop-out.  This usually comes when an employee comes to their manager with too much to do.  The manager doesn't really have an answer, so they give this inspirational response!  Unfortunately, it really doesn't mean anything, so the employee walks away feeling like they were not heard.

    If a manager can't help with prioritization, rebalance the workload, or help with developing ideas to reduce the amount of time it takes to do the work, then the manager just needs to reinforce the job requirements and move on.  If a manager can't help, at least they can listen.

  2. I am way too busy to deal with performance reviews right now.
    Way too busy with managing (setting expectations, giving feedback)?  What exactly is higher priority for a manager than managing?  Maybe the manager can discuss workload with their boss, so they can be told to "work smarter, not harder".

    Managing the performance of the team is the manager's first priority.  It's actually in the definition of the word manager.

  3. It's just easier to do it myself than teach someone else.
    Ah, the root cause of the problem.  Yes, of course it takes more time to teach someone else to do things rather than the manager doing the work themselves.  Also, quality is probably going to suffer during the transition phase.  But the object of the game is to teach others the old job while a manager does the new job.

    If this doesn't happen, CEO's have to do 10 jobs in addition to running the company!

  4. If you don't hear from me it means that you are doing OK.
    In fact, if everyone does well, I'll be at the beach.  I wish this was true!

    Obviously, managers need to be around to manage their operation.  Telling people that they are doing well is every bit as important as telling people when they are not.

    On second thought, this actually sounds kind of good, since there are some bosses we don't really want to see that often anyway!

  5. Why do you need praise from me?  You got a paycheck, didn't you?
    I can see it now.  Everyone is lined up on Friday morning to get their paychecks.  If they get one, it must mean that they did OK.  If not, then they must have messed up at some point during the week.  Whew, I got PAID this week.

    For most people, a paycheck pretty quickly becomes a routine matter, just like getting the electric bill.  I doubt that most people think about how grateful they are for electricity that month when they pay the bills, just as most people don't feel grateful for a paycheck every week.  Maybe we should be more grateful, but most people feel as if they EARNED the money that was in that check.  It's certainly not a substitute for good management.

    There are more direct ways of letting people know whether they did well or whether they need to improve.  Tell them. 

  6. Your main focus right now is to find another job.
    The situation is this.  A manager is dealing with an employee, and it's just not working out.  The manager then has a heart to heart, and tells the employee that he/she is just not going to cut it.  The employee is told they should seek other employment.  Then the fatal words are said - "your main focus should be to find another job".

    Pretty soon the employee stops working, or even showing up to work.  They might breeze in to chat on the phone, or check email.  Eventually, the manager gets fed up and calls HR.

    Of course, the HR person is going to go ballistic.  How can you discipline or terminate an employee when the manager specifically told them to stop working?  What's the reason for discipline - poor interviewing skills?

    The intention of this statement is usually pure, but it does not end well.  Follow your company's discipline process, and let the employee know the timeline.  They will usually be smart enough to look for another job without you making this their only objective.

  7. I don't pay you to think.  I pay you to get things done (or do as I say).
    What was the want-ad for this job?

    Wanted, non thinking human to implement my ideas without question.  Skills required - lack of creativity.  Education - less is better.  Robots or those easily hypnotized will be automatically considered.

    OK, maybe if you are hiring a Terminator, this would be a good thing to say. 

  8. You are so senior that I don't even think of myself as your boss.  You are more like a peer.
    I usually see this situation when someone gets promoted in a new job, and they have to have the first meeting with a senior employee.  They feel a little funny about managing this person, so they try to get their support by kissing up. 

    The problem is it does not inspire a lot of confidence by the senior person.  They basically hear that the new manager is not comfortable being their manager. They are sort of on their own.

    Eventually, the manager has to be a manager.  They have to do performance reviews, salary reviews, or give feedback.  They might as well start on day one!

  9. Upper Management (or HR) has decided that...
    In other words, I'm not the bad guy.  I think this is stupid, too.  I'm going to do this because if I don't I'll be in trouble, but I think that HR or upper management are a bunch of idiots.

    If a manager is going to take a decision to the team, they need to own it.  For employees, the manager IS management (hence the word).  Putting decisions off on others doesn't win favors; it makes a manager look weak and makes it more difficult to actually comply with the decision.

I'd be willing to bet that you have heard at least one of these, if not more than one. In all honesty, as I wrote this I think that I have actually said 3 or 4 of these myself in various times of my career.  Oh, I wish I knew then what I know now!

The lesson, besides wiping these from your work vocabulary, is that managers face a lot of complex situations.  When you don't know what to say, step back, take a breath, think about what you want the outcome to be, and then speak.

I hope this provided some food for thought.  If you have some other favorite quotes or need help with any other issues, let me know. As always, I also welcome your comments on this article.  Feel free to email, Twitter, find me on Facebook or LinkedIn, or post to my blog!

Jim Bowles
James Bowles and Associate