Managers who don’t know how to manage

In big small cities, a very large “small company,” and branch offices of a large company, this problem is rampant. It goes like this.

Someone is an excellent, skilled worker in the profession they do. Let’s say engineering. On the merit of being a good engineer, they ascend through the ranks and eventually becomes a manager.

Now, having it written out like this, most of you probably spotted the mistake. This assumes that engineering and managing require the same qualifications. They don’t. But it is the norm for all but one of my previous work experiences. You hear a lot about micromanaging managers? You hear about managers who undermine you? Sets you up to fail just so customers come running to them and they can be the good guy?

I was working for a manager-scientist. Her tech slammed a truck door on my leg. I reported this behaviour. I, not the other tech, was unemployed next month. I found out later that they were friends.

I was working as an inspector. My inspector-turned-manager boss told me to overlook violations. I said the job he hired me for specifically doesn’t allow me to do that. I was demoted within 3 months and unemployed within 6.

I was working in another type of inspection. A bunch of good, skilled, experienced guys were quitting, and I heard it was because of lack of support from the management. One day, I reported a violation, and the management overturned my decision without even talking to me. This wasn’t just lack of support. It was a clear violation of the guidelines. Next time I communicate a violation to a client, they’ll just laugh at me.

Why didn’t I report these violations to the governing authorities of these programs? Because someone told me they’d make sure I’d never work in this county again if I upset them.

A manager needs to have the skills and temperament of a manager. This can be accomplished by:

  • give high salary, authority, and status to the non-managing positions so that those who aren’t competent will not make it a goal.
  • if the managerial position does not require a professional designation in the industry, clearly define the manager’s responsibilities and authorities so that the manager cannot interfere with, impede, or override a professional decision.
  • if the managing position requires a certain professional designation (e.g. P.Eng.), consider creating a specific requirement for a manager training program (e.g. in-house, MBA).
  • create reporting channels and a whistle-blower protection program and make sure it works.

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