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.

We use friends in crisis for our own benefit.

When our friends are down and come to us for support, sometimes, or just some of us, get this surge of… for the lack of a better word, joy. We justify that feeling by saying “I’m just so happy to get the opportunity to help.

No matter what we say to justify it, one thing is very clear – it’s odd. Your friend is down and out and burnt-out, and you’re happy because of something about you. Being joyful about an opportunity to help is not about them; it’s legitimately categorically about you. It’s about how we feel useful, worthy, valued, valuable, important, authoritative, and selected.

And, in that moment of our friend’s need, our mind goes to what would make us feel more useful, valuable, and impressive by trying to resolve the issue for them. We try to tell the friend solutions. We tell our friends to look on the bright side. This friend, clearly with autonomy and capability, probably has thought of everything you can come up with in 2 minutes. They have probably even tried everything. They might come to you seeking answers, but deep down they know you don’t have the answers. (if they get angry at you for not having the answer, it might be a displaced anger about the situation they are in. So we are not free to use it as our reason for offering solutions.)

So, what is the answer… what do we do when our friends come to us, looking for support, help, answers?

They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel. – Carl W. Buechener

We really listen to them. They are actually telling us what they want from us. Often, it is to be listened to, validated, supported, and act as a sounding board for their thoughts in coming up with their own solutions. But we can’t assume that either. We need to listen, really listen, to know what they are looking for.

Now, when we are really listening to someone and giving that person what they want, we are relinquishing control of the scene, of our friend, and of ourselves. This is extremely uncomfortable, or even threatening, for some people. All of us have at least a little bit of it, so we have to be aware of it. One of my close friends struggles with a strong affliction of it. It is my belief that she can’t handle the emotions for whatever reason. It’s just there is something preventing her from going there. My stories are usually cut off and changed to a conversation about an “object,” not about experience, after a sentence or so. It doesn’t make her evil or any less caring. It is that there are limits to all of us, and some of us this is the limit. In that case, many of us with this dilemma would switch the topic from our friend and their emotional distress to an object, such as a solution, a coping method, or an inspirational quote like “tomorrow is another day.”

We have to know these limits and choose to make that moment all about our friend. It takes courage. It takes strength. It takes great sacrifices. And we have to do it as a friend. If we can’t, if our limits are too great, we need to send them to another friend of theirs who can support them in that way if we really truly care about them.

Individual Honour Codes

When I say things like “oh I don’t lie” or “I don’t like being late,” very many people jump to defend doing so. “Oh sometimes you just have to lie.” “You can’t anticiate every traffic accident.” “Oh they will forgive you if you do. It’s really no big deal. Everyone does it.”

I thought it was about making me feel less burdened.

I still felt like it was a very weird situation that, under the guise of making me feel better, they are directly discrediting my values. 

Recently I was explaining what I call my honour code, and it occurred to me… what if it wasn’t about me at all? What if they lie or are perpetually late, and they were defending themselves when they felt inferior to the values I’d just described as mine? 

Millennials: they’re not “entitled.”

That’s the word I see everywhere. Millennials are “entitled.” That’s a complete misnomer. We have to admit today that our own irritation and jealousy got us to call them “entitled,” but that’s not really true. We have to own up, or there will be no improvement.

“Entitled” definitely has the sound of it being by choice. A choice where the accountability of that attitude lies with the person who’s feeling entitled. At least that’s how it feels in today’s vernacular when combined with the verb “feel.”

Let me demonstrate this difference. You’re at the airport, waiting for your luggage to come out of the chute. Someone says “You feel entitled to your luggage, don’t you?”
You’d be so dumbfounded. “Well, it’s mine, isn’t it? I don’t feel ‘entitled’ to my own luggage. It’s just… mine.” That’s the difference here. We think they feel entitled. They don’t. They don’t even know that the luggage coming out of the chute constitutes a sense of entitlement. They certainly don’t “feel” entitled. They were just sitting at the chute their entire lives, and everything, even a university diploma, came flying down at them.

Now, don’t worry, parents. We aren’t going to do any blame assigning.

My point is that, due to various social situations, the Millennials grew up without the important stimuli in self-concept formation that the previous generations took for granted. Like delayed gratification, hard work, defining their own happiness, living within the means, and even the concept of “the means.” Humans are animals without proper socialization and learning, and those qualities I listed above are definitely human qualities that need to be taught and learned.

The answer? They need to learn them.

What this means is that the adults around them and their bosses have to be kind to them, not angry at them, for not knowing the basics of the society. Like “if you don’t make the deadline, we won’t accept your application at all,” “if you spill something, no one else will clean it even if it’s moldy 20 days later,” and “you don’t get paid for the hours you don’t work.”

Their age 25 may know as much about working in the society as your age 10. But that’s not their making. Being angry at them doesn’t bring in another candidate with a completely different attitude.

Yes, it’s unfair to you and your generation. You were provided with age-appropriate stimuli and had proper life-stage life-space development at each phase. They didn’t receive it because you didn’t give it to them… wait… maybe we, baby boomers and Gen X, do live in the world of our own making. Maybe we do owe it to them to help fix it.




Every minute, we have to choose to be a Friend.

When did we become so insecure that protecting our ego is more important than being a good friend? 

I don’t blame people when they assume I’m exaggerating my struggles with chronic pain because I look so good. I work or go to school, play hockey, and hike. I know it’s hard to believe. 

When (mostly when asked) I tell them that I’m in pain, they immediately minimize, “oh I did that hike last year, and I couldn’t move after either,” “it’s called ageing, T,” “that’s called being a student.” Or, worst of all, launch into giving me solutions: “I know this naturopath you need to see…” “you just have to eat more protein,” “make a list of goals and focus on it,” “Think positive.”

I know it’s possibly because it’s too scary for them to admit that what I’m telling them is true – either to admit they don’t know everything or to admit, if it could affect someone as healthy as me, it could affect them. Or their desire to impress with their helpfulness blind them from seeing what help is sought. (Or they have decided I’m lying, but that’s a whole another topic) 

I no longer try to change their minds. It’s hard to decide to allocate my limited time and energy into changing their minds. I realized there is nothing for me to gain. Even if I change their mind on this one piece of fact, the underlying reason they rejected it before still exists, and it will continue making them choose their ego over being a good friend in other ways. 

My message here is this. We all have to pick one of two mutually-exclusive paths. One, to succumb to our ego, insecurity, perfectionism, or fear and start speaking. Two,  to be a good friend and listen with the intent to understand. 

If you’re done telling me things you want to tell me and ready to listen, here is a clip. The first 5 minutes of this clip describes exactly what happened to me (minus the fever). And at minute 12, you see what I struggle with every day. 

I said earlier I am not investing in changing people’s minds any more. So why did I post this clip? To help with the denial. Those of you who found yoursevles using this clip to pick up what you can tell people like me next time we talk, you are one of them. And I want you to know it’s OK. I just wanted to give you an opportunity to become aware. 

You’re Gas-lighted.

My friend asked “I don’t know what gas-lighting is.”
“You use Facebook, and they have your name, birthday, phone number, and a photo?”
“Yeah. So?”
“You know they can be used in identity theft, but it feels like what you’ll miss if you weren’t on facebook is extremely important.”
“Well!!! Some of my friends only check things on Facebook. So I *HAVE* to be on it.”
“So you do know what gas-lighting is.”
“…What is gas-lighting?”