Hey employees, leave your manager alone!

Hey employees, leave your manager alone!

We don’t need no training programs
We don’t need more pulse surveys
No dark sarcasm around the water cooler
Team, leave your manager aloneHey, employees, leave your manager alone
All in all, they are just another brick in the wall

It is widely believed that one’s relationship with one’s manager is shaped around how one has dealt with authority figures early in their lives – did one submit or rebel or develop a healthy interdependent relationship? This is especially true in the Indian context where the Manager as  coach is still a big deal.

The lucky few have what we call “dream relationships”. Most have working relationships and some unfortunately have dysfunctional relationships.

Leaders and HR functions don’t make it easier for their managers either. Expectations are stacked one upon another unmindful of the fact that in today’s context, managers are also individual contributors with their own work to do. Also, as managerial spans widen and the work that employees do becomes increasingly client facing, complex and remote, work supervision is somewhat of a myth.

So my plea (inspired by Pink Floyd) especially to employees is that they leave their managers alone as far as possible to do some of their own work and not place psychological expectations that may be hard to come by. The sooner one learns to be interdependent and develop a healthy and importantly realistic relationship with their manager, the better it will be for their long careers ahead. It will in fact be liberating. Employees can of course do even better – they can once in a while demonstrate cognitive empathy by trying and seeing what the world looks like from their manager’s vantage point.
Having said that, there are a few things that managers can do.

If you are an employee’s “first boss”, please recognise that it is very special relationship and if handled with sensitivity can have a life long positive impact on the employee and of course not done well can be scarring.

While task management is a thing of the past, the future is about spending the limited time available to contribute to that person’s professional development. Professional development includes not just “teaching” functional and technical stuff. It is about enhancing confidence, enabling success, being a source of support.

Managers need to communicate to the team often enough that they have their own heavy lifting to do, their own individual contributor roles to play and their manager’s expectations to fulfil.

There is one more thing that managers can do – they can learn to demonstrate a style that will help their individual team members and their teams become psychologically self-sufficient early in their journeys so that there is less pressure on the manager to “take care” and more focus on “empowering and developing”.

Good bye team manager, welcome team coach!

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