So you’re a manager. You even think you’re pretty damn good manager. Fine for me. Do you remember Pointy-Haired Boss? Yes, that clueless manager from Dilbert cartoon. You have this guy sitting in your head. So do I, by the way.
Is that supposed to be insult? Well, not exactly. I really think every manager has this clueless version of himself in the back of his head which is used more often than we’d like to admit. You still don’t believe me. Do a simple exercise. Think about your team. Arrange members from the best to the worst. Easy?
It wasn’t supposed to be easy. The trick is how you decided that one ‘average’ person is after all better than another ‘average’ person. Some guessing I guess. Why exactly you have chosen the best one? And what a couple of worst people have done to earn their place? Is it possible that you justify their position with some past event (success or failure) which was spectacular enough they earn the place in your mind? Is it possible you didn’t take into consideration recent history because you already are strongly biased?
And now the best part, think how many things you haven’t taken into consideration. You haven’t thought about tons of important things and you were still able to say who is better and who is worse from others. And no, I don’t believe none of them are important. Isn’t that clueless?
I worked with bunches of underpaid and overpaid folks. I saw work which was underrated or overrated just because of person who authored it or the person who judged or both. Many of decisions standing behind these situations were mine. I’m not proud of it.
What I can say is I didn’t do it on purpose. I just lacked knowledge. Sometimes I wasn’t even conscious my knowledge was insufficient to make a right call. Sometimes I should try harder or think more. I was, and I am, a clueless manager. I try to fight it but that’s an uphill battle. I have my prejudices and preferences and I don’t claim I’m able to fully ignore them.
The Bad News
I’m not the only one. I’m tempted to say that every manager is so because the only ones who would be different must be heartless robots which aren’t great candidates for managers anyway.
This means you as a manager, and your manager too and her manager and so on, are clueless to some point. Usually more than you’d like to admit. This mean there’s a chance your judgments aren’t fair or your work may be misjudged. And finally this means your subordinates can trick you along with your cluelessness to make you think better about them.
Managers were, are and will be clueless. We may fight with it but we’re likely to fail. Most of us don’t even try anyway.