In this post, Professor Julian Birkinshaw of London Business School examines bad management - what forms it can take, and what can be done about it by individuals and organisations.
We all know bad managers — be they ambitious and aggressive, doing whatever it takes to move up the corporate ladder, or the opposite: managers thrust into their position without the skill or the will to do the job properly.
I continue to be a little puzzled about why so many managers do such a poor job. We have known what "good management" looks like for decades, and enormous sums have been spent on programs to help managers manage better. And yet the problem endures: In a recent survey I conducted, less than a quarter of respondents would encourage others to work for their manager.
Perhaps the problem is that we've relied on education of positive practices. We point to the things managers should be doing, which tends to get bogged down in platitudes. For example, when Google launched a big data-driven program to identify what separated their top managers from the rest, and they ended up with bromides such as "be a good coach," "empower your team" and "be a good communicator."
So let's try the opposite approach — to focus on the bad behaviours we are trying to get rid of.
Here is my stab at defining what bad management looks like, using those old favourites, the Seven Deadly Sins. I developed these ideas during seminars with executives where we discussed their experiences of good and bad management. Of course, a bit of artistic licence is necessary here, to adapt words like "greed" and "lust" to corporate life, but on the whole I think they work pretty well. I have even put a little questionnaire together to help office workers across the land to rate their line manager. Does your boss succumb to only one or two of these sins? Or is he a seven-star sinner?
I have illustrated some of the sins with examples of famous Chief Executives, because these are stories we are all familiar with. But of course the sins apply at all management levels in the organisation — they are as relevant to the first-line supervisor as they are to the big boss.
A greedy boss pursues wealth, status, and growth to get himself noticed. In short, he is an empire builder, and we don't have to look far to find examples of empire-building bosses. Perhaps the stand-out example today is Eike Batista, the Brazilian entrepreneur who has made the EBX Group (energy, mining and logistics) into Brazil's fastest-growing company and him into the eighth-richest person in the world. Formerly married to a Playboy cover-girl, and an ex-champion powerboat racer, he has now set his sights on becoming the first person in the world to amass a $100 billion fortune.
Lust is also about vanity projects — investments or acquisitions that make no rational sense, but play to the manager's desires. Edgar Bronfman, heir to the Seagram empire, leaps to mind here. To the "widespread astonishment" of the business world, he traded in the company's valuable holding in chemical giant Du Pont in order to buy up Universal Studios. A quick glimpse at his vitae helps explain his motives — even in his teens he was dabbling in song-writing and movie-making.
Wrath doesn't need a whole lot of explanation. "Chainsaw" Al Dunlap, Fred "the shred" Goodwin, and "Neutron" Jack Welch were all famous for losing their cool. We see this at all levels in the hierarchy — my first boss would turn bright red and start shaking before he yelled at some poor soul for failing to debug a piece of software properly.
Gluttony in the business world is where a manager puts too much on his proverbial plate. He needs to get involved in all decisions, he needs to be continuously updated, he never rests. We call this micro-managing, and Gordon Brown did it during his brief stay at Number 10 Downing Street, where he insisted on reviewing minor departmental decisions and expenditures. It's not much fun working for such bosses, because they have a tendency, in Charles Handy's famous phrase, to "steal" your decisions. There is also a risk that decision-making gets stuck: Lego CEO, Jurgen Knudstorp, notes that companies are far more likely to fail through "indigestion" than through "starvation," as Gordon Brown's labour government discovered.
Healthy pride quickly tips over into hubris — an overestimation of your own abilities. In all the recent corporate crises — News International, Nokia, BP, even Toyota — there was tangible evidence of hubris in the manner and words of the executives at the top. Pride does, indeed, go before a fall. Perhaps the biggest tale of misplaced pride in recent years was Enron — its executives liked to think of themselves as the "smartest guys in the room," and they shortened the company's vision from becoming the "world's leading energy company" to becoming "the world's leading company." And we all know what happened there.
Envy manifests itself most clearly when a manager takes credit for the achievements of others. But envy also rears its head in less obvious ways: when a manager chooses not to promote a rising star, for fear of showing up his own limitations; or when he keeps important information to himself, rather than sharing it with his team.
Sloth is workplace apathy — the managers who fall prey to sloth are simply not doing their job. They are inattentive, they don't communicate effectively, and they have no interest in their team's needs. Instead, they focus on their own comforts and quite often, on personal interests outside of the workplace. We have all seen glimpses of sloth in the workplace: the boss who takes long lunch-breaks but is "too busy" to sit down with us; the colleague who doesn't deliver on his part of a proposal; the executive who promises to get back to you on something but never does. Although sloth rarely makes it to the headlines, I suspect there are shades of sloth in most managers. The cost of sloth can be very high when management fails to make necessary strategic adjustments when the business is in crisis.
If we take all seven sins together, they map nicely onto the classic strategy loop, in which a manager sets direction, monitors and reviews performance, and then makes corrections.
If you are a boss (and most of us are), do your own self-assessment, and figure out which of these sins you are most prone to. Remember — no-one is perfect, and the chances are you are guilty of at least one of these sins. If you are brave, ask your own team to rate you, as a one-off exercise or as part of a broader 360-degree assessment process. The most challenging part is acting on the information you receive. But the advantage of this approach, compared to other similar exercises, is that at least we can now put a label on what you are trying to avoid.
Rate Your Boss
Answer the following seven questions for yourself or your current boss. Answer each question on a 1-5 scale, where 1="not at all" and 5= "to a very large extent".
Count up the number of 4s and 5s — that tells you how many sins he or she is prone to.
This article originally appeared in the Harvard Business Review blog in August 2012. It is published with permission of the author, who retains copyright.
Posted by Sally Halper on 28 November 2012 at 04:50 PM in Human Resource Management and Employee Relations, Management, Notable researchers, Organisational Psychology and Organisational Behaviour | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
CIPD are kicking off a new research project looking at fairness at work. This article by Wilson Wong, Senior Researcher (OD Insight & Practice) at CIPD, considers how unfairness impacts our lives at political, socio-economic, organisational and personal levels. You can comment on the article and get in touch with Wilson, too:
Unfairness is a necessary evil (CIPD Comment by Wilson Wong, 7 November 2012.)
If you've been following the headlines about the falling number of UK women executives and the debate about EU quotas of women on boards, or want to see Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard's misogyny speech, you'll find Wilson Wong's blog at the CIPD both informative and insightful. Tony Abbott is in the news today allegedly conflating Gillard’s childlessness with her budget cuts.
Wilson is a regular writer for the MBS Portal, and we're looking forward to publishing articles about his research in his new role at CIPD in future.
This year's 137 entries to the CMI Management Book of the Year, run in association with the British Library, have been whittled down to a shortlist of 25 books - five in each category. The competition aims to identify the nuggets of ‘management gold’ that can make a real difference to managers' day-to-day jobs from among the vast array of management books available, and to recognise the best of UK management writing. As well as quality of ideas, the books have to be readable, accessible, innovative and engaging. Download the shortlist (PDF) - read them all (free) at the British Library St Pancras.
This year's shortlisted books reflect the national focus on how best to stimulate growth during difficult times, with a focus on practical skills and innovation; ways of improving workforce morale and engagement, with values-drivers and integrity as key themes; and the importance of having robust models for decision-making and the need to apply techniques more systematically.
The shortlisted books will now undergo an intense reviewing process by the judges, who are all leading business figures or academic experts. The category and overall winners will be unveiled at the British Library Conference Centre on 28 January 2013.
Keep up to date with the entries, top management tips and expert advice from judges and authors by searching #ManagementGold on Twitter. Or see www.managementbookoftheyear.org.uk for information about the judges, entries and how to enter next year.
Posted by Sally Halper on 22 October 2012 at 09:41 AM in Books, Human Resource Management and Employee Relations, Management, Notable researchers, Organisational Psychology and Organisational Behaviour, Publishing, Small Business and Entrepreneurship, Strategy, Technology and Innovation | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Today's headlines about the start of the new auto-enrolment private sector pensions system - where qualifying workers will be enrolled into a workplace pension scheme and will have to actively opt out if they do not want to be a member - may have puzzled employers and employees alike because in fact only nine of the biggest employers have to implement the scheme today, 1 October 2012.
The scheme is actually being rolled out by size of employer as follows:
Firms which begin trading between April 2012 and September 2017 will have implementation dates ranging from 1 May 2017 to 1 February 2018. Those launching from October 2017 onwards must implement auto enrolment immediately.
Contributions will start at 1% from the employee and 1% from the employer. Once all employers have implemented the scheme, contributions will increase in stages with firms eventually putting forward at least 3% of their employees' salary, and the employee adding at least 4%. Their contributions will also benefit from 1% tax relief. Full contributions must be paid from 1 October 2018.
For more information see the Government's Directgov website.
A study on The need to get more for less - authored by a mother and daughter team of academics from the University of Bradford School of Management and Real World Group, has won the first ever Chartered Management Institute (CMI) Management Articles of the Year competition, which aims to bridge the gap between academic management research and practising managers working in UK organisations. Read the winning article and the others in the top five on the MBS Portal now.
This article achieved the highest average rating from CMI members. It explores the importance of employee engagement, and what forms of leadership produce high levels of engagement, as well as proposing a model of engaging, transformational leadership based on research among over 4,500 public and private sector (FTSE100) staff. It finds that leadership is most engaging when it consists of genuine partnership, united around a shared vision, and creates an environment where empowerment, appreciation, curiosity, experimentation, questioning the status quo and learning are highly valued – and where these values are not just confined to leadership roles.
How the competition works
Academics submitted their articles, which were reviewed online and given a usefulness rating by CMI members. Articles with the best ratings were then scrutinised by the CMI Academic Advisory Council, a committee made up of leading academics from across the UK. The following articles were then selected to make up the top five, and an overall winner awarded the ‘Management Article of the Year’ title:
The CMI Management Articles of the Year initiative is supported by the British Academy of Management, the Advanced Institute of Management Research, the Association of Business Schools, and the British Library, and is sponsored by the publishers John Wiley and Sons Ltd.
Posted by Sally Halper on 09 July 2012 at 10:16 AM in Human Resource Management and Employee Relations, Impact of research, Journals, Management, Notable researchers, Publishing | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
Technorati Tags: Chartered Management Institute, employee engagement, journal articles, leadership, management, management research, managers, transformational leadership, University of Bradford Management School
The latest issue of Administrative Science Quarterly (ASQ) is a special issue on Social Psychological Perspectives on Power and Hierarchy, exploring the psychological experience of power in the workplace. Click here to see the contents of this special issue: if your University Library subscribes to ASQ or you're a British Library Reader Pass holder using a computer in one of our reading rooms, you'll get to read the full text of all the articles for free. All users can see the December 2010 issue of ASQ, which includes an interesting article about the paradox of meritocracy in organisations, free online at http://asq.sagepub.com/content/55/4.toc