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Signs You’re A Bad Manager (And How To Fix It) #5 You Treat Everyone The Same

July 20, 2015

Jane is at her desk 90% of the time. I really think you should be at your desk most of the time.

Jane has a completely different client than I do. 

Shouldn’t you be fair? Shouldn’t you treat people equally? How can this be a sign of a bad manager? It can’t. Everyone knows that you need to treat people equally, or you’ll be accused of playing favorites!

Everyone might think they want to be treated the same, but they are wrong. It’s a terrible mistake to think that fair means equal. It doesn’t, and your attempts to make it so are probably killing the productivity, not to mention the moral, on your team. 

There’s an internet cartoon that shows the jungle animals, elephants, hippos, monkies, and lions all applying for a job.

For a fair selection everyone must pass the same exam. Please climb that tree. 

No two employees are the same. Why would you think that managing them the same would be a good idea? 

I’ve had employees who were new. They needed extra coaching. I’ve had employees who were struggling to meet deadlines. They needed more structure. I’ve had employees who were rock stars at their jobs. They needed to be left alone to work. I’ve had employees who were extraverts. They needed a chance to talk. I’ve had employees who were burnt out. They needed extra inspiration. 

Literally every employee I’ve ever worked with was unique. It might seem too hard. How can I expect you to modify your message for each individual employee? 

I can because that’s what it means to be a manager. Your job is to help your people. And you don’t help them by making them conform to your way of doing things. You have to figure out who they work best. 

I know that sounds counterintuitive. Counterintuitive is a big word that means stupid. 

Hey, Rodney, in case you hadn’t noticed, my company put ME in charge. I must have done something right, don’t you think? 

Yes, you were made the manager, but here’s the secret to management: you no longer do anything. In IT, you no longer build servers. In training, you no longer teach in the classroom. In manufacturing, you no longer work on the production line. Your team does those things, and you need to make sure they that do their jobs effectively.

You got hired, presumably because you were good at your job. The people on your team are good at their jobs. If they aren’t, coach them, or replace them. But, if they are good at their jobs, do you want results or do you want conformity? You are not running a synchronized swimming team. 

I have a whole house full of kids. Right now, the four oldest at home all have their learners permit. I, and my lovely wife, have to teach them to drive. Driving is a pretty well defined task. There are rules and laws that you must follow. Surely we can teach driving the same way to all the kids, right? 

No. One son has all the confidence in the world. He’s a pretty rock solid personality. Driving with him will be a series of increasingly less frequent prompts. . .Turn left up ahead. Drive to the high school. Watch your speed.

Another child is a somewhat nervous girl. She will require A LOT of handholding. . .Put your hands at 10 and 2 on the wheel. Check your mirrors. Signal. Now slowly turn left. A little more gas. Straighten out. 

If I gave my son those instructions, it would drive him crazy. If I gave my daughter the vague prompts, it would make her very uncertain. 

The results we want are the same, whether you are driving or teaching, or building a computer. But, the way we get those results are as different as the people on our team. Take the time to learn how your employees work best. Morning person? Talker? Cranky before coffee? 

Don’t make the mistake of treating them all the same. If you do treat them all the same you are guaranteed to not effectively coach any of them. 

This week I’ll be talking about bad management process and how to fix them. 

Monday #5 You Treat Everyone The Same

Tuesday #4 You Send Inconsistent Messages

Wednesday #3 You Don’t Correct In Public

Thursday #2 You Value Process Over Results

Friday #1 You Don’t Trust Your Employees

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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(c) 2015 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

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