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How To (de)Motivate Your Employees

July 1, 2016

Several years ago I was working in a very stressful job. 

I loved my work, but there was just one problem, my manager. He was a new manager. . And he REALLY liked being a manager. 

The famous singer/songwriter Billy Joel was once asked why he wrote a song early in his career called “Rootbear Rag.” It’s an upbeat, jazzy instrumental. He played a bit of it for his audience before he finally said,

I remember why I wrote this. I had this Moog synthesizer. In fact, if you listen you can hear this Moog synthesizer sort of peeing all over everything.

He had a new toy and he wanted to use it. He quickly learned that rather than make a synthesizer sound like a piano, it was probably better to simply play a piano. But, the point was that he overused his new instrument simply because he could. 

New managers are often like that. In fact, say the following to anyone who’s been in business for more than five years and watch their reaction.

I got a new boss. . .he’s a first time manager.

At the first statement you’ll see mild indifference. At the second, you’ll see a sympathetic, knowing look. We’ve all had them and those of us in management have all been that new manager. 

Good judgment comes from experience

Experience comes from poor judgement

If a new manager understands his limitations, understands his inexperience, he has a chance of doing well. “Managing up” is just as important a skill as “managing down.” Senior employees will help the new manager to learn the ropes and like a brand new Army 2nd LT, if they will listen to their sergeants, they’ll do fine. The problems shows up when the new 2nd LT decides that since he outranks the non-coms, he must be smarter or know more. 

That was the manager I had. My job was largely autonomous. I’d been doing it for a year and had pretty good success. This new manager decided that despite my success, I was doing it wrong. 

It’s not your fault Rodney. You weren’t trained properly, but that’s really not the way we do things here. 

Mostly, I simply ignored him. I knew how to do my job and I figured he would eventually either learn or leave, I didn’t care which. At one point he pulled me aside,

I noticed you were away from your desk for 3 hours on Friday. Where were you?

Did you need to get hold of me for something?

No, I just didn’t see you online. 

I worked from our Everett office on Friday. I’m not sure what I was doing during those three hours actually.

Well, I also called Mark. I noticed on your calendar that you were scheduled to be in his meeting at 2:00 and I wanted to see if you attended.

The rest of the conversation took place at HR, by my request. Turns out he really didn’t understand how offensive it was to call around and check up on me like some wife calling the bar looking for a wayward husband. 

The job didn’t change, but my satisfaction did. I eventually left for a position that I enjoyed less, but working for a manager that I trusted more. 

People leave companies for a single reason. They often get burnt out for the same reason. If you are the manager, it’s not necessarily because you are the smartest, or the most knowledgable. Sometimes he manages best who manages least. 

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) 2016 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

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