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I Avoided Being A Manager Because I Didn’t Want To Be A Jerk

April 10, 2017

Rodney, can I see you in my office?

It’s a common phrase. If you replace that first word with your name, it’s probably something you hear on a fairly regular basis and think nothing of it.

I hate it.

Unfortunately, early in my career, I had some really bad managers who used that phrase as the opening line of a “beat up on your employee” session. In hindsight, I know that they were terrible at the “managing” part of their jobs. At the time, I just thought it was what managers had to do. As a result, I avoided going into management. If you had to be a jerk at times, I wanted no part of it.

I watched a brief episode one time of “Undercover Boss.” The premise was that they’d take the CEO of a large company and put them in as a frontline worker. This particular episode was a fast food restaurant that was part of a larger chain. The “boss” became a new front counter person. The restaurant manager was horrible. He belittled his employees. He yelled. He made them fear for their jobs. When the undercover CEO tried to offer suggestions on his management style, he only succeeded in drawing the ire onto himself.

Finally, in the culminating scene, the CEO had seen enough. He was supposed to stay under cover, but couldn’t see his employees being abused any longer so he confronted the manager.

Oh? Do YOU have any experience in the fast food industry?

Actually, I do. Quite a bit, actually. In fact, I’m the CEO of THIS restaurant chain.

The look on the manager’s face was pure TV gold. YES! The CEO was going to do what every beatdown employee has wanted to do, he was going to tell off the manager and make him take it!

But, a funny thing happened. The CEO, as he took off his apron didn’t yell. He didn’t belittle. He put his arm around the shoulder of the manager and walked off camera giving him advice. Then, he announced that the restaurant was going to shut down for two weeks. During those two weeks, all employees were going to be paid and they were going to go through training again. And this plan INCLUDED the former manager.

The CEO resisted the urge to give the manager a verbal thrashing. He understood that it wouldn’t accomplish anything. He also understood that it was best for the company if the manager could be saved. And, most importantly, the CEO took ownership of the problem. He viewed it as a personal failure of his own leadershp that this manager was managing the way he was.

The CEO could have chosen to manage through fear. He could have fired the overbearing manager and cussed him out on his way out the door. Instead, he chose to manage through faith: faith in his employees, faith in his company processes, faith in his own ability to coach people.

Eventually, I was forced into a management role. I was working for a small startup staffed by a bunch of new college grads and they designated me the “grown up.” I realized that you don’t have to be a jerk if you are the boss. People make mistakes. I make mistakes. Mistakes are a part of life and certainly a part of business. You need to trust people. If you cannot trust your employees, you should either fire the employees, or find a new position yourself. You cannot be an effective manager if you feel the need to manage through fear.

Trust your people and they in turn will trust you.

You can see pics of Undercover Boss episode here

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

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(c) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

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