Have you ever said the words “I would never do this to my staff if I were a manager/boss/owner of a company?”
I have. And have had to eat my words many, many times since I became a manager myself.
In my final year of University, I had an internship at an engineering company, working under a not very competent manager. There were plenty of manager bashing sessions with a fellow intern, and I was unfortunately caught by the manager himself during one of our whining session. The manager was very nice, and let me off easily with a talk, which I dismissed in my youth and naivety as excuses for his lousy management. One thing that he said to me came back to haunt me over the years – You will know the difficulties when you become a manager yourself.
In my earlier years as an engineer at my present company, I became embroiled in a major conflict with another junior engineer. I remember blaming my direct supervisor somewhat for not taking my side, because I believed I was in the right. And I was, but that is not the point.
I eventually graduated into management role at work. For a while, I continued to work under the same supervisor, who was a great manager of people, and took up a lot of the human resource management aspect, leaving me to concentrate on technical work. I was then transferred to another supervisor who left me to manage my own team, and that was when all my stress and trouble started.
When it comes to managing the technical side of things, I did reasonably well. My troubles came from the managing the human side of things.
What do you do to two warring engineers who refused to do any work if it had anything to with the other? What do you do with a sick engineer who could only put in half the time and effort but was still rewarded in full, because HR mandated it? What do you do when the other engineers become resentful of the sick engineer and started faking ill and missing work as well? What do you do when an older and more experienced draughtsman told off a younger, inexperienced engineer and refused to do the work assigned by him? What do you do with an engineer who did exceptional work when he wanted, but was rather unmotivated and lazy? What do you do with an engineer who did average work but put in double the hours of his peers? What do you do with the engineer who thinks he is worth more than he does, and bugs you all the time about his non-promotion and non-raise? What do you do with the engineer who thinks he is worth less than he does, and will not accept any promotions because he thinks he is not up to it?
Mostly, what do you do when you have multiple deadlines on hand, an industry manpower shortage, HR policy that is at times archaic and stingy and at times over-generous and bosses who have veto power over your decisions?
The stress caused some health issues, and a slight depression, and finally ended in me saying “Demote me or I’m leaving ”. I can’t help but think that it is karma from all the grief I gave all my various bosses over the years I have been working.
I can’t say that I stopped having negative opinions about my management after my own experiences, but I have definitely stepped back from snap judgments. My current bosses have identified me for future key leadership positions in the company and frequently share their decision making processes with me, particularly when it comes to HR management. I am still learning that many times, things are not what they seem on the surface.
It also helps that my parents are self employed and bosses in their own right. Having to hear about their experiences with their employees bolsters my own determination to temper my judgment when it comes to other managers and human resource management policies in general.
The next time any of you are tempted to bash your managers or top management in general, do stop and think for a while if you can. Are you in possession of all the facts? Do you know the ins and outs of the decision? Oh, and sometimes, do consider that you might not be as good as you think you are.
I would especially like to give this advice to those who aspire to eventual high management positions or entrepreneurship. Karma is a bitch, and our words do not make a tasty meal.
And for those who may be considering being your own boss just to get away from a bad manager, be warned that you may one day end up with an employee just like yourself. And whether that is a blessing or a curse if for you to decide.