By Desmond Rutherford | ADELAIDE, S.A., AUSTRALIA -- What exactly is the problem with the current generation of management? They go out of their way to call in experienced staff and then seemingly setting them up to belittle them, and their experience. Having now lived with this new management style in a number of different situations, I am absolutely fed up with management's incompetence and disrespect.
It seems like managers are always too busy to listen to the advice that they ask for, and then demand that the task, whatever it happens to be, be done their way, despite the advice proffered. When it is pointed out that there are inherent dangers in the task being performed in the way demanded, they then play the old game of overriding the staff’s advice with, "I'm the manager, and you must do as I say."
If that isn’t bad enough, some time later, when the manager returns to find the staff complying, and performing the task as he demanded, he insists that it is dangerous, and that they are not to do that again. He has completely ignored his own responsibility for the situation, and leaves the staff in a state of disbelief.
This creates stress, anxiety and tension in the staff, to such a degree that only three outcomes are possible.
- The staff attempts to continue working; an accident occurs, with endangerment to the staff or the equipment, or both.
- The staff leaves, because they believe their resignation is what the manager is trying to engineer by the above tactics.
- The staff leaves because they do not want to become a casualty, or work under what they feel are intimidating conditions.
It is this last one that often leaves the management in a perplexed state of mind. Modern managers feel that they have done nothing wrong, when in reality, they understand neither the nature of the human relationships involved, including the employees’ relationship to their environment, nor the limitations of the equipment.
They justify their demands for the sake of a client, or an outcome, without seeing that the way they relate to the staff actually increases the risk of catastrophe to personnel, equipment or that all important, outcome. Of course, when even minor infractions of work place events cause problems, it is believed to be the fault of the staff. Such managers rarely realise that their own inability to relate to the warnings from the staff is the root cause of the resulting problems; even seemingly unrelated problems, due to stress. In addition, when the manager thinks he knows better than experienced qualified staff and physically interferes in the work place, any resulting disaster is considered to be due to the staff’s incompetence, or failure to understand what the manager wanted. In fact, any disaster is very often because the management does not allow for the experienced methodology of the staff; the very same staff who were chosen for their experience. At best, non-existent or confusing communication can be traced back as the underlying problem.
How have this generation of managers reached their positions of power with so little understanding of effectively managing their employees? Much of the problem is due to generation ‘Y’ managers having only an administration degree that included instruction in regarding ‘human resources’ as being ‘things’ to be used, instead of them being people with whom to collaborate. This is much the same as the much older school of management, which was taught to regard the staff as the enemy; as employees never giving worthwhile service unless they "came to work with fear in their bellies."
Good managers do not need to know every detail of the workplace environment if they have a relationship of trust with their employees, and on whom they can rely to furnish relevant advice on the operation and maintenance of the equipment. Previously, older managers had generally acquired their business knowledge and human relationship skills on the job, over many years of workplace experience.
Sadly, this management expertise is no longer being passed down from older managers to younger ones, resulting in people's livelihoods, and lives, being endangered because of the mentoring legacy having been largely abandoned.
This places further tension on management, and also stresses the staff, who cannot help but believe that, when their advice is ignored, or they are told that an instruction was given when it clearly was not, they (the employees) are being given a less than subtle 'hint' to resign.
‘Hands-on’ management is seriously compromising when it does not recognise the areas of skill and knowledge that should be left for the employees to provide. The result of this management style can only be less satisfactory than it should be, with much unhappiness for all involved.
However, when the situation has reached the impasse of confrontation between manipulation and defence, the outcome is usually defeat for both parties, ending in replacement of personnel.
It really doesn’t matter whether the more experienced staff cannot handle the new managerial methods, or the new managers can’t relate to skilled workers, the effect is the same; management is frustrated, and employees feel dehumanised, and disconnected from their work.
The employees will always find themselves disadvantaged in any appeal to higher authorities, controlling or affecting the organisation, who have a vested interest in supporting the managers they have hired. But the actual events which lead to that appeal usually have repercussions for the managers as well, unless the employees decide to step aside gracefully in an effort to not harm the welfare of the organisation...for which they may still have an affection.
And that is something these managers just do not understand. Worse, are the mental contortions that they enlist to dismiss even the best-intended help, such as contained in this essay.