Tuesday, March 4, 2014

BS is easy to call

The best insights come from the street, literally. My long, daily commute provides me with enough rich experiences that help me step away from the tech bubble, and these little diversions are necessary to stay grounded.

Meeting 'John Doe' today was such an experience. John, a regular guy that I meet sometimes on my commute, does a particular shift everyday because it suits his work style better, not because his manager 'positioned' it as a promotion. "If there's no raise, it ain't a promotion, and I am not buying that BS" was how he articulated. Although there are several cases where a 'cashless' promotion is a genuine situation (eg. developing talent, actual $$ scarcity at the company etc.), a dishonest attempt by management is pretty easy to spot for most employees.

This particular exchange with John got me thinking about the cases where BS management decisions are nothing more than self-deception and forced manufacture of consent.

It takes a worse form in managers with a propensity for empire-building. Since titles cost no money, this manifests itself in specious designations like "Head of ..." and "Strategic lead, ..." in organizations gravitating towards bloat and mediocrity. Just like John Doe, most of the title recipients are aware of this short-change and will take it to either preserve mortgage status-quo, boost their LinkedIn profile for recruiters, or to find a fit with something that clicks naturally in their lives. This obviously does not do any good for the manager or the organization. Poetic Justice.

Some other examples of highly 'disingenuous' management acts:
- Fishing over-qualified candidates with job descriptions that convey highly inflated responsibilities. Smart candidates either figure it out during interviews or bail out soon.
- Bringing in consultants to help out with strategic decisions (with sincere apologies to my many management consultant friends:) - Most employees view the expensive consultant, giving the fancy report with custom graphics, as the messenger for the pre-made decision of the management.
- Org changes to 'better re-align' to customers/market conditions. Almost always viewed suspiciously by employees. Without a sound strategy in place, these re-alignments disrupt the org every 9-12 months without much change.

Management is a much-maligned word historically, which means that managers need to earn their spot on the team - knowledge and talent are necessary, but not sufficient. If your team does not trust you to watch their backs, you stand guilty of reinforcing the management stereotype and making it harder for other managers.