What’s Wrong with Work Today: Management

So, it’s been awhile since I started this series. If you want to refresh your memory, here’s Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3. Today, I want to talk about Management. Ah ha! We’re finally getting to the real issues, you think. Time for us to rant about our ridiculous bosses. Not so fast.

Let’s be clear, I don’t think managers are naturally evil – I’ve had some excellent managers. But, when I say that management is part of what’s wrong with work today, I mean that managers shoudn’t exist. We shouldn’t have them. They shouldn’t be necessary.

What?! You think. I know – there are so many “buts” that come to mind immediately. For example:

  • But people need direction
  • But people need accountability

Ok, so let’s think about this a little. Yes, people work best with direction and accountability, but it’s how this direction and accountability is provided that I think should change. I’m all for leaders, partners, mentors and colleagues providing direction and checking in on deadlines. And I’m all for project managers because I think projects do need to be managed. But I don’t think managers of people should be necessary. And if you’re thinking I’m just getting picky about word choice, you’re absolutely right.

David Whyte writes in Crossing the Unknown Sea:

It is strange to think that the whole spirit of management is derived from the image of getting on the back of a beast, digging your knees in, and heading it in a certain direction. The word manager conjures images of domination, command, and ultimate control, and the taming of a potentially wild energy. It also implies a basic unwillingness on the part of the people to be managed, a force to be corralled and reined in. All appropriate things if you wish to ride a horse, but most people don’t respond very passionately or very creatively to being ridden, and the words giddy up there only go so far in creating the kind of responsive participation we now look for.

See what I mean? Words matter. It matters if you feel managed or if you feel enabled.

The idea of management is at odds with freedom. And every human was built with a desire for freedom. Freedom is a core issue in employment and management so I want to dive into that one on the next post.

Meanwhile, tell me what you think. If we throw out the idea of management are we in for disaster and mayhem? Are we being too idealistic and naive in our view of human nature to think we might not need managers?

3 thoughts on “What’s Wrong with Work Today: Management

  1. If you haven’t already I would encourage you to read Patrick Lencinoni’s books “the Advantage” and his earlier work “the 5 dysfunctions of a team”. They are pretty good works on the vision statement / core values topic you wrote on earlier and also address how shared leadership works. He doesn’t go so far as to completely remove managers but definitely redefines their role in todays work world. Chairing or quarterbacking “corperate think” is a gift that can empower and invite personal development and achievement.

  2. If you haven’t already I would encourage you to read Patrick Lencinoni’s books “the Advantage” and his earlier work “the 5 dysfunctions of a team”. They are pretty good works on the vision statement / core values topic you wrote on earlier and also address how shared leadership works. He doesn’t go so far as to completely remove managers but definitely redefines their role in todays work world. Chairing or quarterbacking “corperate think” is a gift that can empower and invite personal development and achievement.

    • Thanks for commenting and for the book recommendation – I have not read any of his work but that definitely looks like a good book. Placed it on hold at the library!

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