Engagement Training & Development

What’s the Matter with Management? It’s Not What You Think

Actually, the question should be “What’s the matter with managing?” as I’m hearing from more colleagues who tell me they still love their work, but they dislike the managing people part.

I shared my concern about this with Mary Theresa Taglang (MT), who has a background in HR and is now the Director of Lehigh University’s Master of Science in Management program. We talked about what MT called “the seismic economic shift that began with outsourcing and hit its zenith in 2008 when the economy soured and many experienced managers were let go and replaced with younger, cheaper and inexperienced managers focusing only on the bottom line.”

We also discussed:

  • the decline and continued lack of corporate America’s investment in management development that’s still considered “soft-skills” training
  • technology that allows for more communication and task efficiency that also results in unrealistic demands of being available to work 24/7
  • mixed generations who multi-task and communicate differently
  • the ongoing stress of changing priorities, budget challenges, and internal politics
  • the resulting frustration of experienced managers who are tired of it all and not yet able to retire.

We could spend hours lamenting what’s the matter with managing these days, but my concern is the message we’re sending to young professionals. How do we keep from discouraging prospective managers? Based on her overall career experience, MT was both candid and realistic in her response: “Suck it up or go out on your own. That’s the only way to be in control of your own destiny.”

Yes, people interested in management roles need go in with their eyes wide open. In addition, what else can be done to better prepare people for the workplace – in both managerial and non-managerial roles? Your thoughts, please.

6 replies on “What’s the Matter with Management? It’s Not What You Think”

Dennis, I’m not aware of any formal analysis; however, if anyone reading this knows, please share it with us. I forgot about the earlier recession, but the generational influx and the emphasis on technical training over management training has been going on for quite a while. We need to continually adapt to demographic change, but how long will it take for renewed investment in management development to return?

Sybil, I know that a lot of experienced middle managers lost their jobs in the first Bush recession, twenty-five years ago. I wonder if it also resulted in a generational change among managers, and how organizations handled it then. Do you happen to know?

I hadn’t thought about the application of creativity in managing, Yvonne, and it’s interesting to consider. Encouraging and learning creative problem-solving could appeal to new managers. Please let me know the results of your workshop.

Thanks, Terry. You raise a good point about the paradigm shift in traditional management hierarchy and practice, especially given Zappos’ current experience with holocracy.

I am working with some good folks locally (CO) to create a workshop on how to build creativity into your problem solving at work. I wonder if creativity is missing in many management programs and the focus managers have. Shouldn’t we reward creativity, not punish it? Your bulleted list speaks to this concept… by outlining more ways we, of the technology age, fail our managers and our employees.

Good topic, Sybil. And MT is right that much has changed. Another thing that has changed is managing itself. Look at agile organizations, for example, that get along fine without traditional managers. Look at the movement underway to get rid of performance reviews. Talk about a sea-change that indicates something is afoot in our paradigm about managing. In this changing landscape, it becomes difficult to prepare people for such roles, since the roles are shifting.

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