What would happen if you didn’t have someone at work who kept track of your hours, delegated tasks, and constantly evaluated your performance? Would you ever go into work on time? Would you be on Pinterest all day? Would you abuse your newfound freedom?
Just to make sure we’re all on the same page, here are some excerpts from Merriam-Webster’s definition of Manage: “to make and keep compliant…to handle or direct with a degree of skill…to exercise supervisory direction of.”
We’ve had managers in our workplaces for so long that most of us assume they’re necessary. There are a lot of great managers out there – people who do their best to support people despite being constricted by outdated policies and procedures. Unfortunately, managers who lack career development or communication skills are glorified babysitters, there to approve your hours and assure those at the top that you’re staying on task. At their worst, managers are power-hungry narcissists who abuse their power and make your life miserable.
Do we really need managers anymore? Do you need a manager? Doesn’t the need for “management” imply that people are so disinterested in their work that they’ll stop doing it as soon as they get the chance? Isn’t that the problem, and is forcing them to do it through surveillance, punishments, or silly rewards really the cure?
(Important to note: If you’re convinced that employees are inherently untrustworthy or aren’t capable of meeting expectations without coercion, I think you need to take a sabbatical. If you believe that you aren’t capable of managing your own time, energy, and resources, I would encourage you to find a job that pushes you to step into yourself).
We’re transitioning into a new era of work. Smart companies know the power that’s unleashed when they stop trying to control the people who work for them. They loosen up, operate from a place of trust instead of fear, and reap the rewards of an autonomous, engaged workplace. Do they lose a bunch of people who can’t imagine working without direct supervision? Totally. But if I had people working for me, I’d prefer to keep only the folks who could manage themselves, anyway.
We don’t need managers anymore, we need mentors. By mentors, I mean experienced guides to support, counsel, and advise others. I mean people who assume that you’ll do your work in the way that maximizes your gifts. I mean people who are trained to give you powerful, motivating feedback. I mean people who give you the support you need and then get the hell out of your way.
I can think of lots of benefits for an organization that uses a mentorship orientation instead of a management one, and I know which option would work best for me. Which kind of organization would you prefer to work for? How would your work change if you were mentored instead of managed?
Know someone who’s tired of being managed or sick of managing others? Consider passing this on to them!