Bill Cottringer

"Always recognize that human individuals are ends, and do not use them as means to your end."
~Immanuel Kant.

There are seven “sins” that plague all managers from time to time and which even the best MBA trained managers like to deny they exist, at least in their own toolboxes. But the truth is that these “sins” do exist and are not likely to disappear and so they are a very real problem for employees to deal with. Of course it helps to accept and understand two important realities about these seven sins:

• Accepting that these management behaviors have been with us from the beginning and will likely be with us until the end, and;
• Understanding that these management “sins” need to be viewed from the right perspective.

The seven pervasive management sins present in our workplaces today are:

1. Switching Between Not Managing and Micromanaging.

This form of mismanagement occurs for a variety of reasons. For one thing, a manager is always a very busy person with a multitude of urgent and important priorities that other employees may or may not know about. A busy manager may be pre-occupied with a worthy priority that makes him or her seem they don’t care enough or have enough time to get in the trenches and do should to shoulder managing. And then of course, when any manager starts noticing things not being done efficiently or effectively or values not being enforced and rewarded consistently, they want to take over and get things right the way they have done in the past. All an employee can really do in trying to deal with this sin is to assertively let the manager know what does or doesn’t motivate him or her best in level of management attention.

2. Setting Unrealistic Expectations for Productivity.

It is time we all do a reality check on this one. We are in the information age and the truth is that no one knows how much productivity in the way of thinking up ideas and applying them for results that we are capable of. Thinking that productivity goals on a project are unrealistically high will only make them higher out of reach. Since good time management is a choice, it makes more sense using your time to prove what you can or can’t do and tracking the actual time you spend in getting results. I once remember that being told to stop complaining about all the paperwork I had to do in a public service job and just do it, helped me to double my productivity enough to have more time to figure out how to do even more in less time by streamlining the paperwork.

3. Asking for Input and Not Using It.

We all need to get over ourselves and realize that our valuable and important input is not always usable in the form we present it or quite as valuable or important as we would like to imagine. Plus managers tend to see a much bigger picture, with many more details than individual employees. Asking for input may result in usable ideas but there is no management rule saying you have to apply all the input you ask for, especially after assessing its likely fit and benefits into the project at hand. Finally sometimes bad input you offer, thinking it is good, can never-the-less prompt the manager to switch focus or change a current problem-soling strategy or solution for the better because of the input and you never know that.

4. Playing Favorites and Having Whipping Posts.

Come on now, even the universe’s CEO, God, had his favorite “sons” and problem children He scolded unfairly more often than not. This is just a natural behavior and the world is not motivated to undue it. No matter how you don’t like the unfairness of the boss playing favorites, focusing on what someone else is getting that you aren’t, never changes the situation for the better. The only thing that needs to be done about this “sin” concerns the employee who is the whipping post. It is not a very pleasant feeling to be harshly criticized in public, even if it is sarcastic. When this happens to you, you just need to approach the boss and assertively let him or her know without blame, that this kind of public treatment doesn’t feel very good or contribute much to your productivity or motivation for improvement. That is the kindest “admonishment” that works best.

5. Changing Priorities.

Like it or not managers do have multiple priorities coming at them from all directions—inside and outside and from above and below—which are in perpetual motion without enough time to get them all done. Quick but careful evaluations of what can get what results when, where or how, will often change a priority’s importance in the organizational hierarchy of goals. As an employee, your entire job is just to figure out how to get the priority accomplished, not to debate the merits of the current priority in comparison with the one that got left behind. Besides you really don’t want the worries of setting priorities any more than the 24/7 on-call obligations of a medical doctor that goes with maintaining luxury cars and paying higher property taxes.

6. Not Making Decisions.

When managers appear to be avoiding making needed decisions, which adversely affect your productivity as an employee, they can be very frustrating and even infuriating to deal with. However managers who seem to be avoiding or delaying the decision-making process may need more time and alternative options to avoid getting painted into a corner with no way out. There always has to be a way to be able to undue bad decisions or they shouldn’t be made. Like above with priorities, as an employee, you really don’t want to take on the extra pressure and stress associated with decision-making, especially the consequences of making bad decisions that detract from the organizations profitability or productivity. That can send you to an early grave.

7. Being aloof

This is a very effective self-protection defense mechanism that is needed at times for the manager to maintain a safe distance to be able to maintain needed authority and not be figured out too well by over-familiarity. This later protection is to allow the manager to change his or her mind without being trapped in the grip of consistency for consistency sake. This also allows the manager more freedom to experiment, without being too predictable, which is really what good management is all about in always embracing change and not getting too comfortable or complacent with the status quo. By the way, this takes a lot of energy that is worthy of respect and admiration, not begrudging.

If you are facing any or all of these seven management things that won’t go away, you basically have three choices. You can:

• Stay put in the stress, try to adapt to or change things for the better when they get too bad, and continue complaining when you don’t get any results.
• Give-up, leave and risk the fears and stresses of the unknown ahead.
• Stay, deal with your work stress after-hours, accept and adapt to those sins that are least likely to change, and pick your most sensible battles in the war and assertively communicate to the manager about changeable behaviors that could get better productivity from you.

A little understanding of the manager’s perspective in committing these seven sins goes a long way in helping you to adapt. So does controlling the controllables and letting go of the rest.

"A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world." ~John Le Caré

Author's Bio: 

William Cottringer, Ph.D. is Executive Vice-President for Employee Relations for Puget Sound Security, Inc. in Bellevue, WA, along with his hobbies in being a Sport Psychologist, Business Success Coach, Photographer and Writer living in the peaceful but invigorating mountains and rivers of North Bend. He is author of several business and self-development books, including, “You Can Have Your Cheese & Eat It Too” (Executive Excellence), “The Bow-Wow Secrets” (Wisdom Tree), “Do What Matters Most” and “P” Point Management” (Atlantic Book Publishers), “Reality Repair” (Global Vision Press), Reality Repair Rx (Authorsden), and “If Pictures Could Talk,” coming soon. Bill can be reached for comments or questions at (425) 454-5011 or