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Know Your Place

September 9, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

I think I have identified why our culture is so inefficient and out of touch with reality. Actually, I have presented this theory in the past but a recent event here illustrates the problem extremely well so I thought it was worth mentioning it again. The big problem with most (especially larger) organisations is modern management structures, specifically that the people at the top levels who make most of the decisions have no idea what’s going on in the “real world” where most of their staff operate because they are “protected” by too many levels of managers.

The latest incident involved a manager at a government department called “Child Youth and Family” or CYF. This manager told the staff that they shouldn’t bother the minister in charge with their problems and should remember their subservient role. Specifically the message said: “It is not appropriate for staff to pour their hearts and souls out to the minister. This is a formal visit and she is not your ‘friend’. It’s a bit like the relationship between a servant and a master, ie the servant knows their place. She should not be presented with the woes of the office, or lack of resources, or anything like that.”

The most likely explanation seems that the manager was trying to protect him/herself. That manager obviously wanted to control what more senior staff were told about the operation of the institution. Why? Presumably because it wasn’t running that well and that would reflect badly on the middle management.

I’ve found this fairly universally with my dealings with managers. They are really only interested in maintaining their own position and rarely want to really improve the organisation they are involved with. In other words, they tend to be the greatest barrier standing in the way of the organisation being run better.

But this case is really beyond what we usually see. This has actually become offensively elitist as well. I mean stuff like “It’s a bit like the relationship between a servant and a master, ie the servant knows their place.” That’s really disgusting. There’s absolutely no call for that sort of attitude in a modern society. The manager should be instantly fired and not allowed to work in a government department again.

Calling it workplace bullying or corruption (as some have suggested) is a bit more doubtful. I would say its pure stupidity and incompetence as well as the manager having a rather inflated view of his/her own value.

So middle management are intentionally blocking the information flow to senior decision makers. Of course its a whole new question whether the senior decision makers are competent but I’ll leave that for another blog entry. If they don’t get reliable information from the people doing the real work they can’t make good decisions even if they are competent. And information filtered through someone with attitudes that sound like they come from the Victorian era is likely to be worse than nothing.

As I have said in the past, most managers would be better if they just locked themselves in an office somewhere and just did nothing instead of just making a nuisance of themselves like they tend to do. So eliminating managers would be the first step on my road to Utopia. I can’t think of any other group that does more harm to progress than them. They are the ones who really need to know their place!

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