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Nothing’s Too Hard…

I have a favourite phrase which I think applies to many situations. It’s that “nothing’s too hard for the person who doesn’t have to do it themselves”. By that I mean people who either don’t know or don’t care (or both) about the complexities and difficulties of something often demand action in a particular way as if it is trivial, and to them it is, because they aren’t doing it.

To make this clearer let me give some examples. Of course, these are theoretical and should not be construed as applying to any particular person or workplace in the real world…

A manager enters a technical person’s office and demands to know why they haven’t charged out enough hours on their timesheet this week. There might be various reasons for this: maybe there was just less work to do for a short period of time, or maybe urgent work needed to be done which wasn’t chargeable, or maybe the person worked less hours because they did a lot extra last week. There are many possibilities, and most of them don’t fit in with how the manager thinks the system should work.

But it’s easy for the manager, of course, because they don’t have to do a timesheet. Why not? The usual answer is that “it’s not appropriate”. But that’s just answering the question by re-phrasing it. Why is it not appropriate? I think I know why and I think most managers do too. It’s because no one would pay them. They do nothing of any value that anyone would pay for and if they had to charge out their time that would soon become obvious.

So they can get all indignant when someone else fails to live up to a standard which they refuse to accept for themselves. No wonder most managers are despised rather than admired. They really are the most hypocritical, worthless parasites on the planet.

Here’s another example. A manager demands (notice how often that word comes up) to know why a technical problem hasn’t been fixed for an important client. The manager has promised it would be fixed quickly (not by them, of course) and when it hasn’t been naturally wants to know why.

Again, there are many reasons this might happen. Let me name a few: a problem can’t be resolved because the action required to fix it is against policy, or there is poor infrastructure in place which is beyond the person’s ability to fix, or other more important issues have arisen, or the fault lies with product choices the organisation has made rather than a specific issue.

But the manager is unlikely to consider any of these “appropriate”. They live in a dream world where every policy is perfect, the infrastructure works superbly, the technical staff are responsible even for things they aren’t allowed to change, there is never anything more important than their pet projects, and product choices are always above criticism.

It’s easy for the manager to promise a solution without the slightest understanding of what is involved and when no good solution is possible it’s always someone else’s fault. It’s never too hard to make promises when you don’t have to keep them yourself.

As I said, these are just generalisations based on incidents people tell me about (especially my source “Fred” whom I have mentioned before) and don’t necessarily refer to any specific situations. And I’m fairly sure there must be some really exceptional managers out there (although I have never met one or even heard of one existing). But I think they do represent reality in most cases. The system of hierarchical management most organisations have virtually guarantees this type of parasitic level of management will exist.

What can we do about it? Well I don’t know – it’s not my job to fix it – but how hard can it be?

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