kitanzi: (earth is weird - by boogiejack)
[personal profile] kitanzi
Something happened at work yesterday that's apparently gotten under my skin like a splinter, and won't stop bugging me.

We have a relatively new supervisor, which is to say she stepped up to the job when our previous supervisor got sick a few months back, and very recently got confirmed as the actual, really truly permanently supervisor (with a raise, one hopes.) She's justifiably very pleased with this, and apparently her supervisor told her he expected great things from her and gave her a book which he said had been very important to him.

She told us all this during a team meeting, then asked us, if we were willing, to complete a short anonymous questionnaire about her managerial skills. Sure, no hardship and I expected to easily be able to say good things about her, because I think she's an excellent manger.

That was, in fact,true, but... this was divided into five levels, and with the idea that as you become a better manager you get more yes answers at higher levels.

But this thing had an assumption built in that REALLY REALLY bugs me. One of the level five questions asks if the manager is inspiring everyone she manages (paraphrase, don't remember precisely) to become a leader. I guess that's pretty innocuous on the face of it, but not everyone wants to be a leader. (Indeed, if everyone did, who the hell would be left for them to manage?) But not everyone wants that, is suited to that, or should be pushed towards it. And the flip side - I would say the better manager is the one who recognized that in someone and helped develop other strengths instead. The assumption built in here seems insulting to the individual (you're not doing your best unless you're trying to be a leader) and to the manager (you're not a good manager unless everyone you manage wants to be a leader.)

I've run into this before. I actually had a manager who told me, in my job review, that my biggest failing in my job was that I was not ambitious. I had already given notice on that job and I really wish now I'd told him exactly what I thought of that. (On the other hand, if that's the worst criticism my manager can make, I guess I'm doing okay.)

This is apparently just one more thing to go on the list of things I don't want that make people say "But what's WRONG with you?"

Date: 2012-05-26 11:18 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I agree with you completely! It actually took me a long time to realize that what I kept being told I "should" want wasn't was I necessarily, actually, wanted and then that there wasn't something wrong with *me* for not actually wanting it. :)

Date: 2012-05-26 12:54 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Yes this.

It makes me wonder if some people don't realize that "being able to do your job or even take on moderately new things without someone to micromanage you" is different from "wanting to tell other people what to do and be responsible for the results they get."

*hug* You are a fine person, and not wanting to tell other people what to do does not change that in the slightest. Everybody needs people who can be trusted to do a good job without always trying to transfer up to a job they don't know how to do yet.

Date: 2012-05-26 01:29 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Yeah. There are differences, too, between being a leader and being in management.

Date: 2012-05-26 02:21 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
My ex actually left a company he'd worked with for 10+ years because they kept trying to push him into management roles, and did not listen when he said that he didn't want to manage, he wanted to code.

Date: 2012-05-26 02:25 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Semantics is everything.

As a manager, I *do* have an obligation to support my team and help each one to be a leader. But, a leader is not particularly a team head. Or a manager. Or a CTO.

A leader is someone who is an example to others. Period.

Dealing with your topics with initiative, going the extra mile, taking the time to do it right rather than to do it over, and being approachable whenever there is a question- these are qualities of a leader.

Leadership does not necessarily imply management, or control of people. It *does* mean that you control those things you *can* control.

All that being said- I completely agree with you. In this context, without definition, the use of the term 'leader' implies that everyone is supposed to want the same thing... which patently isn't the case. :)

Date: 2012-05-26 09:12 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I think this is something in-built to the American culture. You see it in election rhetoric, like Mitt's line about "a nation of haves and soon-to-haves". There's a large chunk of the culture that says there's something wrong with you if you don't want to advance personal ambition.

I'm a bit lucky in that I have a leadership personality trait and an ambition personality trait which seem to be compatible with the culture. OTOH, there are many other bits of me which aren't. I'd say don't stress about it. They'll say words to you but they won't fire you or affect your life in any meaningful way if you don't play their game. My advice is block it out and don't participate in it.

Date: 2012-05-26 10:17 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Sympathies. I understand exactly where you're coming from. And I've never understood why so many job rewards are based around demonstrating a desire to do something other than that job.

Date: 2012-05-27 06:37 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
That *does* sound pretty annoying.

Having burned out on supervising in my own workplace, I discovered I'd much rather deal with concrete or technical challenges than with human heartburn. Or, tell 'em your concom experience soured you on mgm't. (g)

For purely defensive purposes, you might want to find a copy of Marilyn Kennedy's /Office Warfare/. There were some thoughts on what to do when you reached where you wanted to be, IIRC. Most of the defense involved making sure your work & results were noticed (again, IIRC). Portray a cheerfully glowing asset, rather than a non-shining dodger of advancement; i.e., spin.

Given a "climb or die" culture (for which this person seems to be setting a climate), you don't want to look like a good place to anchor somebody's piton--the load might drag you down, and I would hate that. (I like to root for happiness. g)

Date: 2012-05-28 02:15 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Please don't be depressed. If no one's approached you about getting into management, just do your job, do it well, and let your manager know you're happy doing what you do.

I remember back when I was working for the Handcock around 1990, my boss offered me the manager position for the programming unit I was in. I turned him down. I had been getting regular promotions up the technical track and was happy designing and coding the actuarial computer systems. I had no interest in nor, to be honest, any great skills managing people.

Granted, the technical track was a shorter career ladder than the managerial track, with a lower pay ceiling, but I knew that if I switched tracks not only would I not be happy and not be making use of my skills, but the Peter Principle would soon kick in. I don't think I actually said this, but he understood, and looked elsewhere to fill the position.

More generally, free capitalism has a lot in common with the Law of the Jungle, pecking orders and the food chain. "It's a jungle out there" can be applied to more than my backyard. :( I had no desire to get involved in that back in the '90s, and I don't want to imagine how much worse it is in this day and age.

Hang in there, lass. Smile; do your job well; if you see something that's not working well, point it out and offer a suggestion. And, to probably misquote a line from "Witness", "You watch out for them managers, you hear?" [g]

Ann O.

Date: 2012-05-28 01:08 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
A company may be able to screw in the occasional Phillips with a flathead driver, but not continually, and the results will be sup-optimal.

Date: 2012-05-30 05:50 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Disclaimer: My Masters Degree is from a school called "The Leadership Institute of Seattle"

Leadership is a word that I have found to be obnoxious in its layers.

On the surface it is what I do when I charge ahead on a crazy escapade and take people with me... (Not that I have ever done that mind you.)

But I have come to see it in a different light.

The dragging people in is an aspect, but there is a much more important aspect of it that people (including management) often forget.

For me leadership is not about "Leading" it is about giving the support that others need to grow, it is about saying that word that lets someone know they are valued, it is the smile that helps someone else smile back.

Effective leadership isn't about charging out in front. Or even taking the "lead." To me it is about being the person that holds out the arm and says "Let's go do this together!"

And that darlin' is something I have seen from you in spades.

Anyone that tries to tell you that you have to run and take charge to lead, Well, I have opinions on that.

If/When I end up managing people acknowledging that is going to be one of the things that I do, And one of the questions that I will ask every employee that I work with around leadership is how and in what areas they feel they can be "leaders" and how they would measure that if they can.

Not sure if that is making sense, but Leadership being interpreted (especially by people who think they are doing it when they are not) as a single definition concept has become a bit of an annoyance for me.

Date: 2012-06-05 01:01 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
From a non-workplace-based perspective.... I think it's more common than it should be for people in general to end up with a "list of things I don't want that make people say "But what's WRONG with you?", simply because our culture has a terrible habit of encouraging people to think that whatever THEY want should, by definition, be what every other 'normal' person wants.

I've run into this repeatedly, most emphatically when I chose to leave academia to raise children. I was told by more than one bewildered colleague that I was undermining all of the advances that feminists had earned for women in general by choosing to stay home to raise children instead of pursuing tenure-track jobs making direct use of my PhD.

Sorry, no. Feminism is all about enabling women to make our OWN choices. No, we're not stuck barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen as our only option anymore. But that also means, High-Achieving Professionals Everywhere, that if I choose differently than you do -- even if I decide that I like to be barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen, and you find every detail of that baffling! -- that's legitimate. It's.My.Choice.

You're in the same kind of boat, just painted a different color. Don't let them get to you; resist the temptation to be depressed. It's YOUR life. YOU, and only you, have the right to choose what makes it satisfying to you.

Hugs to you, and I hope the job works out well and they don't try to pressure you into management :)

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