Life Principles Mostly Abused by Supervisors and Managers

Having been in the workforce for 16 years or so, I obeyed bosses, rose from the ranks, and became a leader of people in my own right as well. I have seen and tasted the heats and pangs of both subordinate and superior. When you are the boss and you are under fire, there are times you are tempted to defend yourself and utilize popular corporate principles to the point of deflecting the blame to your team members and causing a certain amount of humiliation on them. As a subordinate, I have been a victim of such deflection and, shamefully, I admit that I myself have used this type of defense mechanism to ensure that I was not on the losing side of the blame game.

So what are these corporate principles (or maybe even life's morals) that are often abused by managers and supervisors in order to pass the blame on the people they rule over, even if these supposed leaders are the ones at fault in reality? Ok now, sit back, scroll down slowly and read with focus; you may find yourself nodding in agreement with a grin on your lips (or you might gloat in guilt because you are on the other side of the coin).

1. Be proactive

Stephen Covey
Stephen R. Covey
I am a fan of the late Stephen Covey and one of my favorite books I have read is his 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Do you know what it is that he put first on the lists of these habits? Be proactive! Yes, it is the same phrase you see as number 1 in this article you are reading right now.

Stephen Covey is correct in saying that its preferable to "be proactive rather than be reactive." It is proper to anticipate things and events before they happen rather than react to them (in panic) after they happen.

It is unfortunate that many lazy bosses have used this principle to put more weight and burden on the people they supervise and manage. When team members ask for clarification on an ambiguous task or direction and the boss' reply is "It is up to you to find it out," I believe the project is up for failure. If it indeed fails, the boss will scold them out and say, "You are not proactive enough!"

If you are such boss, haven't you told yourself that you too needed to be proactive - proactive enough to clearly explain what you want and with enough information so you can equip your colleagues in attaining their goal? If you demand pro-activeness from your subordinates, it is appropriate that you also be proactive in giving clear, detailed, and non-ambiguous direction, because pro-activeness is a mark of a true leader and not just something you preach to your subordinates.

2. Make your own inspiration and motivation

It is my intention to shorten my number 2 sub-heading because it is going to be long and large if I write it all out in there. Here is the complete clause:

If your situation does not inspire or motivate you, then make your own inspiration and motivation.

A very striking yet rousing concept, isn't it? Of course, it is. You should not wait for inspiration and motivation to come looking for you from something or someone. You yourself can be the source of your own inspiring and motivating scenario.

Suppose we remove the word "situation" in the clause and replace it with the word "boss." Now, imagine it is the boss who is saying that sentence. If I were the voice of reason to such boss, I would certainly want to ask him, "Isn't it the role of the leader to inspire and motivate the people he leads?"

I believe the manager or supervisor must be the primary source of good vibes among his team members. Inciting your teammates to motivate and inspire themselves, because you as the boss are not able to provide it, is a self-defense that incriminates your management style.

A quote from Michael Scott (played by actor Steve Carell) from the TV series, The Office, has this to say...

Michael Scott

3. Be part of the solution and not the problem

The full text of this Eldridge Cleaver quote is "There is no more neutrality in the world. You either have to be part of the solution, or you're going to be part of the problem." During reports and meetings, some managers and supervisors would rephrase this concept as...

If you say to me a problem, make sure you already have (the perfect) solution to it.

Again, there is nothing wrong about this problem-solution concept. In fact, I advise not to dwell on the problem but to move forward and concentrate on the solution; you might want to read my article about The Art of Procrastination: Why Laziness is Pleasurable.

Here is the thing: Sometimes, if not most of the time, an employee or group of employees will approach the boss to state a problem and say their intended solution. Their purpose is not so much to get the boss' nod on the proposed solution, but to inform the latter of an existing problem that requires attention and ask for guidance and advice from someone they look up to as a mentor and elder whose ideas they deem may have more wisdom and logic. After all, that is how we see a leader should be - a guiding mentor and a wise elder, right?

Unfortunately, some managers do not see themselves as such; they rather stick to the job of approving and signing off proposed solutions than provide mentoring and sound advice to their subordinates. Talking to their colleagues, these bosses would say, "It is not my job to propose solutions. Do not tell me a problem of which solution you have not come up yet. State your solution, give your facts and figures, and if I have no questions, I will approve it. As simple as that!"

I believe the spoon has its use, not just for feeding yourself, but also for instructing, guiding, and directing. There is a reason why the term "spoon feed" exists, and I believe it has its own benefits to the feeder and to the one being fed. If you help your team members succeed, you ensure your own success.

4. The only thing constant in this world is change

This quote from the ancient Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, is an excellent motivation for people to accept change as inevitable part and parcel of living and to adapt to it whenever necessary. Sadly, this kind and wise concept is also used by a lot of people, particularly those in the level of management, to justify their own fickle-mindedness and lack of definite direction.

In item #1, I mentioned how ambiguity in the workplace is defended by pushing employees to be proactive. In this section, I say that ambiguity thrives in a workplace where management encourages fickle policies with unrealistic and vague objectives. The more changes that are happening, the more ambiguous they get.

Stability resides in a clear and achievable goal; procedures are the ones that can be adjusted to attain it. Stick to the goal - you can change your methods but keep the original goal in mind.

5. Get busy, busy, busy

The Devil
This is the favorite principle of the certified task master, the type of boss who is concerned mainly with what you do rather than the value of what you achieve. He prefers quantity over quality.

So what does he do? He makes sure that you are loaded with tasks throughout the day, ensuring no penny is wasted on your salary. If he sees you idle or doing something he thinks is not related to your job, he adds another pile of workload on you.

It is his belief that if you are not doing a lot, you are not adding value to your work. In a sense, he thinks it is a reflection of his supervisory skills. Thus, he defends himself by pushing his subordinates to be busy, busy, and busy all day all the time - and he is effectively efficient in doing so.

There is a Christian saying about getting busy:

The idle mind is the cradle of the devil.

And I certainly agree with it...

Productivity is something ideal to see among employees. At the end of the day, however, the questions than will linger in your mind are: Did you achieve the goal or did you contribute to attaining it? Are you happy with your accomplishment[s]?

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