Truth or Fiction? Management Myths

By Robyn Bage

Despite supervising new managers for more than 2 decades and teaching young management students at community college, I continue to be surprised by the strength of their belief in the most obstructive and destructive management myths. So for your edification (and my students, as I plan to share this with them), here are my Top Five Management Myths.

Number 5: If you pay well enough, people will do a good job for you. Not likely. While money is certainly necessary, it is neither an essential element of job satisfaction or motivation to perform at a high rate of productivity. People need more than just a fat paycheck to be motivated at work. For example, the work needs to be meaningful, and it needs to provide opportunity for growth and advancement. People need to feel a sense of achievement and recognition for that achievement. Have you known anyone who left a lucrative job for one paying much less? Of course you have.

Number 4: Stay the course! My mother ran a small catering business, geared toward families who liked to entertain but who wanted a homey feel to the party. They “bought the food and invited the guests, called her and she did the rest” (paraphrased from her business card which, by the way, I still carry in my wallet). At some point, business started to slow down. Mom held resolutely to her business plan, believing that if she waited out this unfortunate turn of events that business would pick up. It never did. Potential customers clamored for a more modern approach, preferring to have food delivered, fully prepared and served by agile and socially invisible wait staff. Mom hated everything about that, and refused to be pressured to change. A handful of loyal longstanding customers remained with her, keeping her busy until she retired but the business was never the same. Staying the course doesn’t usually work as well as being flexible and accommodating. The very least you should do is respond to your customers changing needs. The best plan: Anticipate them.

Number 3: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.  Innovation includes figuring how to make things better and how to more fully meet customer needs. Companies that rest on their laurels most certainly lose ground; the company may be the best today, but it may be second best—or worse—tomorrow. The most successful, enduring businesses strive to continually improve their products and services. They pursue higher quality, increased reliability, new features and better functionality. Their customers clamor for the latest and greatest incarnation. Remember, Apple’s iPhone 4S broke sales records.

Number 2: The squeaky wheel should get the oil. Managers tend to spend a great deal of time dealing with underperforming employees. At first blush this seems rational; we want to turn our poor performers into stars. Unfortunately, what usually happens is that the poor performers bleed the life out of the managers and still do not improve. Moreover, the managers then have little time or energy left to give their more productive employees. A better plan: Take care of your star performers! The payoff in terms of morale AND productivity is greater if you give them your time and attention.

And the Number 1 Management Myth:

“They don’t have to like me; they just have to respect me.” This is simply nonsense! Of course your employees have to like you! They have to value you as a skilled manager, see you as caring and considerate of their wellbeing, growth and development. They have to be able to celebrate and smile with you, as well as sit down and strategize with you. When we do not like our manager, we tend to be dissatisfied at work. Dissatisfaction translates into a lack of motivation to produce ample quality work. When we like our manager or supervisor, we are more satisfied and therefore more motivated. We want to give our job our best efforts. This is not to say that you can make all of your employees happy all of the time. (In fact, that could be Myth #6.) But when employees like you, they trust your decisions, even when they are unhappy about them. And by the way, if your employees don’t like you at all—they won’t respect you, either.

Robyn-Jay Bage is a CEO of a nonprofit human service organization, and an Assistant Professor at a community college.

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