Managers: Do They Help or Hinder?


If you are a fan of the cartoon strip Dilbert, then you know that managers are often portrayed in a negative light.

Just look at a few of these Dilbert strips.

While all of this is humorous, it does raise the question: Do managers help or hinder the work environment? Let's consider both sides.

Managers help the work environment. They do the heavy lifting of making it easier for the staff to do their work. They provide the equipment and resources needed to accomplish the corporate mission. They handle recruiting, timesheets and send flowers to bereaving staff members. They order and set up the food for the company all-hands meetings. They handle the difficult employees and often work after hours. They communicate the corporate vision and help everyone to stay busy with interesting tasks. Managers are the glue that keep things working smoothly.

Managers hurt the work environment. They hover like helicopters. They ask for status reports every five minutes. They use big words that have no meaning for everyone else. They are arrogant, overbearing and do not add value to the work products. Managers have meetings to plan meetings. They are disconnected from the real world. The staff would be much more productive if the managers would just disappear.

(Image: Photographee/Shutterstock)

(Image: Photographee/Shutterstock)

So which view is correct? They are both correct. Managers make the work place productive and they also serve as bottlenecks. They make sure that projects stay within scope, time, and budget. But managers also can have so many meetings that the staff does not have time to actually do their work. They are loved and reviled. Managers are a blessing and a curse.

Let's think specifically about managers in the context of analytics. If you have access to the data, project schedule and analytics software, then how much value do managers add to the delivery of analytic products/goods and services? With all of the intelligence built into software and with staff members who are capable of being self-directed, then what role do managers play in providing analytic work products?

Is it possible that managers do not directly add value to analytic initiatives, but do expedite the process by which the initiatives are executed? While managers may not perform step-wise regression, is it possible that they do ensure that the software license is current? Using a football metaphor, are managers the running backs or are they the linemen who open up the gaps and block downfield?

What are your expectations of your manager? Do you expect him/her to have equal to superior technical skills, or are you just happy to have him/her approve your leave? Do you expect your manager to have all the answers, or do you expect your manager to know where to find the answers? Do you expect your manager to be tall with perfect teeth and hair? Do you expect your manager to have a Master's degree? Would it make a difference if you had more education than your manager? How much credit should your manager get when things go right? How much blame should s/he get when things go wrong? How much better would your work place be if you were the boss? In what ways can you perform better than your manager?

Do managers help or hinder? Please share.

Bryan Beverly, Statistician, Bureau of Labor Statistics

Bryan K. Beverly is from Baltimore. He has a BA in sociology from Morgan State University and an MAS degree in IT management from Johns Hopkins University. His continuing education consists of project management training through the ESI International/George Washington University programs. He began his career in 1984, the same year he was introduced to SAS software. Over the course of nearly 30 years, he has used SAS for data processing, analytics, report generation, and application development on mainframes, mini-computers, and PCs. Bryan has worked in the private sector, public sector, and academia in the Baltimore/Washington region. His work initially focused on programming, but over the years has expanded into project management and business development. Bryan has participated in in-house SAS user groups and SAS user group conferences, and has published in SAS newsletters, as well as company-based newsletters. Over time, his publications have expanded from providing SAS technical tips to examining the sociological, philosophical, financial, and political contexts in which IT is deployed. He believes that the key to a successful IT career is to maintain your skills and think like the person who signs your paycheck.

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Re: No magic job description
  • 1/30/2017 2:22:46 PM
NO RATINGS

@Michelle - I guess that is where the fine print of accreditation comes in.  I guess anyone could create an MBA program - the students read some papers and write some papers, pass a test and get a diploma - all for a fee.  Whether that degree is worth anything in the market place is another matter.  I guess the real value of an MBA is how much you paid to get one that is sanctioned by a recognized body. Whether you are fit to be a manager afterwards - that's another story.

Re: No magic job description
  • 1/30/2017 1:52:54 PM
NO RATINGS

I have often wondered how a part time executive program could compete with its full time equivelent. They are different programs with different goals with similar names. I have read that some executive programs aren't as well regarded by employers as the full time versions. I suspect this could be true of MBA programs as well.

Re: No magic job description
  • 1/30/2017 1:32:06 PM
NO RATINGS

The executive programs can be - much of their value is towards a specific industry local to the area, like technology or automotive.  They tend to lack the diversity that MBA full time program strive to establish with each class.

Re: No magic job description
  • 1/30/2017 12:35:17 PM
NO RATINGS

@TS, Point well taken. Professonal development is an investment in human captital; tax incentives cannot be ignored.

Re: Triumph of analytics
  • 1/30/2017 12:29:07 PM
NO RATINGS

@Lyndon, Hey you can have those buddy, the machine learning will only be as good as the information, culture and value systems fed into it; I will take my chances with flesh and blood (smile).

Re: Triumph of analytics
  • 1/29/2017 11:53:34 PM
NO RATINGS

..

Brian writes


... but what about the human aspects of managerial tasks?  When someone needs to take bereavment leave or when an employee loses a building access badge? How would a robot handle an fire drill or active shooter situation?  I believe they could handle work related decision support questions.  But if they handled every aspect of managerial accountability, then that would truly be dystopian!


Maybe clever algorithms can be developed and tweaked over time through trial-and-error? And what good is machine learning if the machines can't learn some empathy?

..

 

 

 

Re: No magic job description
  • 1/29/2017 7:44:02 PM
NO RATINGS

@Terry I can imagine executive education MBA programs are most profitable.

Re: No magic job description
  • 1/29/2017 7:37:13 PM
NO RATINGS

@Broadway I have to agree with you there. MBA programs do seem to miss many aspects of management or leadership. They may cover such topics but don't seem to provide enough depth to be really valuable.

Re: No magic job description
  • 1/29/2017 4:34:10 PM
NO RATINGS

Don't most companies get tax breaks/credits for $ devoted to training and education like MBAs? I hear what you're saying about offering these degrees to worthy candidates, but companies also have another incentive to do it.

Re: No magic job description
  • 1/29/2017 4:28:36 PM
NO RATINGS

I think MBA programs are also expert at taking people with arts & sciences degrees (i.e., non-business students as undergrads) and turning them into reasonably smart businesspeople with sufficient self-awareness to admit what they don't know and to ask alot of questions.

Ironically, MBA programs are huge profit centers for most universities, a point that seems to get lost in the whirl of accounting, finance, marketing, leadership and management coursework.

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