Q: As I recall, you were suggesting that we need to start at the beginning of the story?
A: That's right. If we are going to discuss “Management” we need to know what we are actually talking about.
Q: I feel some definitions coming at me.
A: Right. Let's see what some sources have to say.
Q: Is this going to take long?
A: That depends on you. :)
Here's the first one: Among Webster's offerings for Management: “the judicious use of means to accomplish an end” (1).
And for Manager: “to handle or direct with a degree of skill” (2)
and “to exercise executive, administrative, and supervisory direction” (3).
A: Well, for starters, your bozo Manager in our previous discussions seems to have fulfilled definition (1) - “the judicious use of means to accomplish an end”. Whether you perceive his contribution or not, he used the means – you – to accomplish an end – you produced your results.
Q: But he didn't contribute – he didn't help me at all.
A: Agreed, but he didn't need to did he? In effect he used definition (2) - “to handle or direct with a degree of skill”, with you as a capable employee. That is he handled you with skill by staying out of your way and letting you produce.
Q: But he didn't lead at all, and spent his time playing office politics.
A: OK. Will you give me an example of his “office politics”?
Q: Sure; he was constantly in meetings with the other managers negotiating priorities, and tasks, and who was going to do what, and generally sucking up.
A: Good; that sounds a lot like definition (3) - “to exercise executive, administrative, and supervisory direction”. “Executive” direction is about executing – getting tasks done. That requires working out and understanding priorities, and who is going to be involved. “Supervisory” direction is about arranging to have those “who”s – like you - actually do the tasks.
I do agree that “generally sucking up” isn't in the dictionary definition. :)
Q: So you are telling me that according to the definitions my Manager was actually doing his job?
Q: But that just can't be right. Where's the leadership? Where's the getting involved and helping get the tasks done? I didn't see him contribute at all!
Based on your criteria he did a damn fine job – as a Manager. The definitions so far haven't mentioned leadership, or getting involved in your tasks.
And let's be clear about the record for your scenario. You said “I knew my job, I knew my objectives, I knew my boundaries, I knew how to get things done and I did them.” How did you know your job?
Q: Well, I was hired with the knowledge and skills I needed.
A: And who hired you, and checked that you had the knowledge and skills?
Q: My Manager and the Human Resources assistant with the skill tests and new hire paperwork.
A: And how did you know your objectives, and boundaries?
Q: They were part of the job description and my performance objectives documents.
A: Good! Definitely a better start than I've seen in a lot of companies.
How did you know “how to get things done”?
Q: I figured out who the important people were who knew the operation and the inside tips.
A: Excellent! Did anyone help make sure you got your job description, performance objectives, introduced you to key people with experience?
Q: OK, OK. Don't rub it in; my Manager set things up for me. But then I was on my own!
A: And it worked out fine from what you said before.
Q: But surely there's more to managing than what I saw him do for me.
A: Yup. There's lots, but before we get to that let me ask you something. How do you feel about your Manager now?
Q: Well I'm not about to give him a big hug if that's what you mean.
A: That's fine. There's probably some Human Resources policy about that. :)
Besides you don't even have to like him – just respect him by believing he is a smart, rational human being like you until you have solid data to the contrary. After all he is your best customer.
Q: Whoa! You might have wrangled me into accepting he's not as big a bozo as I thought, and in fact, according to you, did the right things for me. But my “best customer”? Now you are talking like the bozo. How can my boss be my customer?
A: Let's find out next week. :)