How did we manage?

Mate of mine was just out of his apprenticeship. (So we’re talking more than thirty years ago.) He’d done something silly, made something using the wrong grade steel, or put the holes in the wrong place, and then it went from their workshop through to the next workshop where it would be fitted.
They didn’t just send it back; the foreman from the other shop came back with it and verbally tore into my mate. Within seconds my mate’s manager was there. He physically stepped between the foreman and his prey and told him that if he had a problem, then there was a proper procedure and if he ever caught him hassling ‘his staff’ again, he’d nail his ears to the bulkhead.
When the foreman beat a retreat and was out of sight and earshot, the manager looked at the problem, told my mate he wasn’t a complete idiot, as he obviously had bits missing. He then had him redoing it then and there, made him bring it in for him to inspect before it was sent on as finished.

The management philosophy was simple. The manager was there to support and protect his people. If they got it wrong, yes, he bawled them out, but no other wandering manager or whatever got to do that. If there was a problem, then it was the manager’s fault because it had happened on his or her watch and they carried the can. They then went back to their people and made damned sure it didn’t happen again. That’s largely why they were paid more.

Yet just talking to mates who work in education, or the civil and public services, it seems that this is no longer the way it’s done. Managers now wear Teflon. When trouble descends from above it pours all over the manager and wonder of wonders, none of it sticks. Instead it all lands on those at the bottom.
Now back in the day, managers could actually do the work that their people were doing. OK they were probably a bit rusty on the details but they’d done the job or one very like it. But now all that some of them know is how to ‘manage’.

Call me old fashioned but frankly, having seen some ‘management’ in action over the years, I’m not impressed.

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4 thoughts on “How did we manage?

  1. M T McGuire August 23, 2013 at 7:29 pm Reply

    One of the things I loved about working in public passenger transport was that pretty much everyone I worked for had worked up from the bottom, which I had, too. It made a big difference. I find it hard to see how anyone could manage people without having done their job or something similar. Furthermore there’s nothing like being at the bottom to teach a manager how to ask and encourage rather than demand and blame.

    Cheers

    MTM

  2. jwebster2 August 23, 2013 at 8:36 pm Reply

    That’s it really. I’ve only ever been self employed but I’ve been an employer and when I was I was only asking people to do jobs that I’d done myself, and would do myself over the weekend when they were off. Trying to tell someone what to do when you’ve never done the job strikes me as a waste of everybody’s time.

  3. willatsafkhet August 25, 2013 at 11:38 am Reply

    Management has generally declined in its value since back then. But then, many values that were the strong rock in the sea of life are all but eroded away. I remember, when I was growing up in North Texas, if someone said “I’ll do XX”, he or she did it. People seemed to be down right honest and straightforward. Sure there were people who were sneaky or tricky or dishonest – that’s life. But, it seemed to me that life was more straightforward too.

    What I see these days primarily is that managers “manage”, but since that job description is not really well defined, they incompetently sit around and do busy work. Then, when the worker does a great job, the manager takes the credit for “good leadership”.

    I also remember when I was working for a large computer parts store in the late 90s, if we sales people did really well, the managers got bonuses for great sales numbers, whereas we just got our face on the “Sales Employee of the Month” board … whoopee.

  4. jwebster2 August 25, 2013 at 12:08 pm Reply

    I remember a chap who was the chief admin officer at the Youth Hostel Association in the Lake District back in the 1970s. At one meeting he stopped the speaker and asked, “Do you want an administrator or a manager, because they are very different people.”
    I wonder if we’ve forgotten this difference and have started calling administrators ‘managers’.
    I can also empathise with the comment ‘if they said they were going to do it, they did it.’ Now they’re likely to turn round and blame anything from budgetary constrains to bad Feng Shui. It’s never actually the fact that they just couldn’t be bothered.

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