Fast Company has another excerpt from the new chapter in Good Boss, Bad Boss out today -- one that goes against things that many so-called management gurus often say. My main point i those who argue management needs to be re-invented are misguided -- they massively overstate the case and have incentives for doing so, but it doesn't stand up to the evidence. Here is opening of the piece and you can read the rest here:
A lot of people write business books: about eleven thousand are published each year. There are armies of consultants, gurus, and wannabe thought leaders, and thousands of management magazines, radio and TV shows, websites, and blogs.
These purveyors of management knowledge have incentives for claiming their ideas are “new and improved” rather than the same old thing. One twist, which I’ve seen a lot lately, is the claim that management or leadership needs to be reinvented. Many reasons given for this need seem sensible: Gen X and Gen Y require different management techniques; outsourcing, globalization, and information technology means working with people we rarely if ever meet in person; the pressure to think and move ever faster is unprecedented; so many employees are disengaged that they need to be managed so they feel appreciated.
Yet, no matter how hard I look at studies by academics and consulting firms, or at contrasts between successful and unsuccessful leaders, I can’t find persuasive evidence of substantial change in the kinds of bosses people want to become or work for, or that enable human groups and organizations to thrive. Changes such as the computer revolution, globalization, and distributed teams mean that if you are a boss, staying in tune with followers is more challenging than ever. And, certainly, bosses need to be more culturally aware because many workplaces are composed of more diverse people.
But every new generation of bosses faces hurdles that seem to make the job tougher than it ever was. The introduction of the telephone and air travel created many of the same challenges as the computer revolution--as did the introduction of the telegraph and trains. Just as every new generation of teenagers believes they have discovered sex and their parents can’t possibly understand what it feels like to be them, believing that that no prior generation of bosses ever faced anything like this and these crazy times require entirely new ways of thinking and acting are likely soothing to modern managers. These beliefs also help so called experts like me sell our wares. Yet there is little evidence to support the claim that organizations—let alone the humans in them—have changed so drastically that we need to invent a whole new kind of boss.
I'd love your reactions!
P.S. Note that Gen Y and Gen X really aren't much different than any other new generation of employees in terms of what they want -- even though there is a small industry around dealing with these so-called new kinds of workers. Certainly, younger workers want different things than older workers -- but this has always been the case and what they want has always been pretty similar -- be they baby boomers, Gen X, Gen Y, or whatever. See this piece by Wharton's Peter Cappelli, perhaps the most prestigious talent researcher in academia, where he discusses the evidence, which show a few differences, but nothing dramatic.