Agile Zone is brought to you in partnership with:

Johanna Rothman helps managers and teams solve problems and deliver products. Her most recent book is Manage your Project Portfolio: Increase Your Capacity and Finish More Projects. You can read her blogs and other writings at jrothman.com Johanna is a DZone MVB and is not an employee of DZone and has posted 117 posts at DZone. You can read more from them at their website. View Full User Profile

Bumping Into Manager Rules

02.20.2013
| 1501 views |
  • submit to reddit
You might have met a manager on a bad manager day. Equally as frustrating is when you work for a manager who has rules about problem solving.

I once worked for a manager who proudly said to me, “Don’t bring me a problem without bringing me a solution.” I blinked once and said, “Why would I bring you a problem I could solve?”

He stopped, and said, “Ooh.” Some of you will recognize that as the programmer’s refrain. “Oooh,” is what you say when you realize the computer has done something you told it to do, but is not what you meant it to do.

“Don’t bring me a problem without bringing me a solution” is an example of management incongruence. Not because a manager means to be. But because a manager might not know better. My manager wanted to challenge me. Believe me, I was challenged! I wasn’t being lazy. I wasn’t being stupid. I was stuck. I needed help. I didn’t know where to go for help.

Even in agile teams, the manager might be the right person to go to. The manager might not be. The manager might not have the answer. But the manager might be the right person to free the impediment, to know who has the answer, or to help with problem-solving.

This is why when managers have rules about problem solving, they make life difficult for everyone else. Managers don’t have to be perfect. They have to work work hard at staying congruent, which is different than being perfect. Much different than being perfect.

congruenceThis is a picture of what I mean by congruence. When the manager takes him or herself, the other person, and the context into account, the manager is congruent. When the manager stops taking the other person into account, the manager blames the other person. When you bump into manager rules such as “Don’t bring me a problem without a solution,” your manager is blaming you for not having a solution.

When the manager stops taking him/herself into account, the manager placates. Managers who say, “Yes,” to all work and never say No and don’t manage the project portfolio placate the rest of the organization.

Managers who ignore both themselves and the other person are super-reasonable. Remember Ever Have a Bad Manager Day? I was being super-reasonable, ignoring me and the other person and the fact that we were human. Hah! That didn’t last long. There are are other incongruent stances, but those are the big three.

Does this mean managers can’t be human? Oh, no, they sure can be, and are! And, they need to watch out for these rules that make them less effective. Incongruent stances do not help managers manage. Incongruent stances and rules make it more difficult for managers to do a great job.

If you would like to read more about bumping into manager rules, take a look at my next myth, Management Myth 14: I Must Always Have a Solution to the Problem. Let me know if you like my suggestions.

Published at DZone with permission of Johanna Rothman, author and DZone MVB. (source)

(Note: Opinions expressed in this article and its replies are the opinions of their respective authors and not those of DZone, Inc.)