And just What Did They Think the Job Entailed?

Yesterday my manager's manager came around to deliver the "good" news that she had ramrodded the $1 million-plus purchase of SAP through the executives and the board. She stopped by the office next to mine to inform my co-worker that this wondrous acquisition will replace lots of other business systems, including the one that it is the dominant feature of his job.

Needless to say, he panicked, fearing that his job will be eliminated with that other system. Needless to say, everyone else that doesn't work on SAP panicked, fearing that our jobs will be eliminated in due time as SAP replaces everything else. Panic spread through the floor like a wildfire through Southern California tract homes.

After some intelligence gathering, it appears that the intent is not to immediately replace all of us although, of course, "some groups may no longer be needed". For whatever reason, she has decided that she is going to make or break her career here on "reduced costs through consolidation into SAP". It looks more like break than make right now since she lacks the support of either her vice president or any of the other divisions in the company. I really do not care whether she wants to gamble her career here on SAP.

What I do care about is whether she recklessly toys with the workers' emotions with vague, spotty, or non-existent communication. It is well-known that people fear change; there are many self-help and business books that discuss it. As large a change as replacing three or more systems with SAP is obviously something that will freak out the workers. Certainly the responsible thing to do for a manager is to communicate the change, including what it means for the workers, to the entire staff, all at once, in an honest and unambiguous fashion. The explanation I have heard from several people is that she does not have good people sense and is notoriously bad at communicating.

What the…?!?

The workers in her directorate write software; we do not make tennis shoes or widgets of any sort. Her managers do not manage technology or fabrication or any other physical process. They manage knowledge workers, whose work product is wholly intangible. Hence, she manages people that manage people.

In order to manage people, you need to have a good sense for people and a good way of communicating with them. This is so fundamental to management that it seems like a Duh! statement. If I was a manager and someone told me that in a didactic fashion, I would probably be insulted. If people are the resources to be managed, obvious skills with people would be paramount to the job.

Yet here we have a string of managers who lack even the most rudimentary people skills (e.g., the ability to foresee that workers whose jobs are threatened will freak out) and hire subordinate managers who are equally lacking. They have no clue that worker morale is plummeting, let alone that their ignorant actions are the cause.

While this episode will probably be good for Monster, I doubt it will be good for the company. Productivity is already down and I expect at least 10% of her directorate to make pre-emptive job changes. Those that remain will continue to walk on egg shells; I can not see top-notch work comings from people who feel that it is only a matter of time before they get their walking papers.

If these managers are not good with people and communicating, then what in the hell are they good for?

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