“Management From Hell”

A week ago I sat in a gathering of young and seasoned minds, all working in the communication field. Most were in Public Relations,it was a PR meet, greet and mentor. So many different areas of the field was represented. Some were in Crisis Management, Brand management, many employed by global agencies and much more. A small group of us sat and discussed issues such as the latest fall from grace in the world of media and corporate culture, I found myself intrigued. I missed that world… I missed academia… I had missed sitting amongst great thinkers and dreamers and creators. I felt normal as if I was in my element. I went home and started thinking about the past 3 years of my life. Had I learned anything? Indeed I did. I must admit I had forgotten how to be observant and how to think critically.

Communication: The text books will tell you that, communication is not a one or two directional thing, it’s cyclical. What I have found to the point of utter frustration, is that there are far too many holes in lines of communication. Many of which start with one person not liking their counterparts. Unfortunately, this is also counterproductive, because the staff is often confused as to whom to go to for help. Adding to that, is getting two different answers for the managers. The very same managers that demand that you communicate with them, with clarity. Even more damaging is when that poor information sharing doesn’t make it to your boss’s meeting… and somehow it’s someone else’s fault. Was it not his or her job to check on the progress long before the meeting?

Management: Nothing frustrates me more than poor or bad management. In fact, it frustrates and destroys the work environment, poisoning the staff that is supposed to be guided or trained a new skill. What does it mean for the future of that agency or company? You be the judge…

Organizational Culture: This is a system, if you will, of beliefs, values and mindset that governs the people of the organization. It’s the reason why they dress the way they do. The culture dictates, how people act, interact and do their jobs. It’s a reproduction factory.

The Leaders from the pit:

Manager A: The Exo, the Tyrant commander. Shortly before Christmas this manager, displeased with something begins yelling at the top of their lungs. Cursing and berating the department’s head in front of the entire department. It wasn’t long before the Exo turned and went after the rest of the staff. Hovering over them, demanding that the promptly answer her! The staff scrambled to their prospective keyboards. Each one pulling up something on their screens, to prove the worth of their lowly existence. One stuttered out of fear, when explaining the project to the Tyrant commander. The “leader” went around the room barking out “what are working on!” No one deared to challenge this behavior. Unfortunately this is common place.

Manager B: A department head, a Tumbleweed leader. This one like it’s codename, seems to just muddle along the road of leadership. Uncertain about the staff’s strengths or weaknesses. Lacking the ability to teach, train or inspire the staff to greatness. This manager is also known for yelling. The Tumbleweed is also disliked by staff, other managers and the brass. The department, functions in a perpetual state of flux. The manager’s own insecurity is projected on to and leaks from the pores of the staff.

Manager C: This is a team of Supervisors, Absentee parents. The pair have about 30 staff they’re responsible for training. It’s a customer service department, so it’s not rocket science. However, the staff is divided and often times fight amongst themselves, much like siblings. This is fitting, since the department is run like a junior high school classroom with a loud teacher who’s always yelling at their students to “keep it down”. The “supervisors” lack supervisory skills, were never taught how to manage people, don’t like each other, don’t communicate with each and are known for back biting. More than likely… were never handed a single book on management. The poor management has given birth to disengaged staff. It’s the same phenomenon that happens when parents are missing from their children’s lives.

Manager D: Apathetic Leadership, this is truly a sad state. This manager has probably been in their position for far too long. He has seen it all, the corruption, the abuse of power and of staff but does nothing to change the system or circumstance. When questioned about the ongoing abuse and berating of a staff member. The manager’s response was “I know”. And claimed nothing could be done because the person wasn’t under his direct management. Truly sad that, that young man had to endure years of abuse! Thankfully, his tormentor, after about 10 years, was fired. No thanks to the Apathetic Leader.

Manager E: The Stalworth, this individual is not the manager but by all accounts should be. This is the “go to guy”, he knows where everything is, where the bodies are buried, he is the phantom manager. When Tumbleweed needs something done, the Stalworth gets in done. When the Tyrant commander wants answers… the Stalworth is thrown under the truck and served up on a platter by the Tumbleweed….

It has been my displeasure to witness these managers first-hand. Would you believe they all work in the same agency?

Over 20 years ago I heard a pastor peach a sermon on Genesis 30:25-31:16. If you’re not familiar with the story, fear not, I’ll explain it, but I want you CEOs and managers to truly listen. Jacob’s father-in-law tried to cheat him. After many deals to win his daughter’s hand. Jacob made a deal, give him the spotted sheep. In his brilliance he took reeds and laid them in the water in front of the spotted sheep. The water was speckled and drew the spotted sheep and they multiplied exponentially. The pastor said that, what you put before the congregation is what your church will be… sounds familiar?

From the top, down, your company’s or agency’s culture will reflect you. In the above case, the organizational culture is one of fear, stress and intimidation. It is a highly toxic atmosphere. The leadership demands better performance but fails to lead by example. They fail to serve, to teach and to train. The results, is not only a culture of fear, but massive mistakes.

It is not too late for a change in your organization or in the above one. But it means seriously restructuring things, including firing key people if need be. Well, if you want a success story that is…

“Just A Thought”

    If you are easily offended by common sense analysis Or “triggered” when you hear something you don’t like. If racism or racist is the first thing that comes out your mouth for everything. Then you might want to stop reading. I am not responsible for your melt down. For the rest of you, let’s continue…
      Stop blaming outside forces for your situation. Clear your mind and think on this… you are poor and or living where you live because of your parents. For example, you grew up the Pj’s, 

trailer park,

  the wrong side of town

, you inherited that. Your parents moved there, possibly because it was all they could afford as a young couple Or a single parent. Perhaps they had little to no education. I mean, not enough education to pull them out of their situation. Raising you would make it even harder for them to save and move out. Did they give you siblings to play with while still living “there”… well, there’s no way they were getting out…

      Did they raise you to believe other ethnicities are smarter and better than you? That the deck is stacked so don’t even try? That school is okay but you need a real job? Did you have an educational opportunity but were held back, because your parents said there was no one there that look like you? Then this, is the continuation of the cycle of poverty…

     I told my kids “you don’t have to be what you are today, you can always change” We taught our children that a better education and a good career choice is their key to moving 2 or 3 maybe even 5 steps further than we did. We stressed reading at an early age, we filled our house and surrounded them with books, opening up worlds of possibilities to tbem. We set them at tables with folks in wheelchairs and with speech impediments. Japanese, Iowans, Canadiens, Ugandans, Kenyons, pastors, missionaries, prayer warriors. Our vacations were under the open sky with trees, sands of Jamaica, quiet mountains, the Amish Country and fresh air….but we live in the south Bronx. Surrounded by trucks, buses, smog, rats, roaches, gunshots, drug dealers and only two supermarkets and one fresh vegetable stand. This is where they were raised. Following blood trails into their building on the way home from school and church. Startled awake at night because we lived above the O.K Corral. Cars screeching, Sirens blaring, helicopters circling, cops swarming… Our children inherited this world because of their parent’s and grandparent’s choices.  We chose to move there but we never lived there. One of my Mantra was “there are bars on the windows not on your mine” basically telling the children, there’s no cause to act like prisoners or fools. We didn’t have, they didn’t have everything we wanted but our needs were met… and when from time to time, our needs weren’t met, we lived. There was never a thought of doing anything criminal for a loaf of bread. At one point I took my oldest son with me to stand of a long line at a local church food pantry. We brought home a massive can of beans, rice and such. We lived! With no shame! We made it through a slim year. We trained our children to be grateful for what they had but to always strive to do better…

      So how did we get here…? Mom’s and Pop’s. Mother in law, was an immigrant to the United States her daughter was a first-generation American. She assimilated well, excelled in education and was indeed a critical thinker. But she also made poor relationship choices as did I. My mother and father were born and raised in these united states. They dealt with and lived through Northern bigotry. My mother, was on her way to become a seamstress. She went to Fashion Needle trade High School which became Fashion Industry. My father, with an engineering mind, was a U.S Air force  mechanic and a Machinist. He went to Aviation High School. I inherited their mechanical and creative skills. But I also inherited poverty. The old man move to a house in lower Westchester. Mom’s raised two kids as a single mother  in the projects of the Northeast Bronx. The 60’s didn’t allow them to move too far ahead in life. As for my mother, public housing was a necessary choice on the budget she had. She was a factory worker at one point before she landed a city job. This was my starting point in life.

     I, on the other hand,

 wasted my talent and brains on drugs and alcohol during the 80’s. It took years to erase most of the damage I’d done to myself. After being homeless for about 3 years, I landed in the south Bronx and it’s where I met my wife. Both single parents raising two children. We married and had two more. She’d just finished law school, I was makimg due on public assistance. We made a plan, gained our Independence from public assistance in about 6 years. Then lived off what we made. We agreed on me finishing my own education. So, I worked hard to get my GED, BA and MS in a straight 6 year run. The plan was to move from where we were, to somewhere less noisy and congested perhaps another state. That always proved difficult because we had 6 kids. Their needs came before our savings. We didn’t have cable or anything like that because we chose to save what little we had for a yearly vacation…

    We taught the children  the value of money and the value of saving and the value in working hard. Never did we point to race, complexion or anything else for our position in life. True, had our parents known a little more, or had it a little easier or had the foresight, things may have been better. But their generation kicked down doors. Ours just had to walk through them. The excuses were over, it was/is our job to continue forward. My children would face bigotry on their own. But we refused to raise them with that sword over their heads. They saw the examples before them, parents that did not let anything stop them from succeeding in their goals. What they do with that as adults, is up to them.  But we gave them enough tools to Forge ahead… 

     Now, if any one of them want to use today’s pop culture lies and say its the government’s faults, minimum wage fault, it’s the color of their skin fault or anything else as a reason for not succeeding I would wholeheartedly slap them in the back of the head.  We are born where we are because of our parents. We live where we are because of our parents, we get out or gets stuck because of our parents. Their inability to move forward becomes our inability to live much less move forward. In the case of our parents and how we raised our children, it wasn’t about our inability to move forward but our ability to train and propel our children to move forward as did the generations of parents and our families did before us. It makes no sense at all and you shoot yourselves in the foot for generations to come, when you fail to push children to move forward. If you’re living in poverty, within at least one to two generations that could be done away with. You may not become filthy rich but that also depends on the educational level and the job choice of whatever family member that rises to become the first millionaire in the family. My bloodline is filled with creative types as well as Academia, so we may never be billionaires. But we’ll be professionals and small business owners and in the service industry. I have yet to see someone demonstrate my dad’s engineering skills but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist…

       All of the above can be said for the wealthy as well. Many had great ideas and created an empire. Some large enough to employ hundreds and thousands of people. Some inherited wealth because their parents bequeath them money through insurance or investments. That’s foresight by the way. What ever way the children received their wealth it was their parents that got them there. Unfortunately we have become an angry nation hating what we don’t understand and blaming others for our misfortune…. when the reasons are much closer than we think.

      I set across from my 14 year daughter  last Thursday when I thought to make this a fb post. I knew it was far too much. I started at home and finished in a hotel room. What sparked this thought???  We were sitting in IHOP when she said she wants to sell candy in school. 

Yes! I thought, I’ve been trying to get her older siblings to do it for years. Anyway, I agreed. We discussed profits and overhead cost and how to be competitive. One school mate only sells to his Mexican brethren. The other, a girl, sells a variety of candy for a buck. I said he cornered the niche market and told her how she can steal the other girls clients. “If you sell yours for 75 cents, not only would you build your business but you’ll gain her customers as well” Hey, what dad wouldn’t teach his kid that? So, since she’s not overly competitive at the moment( just give it time) we agreed on the $1 pricing. But I added that she should add something to her box that her competitor doesn’t have. We shook hands on a deal between us. I would front the cost of 2 to 3 boxes of candy, she’d pay me back at the end of the school. Plus I get a small share of the profits, 10 cents off of each bar sold…
     These principles that we teach or lack thereof, are for the future but the decisions are made now. Not everything is about somebody else doing something to us but about us making choices.

      Until next time….