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Useless?

Entry 851, on 2008-09-15 at 21:18:26 (Rating 5, Comments)

I recently read an opinion by Robert X. Cringely, the well-known IT commentator, which suggested that many managers are fairly ignorant and incompetent and that, in the situation where job cuts are necessary it should be them who go, not the staff further down the hierarchy. Every situation is different and should be treated on its merits but overall I think he's right.

Why should the manager's job be cut when things go wrong? Well first, he probably gets paid as much as two or three programmers or consultants so you save more. Also he is ultimately responsible for the success or failure of the organisation so why shouldn't he have to accept the consequences. Also many of them don't actually seem to do anything so whether they are there or not doesn't really matter.

Many people I talk to about this find their managers really are useless. A comment at Slashdot made one interesting point. It was this: "The very best manager you could ever have manages the people above him, not the people below him." In other words, your manager should be there to protect you against the actions of other managers.

So this seems to imply that the only purpose of managers is to protect the real workers from the idiotic ideas of other managers. Why don't we just get rid of them all? I don't know why not if all they do is sit around in meetings with other managers trying to find ways to make the people who do the real work less productive by introducing more paper work or other forms of bureaucracy.

I have heard from some people that they have good managers so I suppose that my tirade above is a bit unfair to those people who actually do a good job, but as a profession managers don't seem to get a lot of respect so maybe my criticism is justified.

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Comment 9 (1658) by OJB on 2008-09-20 at 22:05:16: (view earlier comments)

Are you, or were you ever, a manager in a large organisation?

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Comment 10 (1664) by SBFL on 2008-09-20 at 23:14:50:

Yes, I am. A useful one I hope, not useless!

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Comment 11 (1665) by OJB on 2008-09-21 at 11:33:19:

Well of course you think you're useful! All managers think they are useful. Who knows, maybe you are. I guess there are some good managers around or things would be even less efficient than they already are!

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Comment 12 (1666) by SBFL on 2008-09-21 at 12:20:34:

Try not to take me too seriously there. Generally all people think they are right, but often that's not the case. It's also convenient for people to blame their leaders when things don't go right for themselves, whether it's warranted or not.

I have to say that even Chris Trotter and Matt McCarten on a particularly bad mood day wouldn't have written the radical comments you did in this post. I'm sure even they realise that "uselessness" is a trait found at all levels in an organisation.

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Comment 13 (1667) by OJB on 2008-09-21 at 17:13:19:

Yes, I agree with most of that: it is convenient to blame "leaders" when its often not their fault, and you are totally correct that uselessness exists at all levels: 90% of everything is crap (Sturgeon's first law).

But my contention is that the very profession of manager itself is useless, or at least it is in its modern form. So that goes beyond a certain percentage of individuals in that profession being useless, they are all (by definition) useless! (I did mention I'm being provocative here, right).

John Ralston Saul wrote some interesting stuff on this subject. I'll see if I can find a reference (unless you are already with it).

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