It’s Time To Quit Bashing The Manager

Jan 22, 2016 1 Min Read

So often we blame the manager when issues arise in the workplace. And recently, companies such as Zappos are deciding to do away with the manager position altogether and are turning to a concept called “holacracy”.

According to, this structure “removes power from a management hierarchy and distributes it across clear roles, which can then be executed autonomously, without a micromanaging boss”.

Since Zappos announced that its organisational structure would no longer contain job titles and put everyone in charge of their own work, about 14% of Zappos’ employees (about 200 people) have accepted severance rather than participate in the company’s new organisational structure.

This might interest you: Holacracy And Zappos: Method Or Madness?

Where is the middle ground, and what are we missing when it comes to the important role of the manager?

As chief executive officers, we must count the manager among our most valuable resources. In my own experiences, an empowered and enthusiastic management team allows me to be more effective in the performance of our responsibilities. The manager is our conduit to executing our strategic and operating goals.

Unfortunately, and unfairly, the manager takes the blame for the shortcomings of how many companies are structured.

While we must attack wasteful structures, processes and positions, the role of the manager should not be eliminated. Instead, the role of the manager must be re-tooled for today’s organisation.

Consider the following.


1. Managers are not the problem

The traditional role of the manager is the problem. Our own inefficiencies and bureaucracies are the problem.

If we put the manager in an organisation that is designed (intentionally or not) to maintain the status quo, kill creativity and fear risk-taking, why are we surprised when the manager exhibits this behaviour?

The “micromanager” is often a symptom of an organisation that is perfectly designed to generate this result by not promoting a culture of empowerment and by not giving the manager the tools and training to develop his or her team.

Blaming the manager ignores the real issue which is that many businesses operate using antiquated “command and control” philosophies.


2. Many business fail to articulate organisational clarity, regardless of structure

Managers often are vested with responsibility but lack proper authority or tools to execute on the company’s strategic objectives. At this point, managers justifiably are frustrated, and that frustration spills over to the front lines.

Once again, the problem is not with the manager per se, it’s with a company’s failure to communicate structures, values and accountability and appropriately empower its managers.


3. Some companies offer little to no training in how to develop managers

This includes how to develop managers to clearly communicate, how to promote accountability and how to lead. And again, is this the manager’s problem or is it a problem in how executives develop them?

Consider that many managers were promoted from front line positions due to their work ethics and technical competence. These attributes don’t necessarily prepare someone to manage people in today’s business environment.

The hiring of managers via promotion from within will work best if there is an accompanying plan to develop the high potential employee into an effective “manager of people” first and foremost.

Somehow, many of us have bought into the contrast between a “leader” and a “manager”. In reality, our best managers are leaders. Are we making the appropriate effort to groom our managers into leaders?

Check out also: 7 To-Dos As A First-Time Manager


4. Today’s manager is the key to ensuring that your culture permeates throughout the entire business

A healthy culture is the convergence of the right people and process. It is about the right behaviours, philosophies and attitudes. Our cultures must be leader-driven and employee-owned.

Today’s manager ensures that all employees are aligned with the company’s values, strategy and mission.

Today’s manager looks beyond technical skills and KPIs (key performance indicators) to ensure that unwanted behaviours are eliminated from the company (i.e. lack of empowerment, status quo thinking, and micromanaging).

Today’s manager kills waste and bureaucracy and establishes trust at the foundation of all relationships.

Recognise that appropriately trained and aligned managers are vital to the execution of the company’s mission and to the development of employees. Whether your business model is traditional or you adopt a new approach, a strong internal culture based on values, accountability and teamwork should always come first.


Concluding thoughts

Eliminating managers may sound appealing, but I say, don’t buy it. Some level of management structure is essential to our company’s growth and execution of its mission.

The manager is an asset; he/she is not the problem. Be sure that you have the right people in management roles.

Attack waste, bureaucracy, siloed thinking and outdated processes. Promote creativity and empowerment, and redefine the role of the manager to meet these needs.



Brian is also the owner and president of a logistics company in Houston. To learn about valuable talent retention strategies, email us at For more Hard Talk articles, click here.

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Corporate culture and management advisor Brian is the author of "Driving to Perfection: Achieving Business Excellence by Creating a Vibrant Culture", a book based on his 25 years of executive leadership experience.

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