5 ways to avoid the manager power trip

Have you ever had a job where all you could think is “I can’t wait until I’m the manager so someone else can do this crap work?” No? me either. These situations do exist, though, and in some company cultures this dictator-like behavior becomes so ingrained that the cycle becomes difficult to break, not all that different from hazing at boarding schools or college fraternities and sororities.

As I was setting up to write this post, I stumbled across an article that directly ties to why you need to avoid the manager power trip – “The Real Cost of Bad Bosses.” The stats paint a much uglier picture than what I would’ve expected if you asked me to make a best guest on the majority of the graphics shown. It also touches upon the direct financial costs associated with awful bosses. I’d argue that there are some subtleties between management and leadership that are blended in that particular article, but the overall message remains – people need to change the way they manage, which begins with avoiding the manager power trip.

1. Remember How You Felt On The Receiving End of Overreacting Rants

This one’s simple. If you didn’t like when your manager talked to you in a way that made you feel like hot garbage, don’t do it to the person that follows in your footsteps. Most of us are self-aware to know if patience is our strong suit, and if it isn’t, this needs to be a priority. While “with rank comes privilege” is still alive and well, personal development doesn’t stop once you obtain the title of “manager.” Yes, employees will have to compromise to their manager’s work styles but the fact is that your team will perform at a higher level if you demonstrate some flexibility of your own.

2. Get Your Hands Dirty (i.e. Continue Producing Work Product)

Often once people get to the manager level, there is a certain perception that the details are for the minions that work for them. When managers start thinking that certain tasks are beneath them, especially when the team is pressed for time and the manager clearly isn’t doing anything, that’s when teams fall apart and end up focusing more on “checking the box” than the quality of the end product.

3. Don’t Neglect The Future

Setting the tone with your team where you don’t get in the trenches with them when work is really under the gun establishes the perception that you don’t care about your team, and as you might expect, this feeling will be mutual. Your team will look for the nearest available exit and will do everything in their power not to work with you again. I’ve seen the situation where people would rather quit their job without another lined up instead of working for a manager again. Think about that. At some point, you’re going to run out of resources to burn through, and this is especially true if you work in the consulting world.

4. Focus on Outcomes

One of the most detrimental things you can do to an employee is to micromanage how they execute on certain tasks. The fact is that people have different work styles, so if people that work for you can meet deadlines you establish and produce a quality output doing things their way, you should back off. They’ll be happier and you’ll have more time to “manage” other stuff that needs…managing.

5. Take Time To Teach AND Do It Timely

People make mistakes. It’s a fact of life. How you handle them is what will set you apart from other managers. Too often we see people receive “constructive feedback” months after the fact when they’re doing their annual or bi-annual performance reviews. It would be in your best interest and the individual in question to discuss any constructive feedback while events are still fresh. This provides the person an opportunity to remediate the undesired behavior/habit before a formal evaluation and gives you more time with an employee performing at a higher level (potentially) than if you wait to give your feedback. That’s what we in the business call a win-win situation.

What other ways would you recommend for someone not to fall victim to the manager power trip?