Ed Tyrrell

The Manager: a company’s worst enemy?

I recently watched the above TED talk about why the office often seems to be the worst place to get work done and some suggestions on how to change this. The introduction called it a radical opinion, yet to me it seems anything but. I agree 100% with what he says, and I was happy to see a TED talk about the subject. The worrying thing is that it may be perceived as radical thinking when in reality it is quite logical.

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The speaker claimed that ‘M&Ms’ are probably the biggest cause of distraction and or interruption to the working day, not Facebook nor YouTube nor other such distractions that we might normally blame.

‘M&Ms’, or ‘Managers & Meetings’, tend to prevent the average person from being able to build up any steam in their activities. The speaker in this video suggests that work, like a good night’s sleep, is something that only happens without interruption. We all know what it is like to get up after a night of interrupted sleep. I guess we all know what it is like to go home after a day of interrupted work, too.

After presenting his arguments, he goes on to introduce several suggestions that may help decrease interruptions and increase productivity. These potential solutions would most likely make a difference to most offices. Of course, there are certain types of work that could be considered exceptions, and this will probably always be the case.

The part of this talk that I found particularly interesting was the part about the disruptive manager. The reason I found this interesting is because before I became an English language professional, I worked for a couple of large companies and had a number of different managers, most of whom were disruptive. However, I didn’t really realise this until I met the last manager I was to have before changing careers completely and opening my own activity.

This last manager became my role model. First thing every morning, he came to my office and said: “Morning Ed, what can I do for you today?”. His idea, and mine today, was that a manager’s main responsibility was to support his or her team, to ensure that they have whatever is necessary for getting the job done: peace and quiet included. He often acted as a ‘bodyguard’ absorbing terrible interruptions from outside, things such as unnecessary meetings and conference calls. He took the questions that may otherwise have come through to me, and only if absolutely necessary did he come to me with them. When he did come to me, it was in a very organised fashion; he never came with only one question. He saved them up so as not to be consistently disturbing me.

This is one school of thought, of course. There are others who believe that managing people must be done in other, stricter ways, and who is to say which is the best way? Studies carried out seem to demonstrate that the two main philosophies on management both work: or least have done until today.

However, today’s world is a different beast. To quote a well-known artist “times they are a changing”, and maybe management styles need to, too. I believe that in order to attract and retain the best people, managers and companies must remember that exact word: people. You are dealing with people. If you treat people well, you can be quite confident of a good response. If you treat people badly, you can expect something similar in return.

My personal opinion today is that any manager who truly understands his or her role understands that they have one of the hardest jobs in existence. They are in the middle – a negotiator of sorts – and must try to keep both the employees and the directors and/or board happy.

To do this, a manager must find and retain the best people for the job and make sure that those same people have everything they need to complete their work: including peace and quiet.

In conclusion, I would like to leave you with this one simple question that may challenge you in your position as a manager: do you interrupt or facilitate your staff’s work?