Monday, October 31, 2011


The time has come once again when we turn to “Mr. Manager” to explain exactly what manager’s mean when they say such things as “people are our most valuable asset” or “we are looking for entrepreneurs” or “we want people who are not afraid of taking a risk” or the ever popular “we don’t shoot the messenger”. As everyone – including Mr. Manager – knows there is a huge difference between English and Management Speak. While the words sound the same the interpretation or meaning in Management Speak can be quite different from what the average employee may have understood. For example exactly what DOES a manager mean when he says people are our most valuable asset?

Well the typical employee hears and interprets this statement as focusing on “people” while the manager focuses on the word “asset”. The employees will see this statement as showing care and concern for the “people” and as an expression of concern and dedication to those who do the work but this isn’t precisely what is meant in Management Speak. While it is true Mr. Manager shows care and concern for his “people” he does the same for his Ferrari, after all one doesn’t mistreat an “asset” because it depreciates its value. So the focus by the Manager is not on the word “people” but the word “asset” because to the Manager these are interchangeable terms.

The proof of this assertion lies in the actions taken by the Manager when he is called to task by the accounting team and told he has to reduce his overhead, budget, or burn rate. Now the Ferrari, like most of the tangible assets have depreciated so the disposal value is much less than the cost of replacement, but not so that most valuable asset – the people. Disposing of a few hundred people immediately reduces the payroll, the travel, the healthcare, and all of the associated overhead. All of this falls to the bottom-line and thus demonstrates that People truly are the most valuable asset.

When the boss says “we are looking for entrepreneurs” or “risk takers” does that mean he wants people who are creative and willing to take a risk – as in high risk high reward? Mr. Manager can assure you that when the boss says he is looking for entrepreneurs he is telling the absolute truth. The boss is searching for entrepreneurs with the same verve and enthusiasm as the FBI is looking for serial killers with the same objective in mind – to eliminate them from society. Entrepreneurs are people who take risks, who see new ways, who – in short – upset the apple cart and threaten the status quo. No manager worth the name is going to tolerate having his apple cart turned into applesauce by some wild-eyed loose cannon who is out to reduce costs, improve efficiency, and show higher authorities that his boss is a moron. So yes indeed, the boss is certainly on the look out for entrepreneurs so he can give them the rewards they so justly deserve.

Periodically the boss will assure the staff that he is always looking for input from the rank and file and that he will reward good performance and sound suggestions. At some point, usually at some large gathering the Boss announces that he wants suggestions and that he wants to know what we think. Of course this is another one of those times when the English and the Management Speak don’t mean the same thing. The employee hears the Boss asking for the employees to give him assistance in determining the future – he hears a request for input and suggestions. But that is English and when you filter this through Management Speak, you immediately realize that while a cat might look at a King, it isn’t recommended procedure for an employee to take this statement seriously and to suggest anything to the Boss. When the boss says he is looking for input it is in the same category as the flashing “Applause” sign you see in TV studios. The Boss is willing to accept your compliments, applause, and congratulations but any actual advice is about as welcome as a bad case of hives – in fact your advice might just bring on the hives.

Of course the boss is always telling the employees that he wants their input and feedback and that he will reward their performance. Mr. Manager can assure you that when the Boss says “we reward performance” he is telling the absolute truth. Of course, you have to understand what is meant by “performance”. The more effusive your compliments, the higher your performance rating, while the more you actually offer advice or move outside of the established boundaries set by the boss, the lower your performance rating will sink. So my little Grasshopper, don’t be deceived when the Boss seeks your advice. When that happens, you smile, bow your head, and mumble that you cannot hope to improve upon the wisdom and brilliant incisive thinking that the Boss displays everyday. Assure him you hope to achieve only half of his wisdom and your performance rating will soar – as will the rewards.

It seems to me that you are telling us that we shouldn’t be candid when dealing with the boss, even though he tells us that he “won’t shoot the messenger”.

Well my little Grasshopper “We don’t shoot the messenger” is one of the most common management phrases that Mr. Manager is asked to comment on. Obviously your boss actually won’t shoot you – it’s against the law, besides it makes a mess on the carpet and possibly his Armani suit as well. But just because the boss won’t actually shoot you doesn’t mean that he is anxious to hear what you have to say. However, no manager is going to shoot the bearer of good news, effusive compliments, or outright flattery. Therefore, if you find yourself in the position of having to deliver bad news to the boss be sure that you wear your bullet proof vest. Well – not really because as we said it is unlikely the Boss will actually shoot you but come armed with some one to whom you can attribute bad news – sort of a human shield. Once the bad news is delivered don’t confuse the Boss’s silence or dumbfounded expression as acceptance. More than likely the boss is sitting there in stunned amazement at your complete lack of understanding of the issue instead. So while he won’t actually shoot the messenger he certainly will comment to his management colleagues on your lack of insight, reliability, and inability to grasp complex management problems. So in Management Speak, he really doesn’t shoot the messenger anymore than your typical crime boss actually disposes of an undesirable colleague – it just seems to happen.

I was due for a performance and salary review but my Boss promoted me from Bottle Washer and Coffee Maker Associate to the more prestigious position of Associate Coffee Maker and Bottle Washer and said that he would give me a review in six months. Why can’t he give me a review based on my previous position and another one on my new position in six months?

Mr. Manager must tell you once again that your question by itself shows you are not management material because you do not think like a manager. You look at this as performance review where the boss will tell you how well you are doing and give you tips on how to improve and possibly put yourself in line for his job. (Insert boss’s hysterical laughter) For the manager, the real reason is that he would have to increase your salary. The higher his operating costs the lower his performance bonus and no review means no increase in your salary. So when the boss tells you that he will conduct your review in six months what he is really saying, is that he will conduct your salary review after management bonuses are paid.

So there it is my little friend – all of your questions regarding what the Boss means when his actions don’t seem to fit with his words – have now been interpreted for you by Mr. Manager. Keep studying and watching how REAL managers operate and one day you too can become an oracle like Mr. Manager.

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