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Reblogged:'Asses in Seats' Mentality Alive and Well

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Over at Slate, Alison Green writes about the many ways a certain type of manager is suffocating otherwise good subordinates who are having to work from home for some reason or another.

working.jpg
Believe it or not, this man is being productive. Image by Mika Baumeister, via Unsplash, license.
Ultimately, the problem is that far too many companies have no idea how to effectively manage remote employees. Too many managers depend on the sense of control they get by seeing workers in front of them when everyone's in the office -- they're here and I can see they're not napping or watching TikTok, so they must be hard at work. When that's taken away, they try to replicate it by monitoring people remotely. But monitoring isn't management. Effectively managing people from afar means setting clear work goals and assessing people's progress against those, not making them account for how they've spent each minute of their workday. (This is also what effective management looks like on-site! Good managers set clear goals and give their workers space to fulfill them, no matter where people are located.) [bold added]
Alison Green is absolutely right when she says monitoring isn't management, and her description of the real thing reminds me of Ayn Rand's comments on managerial work:
Managerial work -- the organization and integration of human effort into purposeful, large-scale, long-range activities -- is, in the realm of action, what man's conceptual faculty is in the realm of cognition.
And yes, it requires operation on the conceptual level. Staring at someone isn't enough. And, while Green is right that the behaviors she catalogs indicate that the bosses in question don't know how to manage remote employees, that can be ignorance -- or a symptom of a deeper problem. Namely, the boss might have what Rand called an anti-conceptual mentality. Speaking of this, she says in relevant part:
A person of this mentality may uphold some abstract principles or profess some intellectual convictions (without remembering where or how he picked them up). But if one asks him what he means by a given idea, he will not be able to answer. If one asks him the reasons of his convictions, one will discover that his convictions are a thin, fragile film floating over a vacuum, like an oil slick in empty space -- and one will be shocked by the number of questions it had never occurred to him to ask. [bold added]
Like, "How can I tell someone is hard-working?"

A merely ignorant boss will be able to adapt relatively quickly with instruction or experience. The merely slow or lazy will eventually get up to speed, too. But someone whose mind is frozen at the perceptual level? Not so much. The boss Green mentions who daily wastes hours going over a to-do list one-on-one with a subordinate, oblivious to the fact that it's wasting the time of at least those two people might be a lost cause, and a problem to be worked around and eventually solved in one way or another.

There are many good reasons to prefer working with one's employees one-on-one, but the practical equivalent of staring over their shoulders isn't among them.

-- CAV

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