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21st Century Managers must suspend bias of their own experience

Updated: Jan 5, 2021

A typical management personnel with an MBA coming out of a reputed management institute will know how to run business looking at market conditions, when to take loans from bank, how to use customer feedback to better a product, will be good with his numbers P&L and operating margin and most importantly how to use his resources including human resources. Only in India we have 3.5 lakh MBA graduates coming out every single year. Trust me that each of them are good with the above and in case necessary they will use incentives, bonus and onsite tactics to motivate or retain talent however on the other hand they are all well adept at pulling the pants down of an employee in case of any risk or escalations or disobedience. That is their way of holding someone accountable for the job. This has been an accepted management practice for a very long time and it was working because of socio-economic conditions, generational theory and lack of Information technology maturation. In 21st Century the same knowledge and tactics are not working, managers and leaders are in utter dismay at their inability to manage and control the present workforce since attritions are not coming down, engagement is not going up and stress is not going away.

The Bias Of My Experience

When I started my professional career as a technical support representative back in 2006 I liked what I was doing but my ambition was to become a team leader since I was so impressed at the charisma and authority of a team leader. Words like " I will take away your happiness" used to be in vogue when it came to one on one with managers or team meetings. When we used to be called in for a team meeting we knew we are in for a ride. Also the experience that I had to punch in a break code for a 15 mins break that cannot be exceeded however all team leaders and managers can go for a break whenever they want was itself very motivating to get to that role quickly, leave alone anything else. The present generation might get angry and think it is unfair for only a team leader or manager to have that privilege however in my time we never had that feeling, we used to think that they have every right to do so since they have worked their way up and so we also have to go through that same drill and earn that position and privilege So I used to work very hard, day and night, I remember of days when me and couple of my best buddies stayed in office for 3 days without going back home since we were enjoying taking calls, resolving customer issues, troubleshooting, going to lab and researching. That was not only one time though, it had repetitions. At the back of my mind was the fierce zeal to be the best on floor, see our names on the board as top stack rankers on floor, earn more overtime money and of course get a promotion as soon as possible. Eventually it happened, the day came much too quickly than I had ever expected. So when I became a team leader I started using my experience of what I saw, what I heard from my leaders. I became them and now I have people below me in ranks who will ask me for a break whereas I can take anytime...

The Generational Theory

German Sociologist Karl Mannheim in his 1928 essay "The problem Of Generations" introduced the generational theory which is being thoroughly researched and advanced even today. It basically states that the generation a person belongs to determines to a certain extent his or her thought, feelings and even behavior and people the same generation were called Age Cohorts. This was later on supported and complimented by theory of collective memories published in 1988 by American sociological review, it concluded that memories and events during our adolescence have greater impact on our feelings and behavior. The generation during 1940s saw lot of wars being fought, they are hardwired to look for safety and security. You will find them valuing loyalty to the same company till they retire as they expected them to be taken care of by their leaders. They valued the Gold watch. Generation during 60s saw Civil right movements, famines, killings of presidents so that generation valued having savings for difficult times, they will invest in housing, bank balances and would cherish designations and titles. The Age cohorts of 70s and 80s saw industrial revolution, globalization, migrations, Boeing 747 an so on so they started believing in meritocracy and work life balance. The current generation saw Haitan Earthquakes, social media, internet boom, Tsunami, Hurricane Katrina and other environmental hazards so you will find people more aware of environment now and people like Greta Thunberg is not a coincidence and we know that there are thousands of Greta in society now.

Needless to say that the current generation does not value gold watch or meritocracy nor they are limited by job market, this generation can do multiple jobs at same time or create an online business and can do work from home or can do shares trading sitting on a beach on his smartphone during a vacation. Since the previous generation invested their time and effort in making money that means when they became parents they gave their children what they wanted, they became friends with their children as opposed to an authority figure in household, they nurtured their children, pampered them as opposed to training them. The result of this deadly combination of helicopter parenting, technology addiction, smart work as opposed to hard work and becoming a billionaire at an young age dream ( highly ambitious) has resulted in the current generation of workforce which managers term as " entitled, Myopic, impatient and impossible to manage"

The Wall between us and the Better us

.......So I was telling you about how I became one of them, the very infamous group of people called managers. For many years I was a follower of old school management practices, Thankfully somehow although I was capable of taking pants down of defaulters and poor performers during one on ones and team meets but I could never say those words confidently that I heard from my leaders " I will take away your happiness", it felt very inhuman and sounded theocratic. I saw the same management style adopted by my age cohorts. The collective memory explains that. However our experience with the people whom we were managing were not the same as we expected. This observation grew stronger and stronger in the next 14 years. The question I had was whether it is an issue with me or the current generation and I am sure right now every single manager and leader is searching for that answer since all of us are having a real hard time managing today's workforce who would simply leave organizations like an IPL team or club football team who would bid more for players to buy them. Also a surprising trend that we see now that employees does not want to become people managers and leaders, they are very happy to remain as individual contributors, keep doing some certifications from time to time and keep getting more and more money from organizations & prefer a strict "No disturb post work job". They are even fine with highly stressful environments provided they get paid well and does not get bothered post work hours. The generational theory partly explains why, since this generation do not have shared memories of your generation so they are different. The second part of the problem is that there is a hopelessness among current generation that things will ever change so why not make a deal with number loving companies, you give us money and you have permission to squeeze every ounce of sweat and blood from us provided we do not have to hear from you after we sign off for the day. The third part of this problem is WE THE MANAGERS are not inspirational anymore to the present generation. Added to this, I also recollected that in my time managers used to get more compensation than an individual contributors and had better work life balance, compare that to today's world the table has been reversed, today your direct report can become your economic threat and can enjoy much better work life balance than you. So it makes complete sense on why no one wants to become a manager today. Neither we are inspiring nor we earn more nor we have better work life balance so which fool would aspire to be a manager or leader.

We cannot change the current generation and neither should we try to change since the current generation might have their own cons but they are a creative and entrepreneur lot. We have to do something with ourselves to change this situation. If we continue using the same management tactics like carrot and sticks, hire and fire, my way or highway of course we will cease to exist. Any which ways Global ageing is a harsh reality, in USA 50% of the executives are eligible to retire which means 10,000 execs ( baby boomers) to retire for the next 10 to 15 years and the next in line are also of the same generation and some might be from 70s and 80s. So unless we take the bull by its horns and solve this problem there will not be enough long lasting great organizations around us. The only thing that separates us from becoming a better version of ourselves is the great wall called our EXPERIENCE.

Change in Mindset

For a moment think about your manager taking care of you, treating you as a human first and defending you in crisis. For a moment think of going to work with a feeling that even if you do a mistake you have someone to save you. For a moment think of your manager buying you food and serving you at your workstation since you are too busy to take a break. If you had only these kind of experiences would you have become the manager you are acting as now? Our brain takes decision based on 2 things most of the time, one is pattern recognition and other one is emotions and feeling. The feelings we had when we were managed by our managers and the tactics that were used by them to manage us and business is somehow embossed within us. That is why even if we act nicer than our managers did to us you feel stressed out because you are having to go against your known success formula, on top of that when you see current generation being ungrateful to you even if you have magnanimously tried to give them what they wanted and make them happy, that kind of makes you mad isn't it. I understand your pain. Change happens through realization and not understanding. Organizations who invests billions in behavioral training of their employees trying to change the current generation's mindset must admit that the more experienced, the more mature, the more resilient must change first. If leaders and managers are not ready to suspend the bias of their own experience and reinvent the wheel to suit the nature and needs of current generation then there will be no change in behavior in their employees. We cannot lead today's workforce with the same rusted methods of 20th century since people are looking for something more from jobs now other than bonus and salary. At Google Headquarters at Mountain View, company provides Car wash, Oil change, Fitness & Yoga center, hair stylists, bicycle repair, dry cleaning, massage therapy and still people are not happy and you think you can manage this workforce with authority, perks and compensation, Good luck.

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