THE BLOG

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Bruce Tulgan Headshot

Can You Be a Hands-On Manager in a Hands-Off Culture?

Posted: Updated:

Sometimes managers tell me, "This organization is very conservative. We don't believe in confrontation. We don't like to rock the boat... So the culture is very hands-off management." Just as often managers tell me, "This organization is very progressive. We let employees do their own thing. We don't like to boss people around... So the culture is very hands-off." Sometimes managers say, "Our organization is very large and there is lots of red tape and bureaucracy... So the culture is hands-off." Other managers say, "Our organization is very small and there is more of a family dynamic in the workplace... So the culture is hands-off." Or else, "Our work is very technical... So the culture is hands-off." Or, "Our work is very creative... So the culture is hands-off." Or else, "Our employees are much older... So the culture is hands-off." Or, "Our employees are much younger... So the culture is hands-off." Or, "Our employees do low level grunt work... So the culture is hands-off." Or, "Our employees are all high level professionals... So the culture is hands-off management..."

You get the idea.

Think about it. Corporate culture is the combined web of shared meaning and shared social practices that develop between and among people in an organization. Remember? There is an under-management epidemic throughout the workplace, at all levels in organizations of all shapes and sizes. So of course most corporate cultures support a hands-off status quo in which hands-off managers often feel like ducks out of water.

What can you do about it? Be different.

And don't keep it a secret. Let people know. Embrace the identity: Be the manager who is not afraid to be the boss. Be the manager who is strong. Be hands-on.

You might find out that the culture supports good management after all. Indeed, there may be more hands-on managers in your midst than you realize, doing their thing beneath the radar.

Or you might find that being a strong hands-on manager really makes you a maverick in your particular organization. That's ok. Be the maverick. Stand out as that manager who is really serious about the work and always goes the extra mile when it comes to managing. (Think about the teachers in school who were always considered the best teachers. You know, the teacher who was really into what she teaches, very demanding, strict but fair, and always got the very best out of students.)

Beware: Being the maverick can be uncomfortable. Be uncomfortable. Do it anyway.