THE BLOG
07/31/2013 09:26 am ET Updated Sep 30, 2013

Managers, Like Messengers, Should Not Be Shot At

In the world of corporate administration, you will find your various levels or classes of positions; CEOs, vice presidents, and directors. And then you come to the "manager" -- the person who is supposedly there to help guide the organization from a worker-level view, and help coordinate tasks and functions to keep the wheels turning. But in my experience in most companies, being called a manager is more akin to being a corporate scapegoat -- a person who is expected to shoulder the blame, the person who has to take the hits, and the poor guy or gal who continually gets fingers (of various digits) pointed at him or her on a daily basis. When something bad is happening, the manager is typically the messenger who gets shot at.

By definition, a manager is supposed to manage. By Webster's definition, a manager is one who "handles or directs with a degree of skill". But when you think about it, handling or directing something can mean a lot of things. It can mean handling or directing a problem, it can mean handling or directing a task or project -- it just seems very generic to me. What I see as the dividing line that define's whether I will enjoy or hate being a manager, all lies in the people I'll be working with, plain and simple. Managing angels and managing assholes are two very different experiences.

Managing good, nice people has the immediate feel of cooperation, of flexibility and give/take, of mutual respect, of mutual goals. It feels like you are working with old friends. It feels like being surrounded by intuitive, smart people. It just feels positive and creative.

Managing people who are not nice, has its own set of connotations. Save for those who are mean, abrupt, pushy, spiteful, or just unsociable, people who make managing a painful ordeal would also include know-it-alls, analyticals, and those damn told-you-so types who always know more than you do but never offer anything useful or positive towards the goal. People who would complain all day but wouldn't lift a finger to help fix anything. People who would sit and stare at you during a staff meeting, with a snarled look on their face as if to say "you have no idea what you're talking about". People who are boat anchors to any organization.

Managing in an organization can be a very positive, eye-opening, exciting experience. The ability to use your personal skills to engage coworkers, to motivate and enlighten, and to give voice to those who have great insights, is a great outlook for any job. But in some companies, being a manager is nothing more than being a walking target - a person who exists in the company who is meant to be stepped on, used as fodder, and blamed for everything that is wrong in the world.

Great organizations herald the efforts of their managers, as the positive messenger and bridge between workers and the administration. Bad organizations use their managers as human shields meant to deflect or absorb the badness and negativity in a company.

Learn to leverage the managers in your organization, for the good of the company and it's efforts. Because a manager, like any messenger, it there to inform and enlighten, not to be shot at.