Are You Managing Scared?

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Are You Managing Scared?

In a candidate-driven market, a Zone Leader asks managers to evaluate their management style. A quiz is even offered to determine if you are managing scared.

· Agile Zone ·
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Don't be scared!

Don't be scared!

As Nicole and I prepare to start looking for a new home, we realized our primary area of interest is currently recognized as being in a "seller’s market." This basically means that there are more buyers than there are available homes for sale. As one might imagine, such a situation allows homes to be sold quickly — which also allows the homes to be sold for more than what they are actually worth. My challenge is figuring out how much we are willing to pay for a home in our primary area versus looking in an alternative area.

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This situation reminds me back to the early 2000s when I was looking for a family vehicle. By far, the vehicle everyone in my position was seeking was the Honda Odyssey minivan. It was roomy, comfortable and drove like a car. The fact that it kind of resembled a vacuum cleaner didn't seem to sway others...or maybe that attracted some buyers?

When I called the local Honda dealership and talked to a salesperson, I was asked how much I was willing to pay for the Odyssey. I wasn't sure the intent behind the question and responded with a bit of thirty-something sarcasm, "as little as possible, sir." Turns out, to buy a new Honda Odyssey, the buyer was asked to pay additional funds over the list price of the minivan. I was shocked and the call that I expected to last for about twenty minutes was over in about thirty seconds. There's not a single part of me that wants to pay more than the sticker price for something that loses 15-20% of its value once ownership is taken.

These topics made me wonder about IT managers in a candidate market.

It Is Still a Candidate's Market

Just like homes in my current area of interest and flocks of mini-van buyers seeking a Honda Odyssey in the early 2000s, there are more open technology positions than there are qualified candidates. As a result, candidates with strong and proven skills have a lot of opportunities available within the world of information technology (IT).

For existing IT managers, a primary challenge is maintaining the high expectations of technical staff members. Deep down, they realize that if a staff member is lost, the effort to replace the individual will not be fast and easy. As a result, I have seen cases where managers are taking an alternative approach to trying to maintain staff levels. I call it "managing scared."

The Managing Scared Approach

The Managing Scared approach is when the manager becomes more lenient than one would expect when it comes to handling situations with technical staff. This "don't rock the boat" approach conveys a message that the employees under management have more freedom than probably should be granted to them.

The big question for managers reading this article has to be, "am I managing scared?" To help you figure this out, I have prepared a short quiz that I hope you will take with an open and honest mind.

The Quiz

Simply answer the following five questions:

1. Do You Allow Bad Decisions to Happen Without Any Impact?

Employees make bad decisions from time to time. Coaching team members after a bad decision is always a good idea. The intent of this question is to ask if you are providing critical feedback and guidance when a bad decision is made.

2. Is There No Accountability for Team Members on Your Team?

Team members have responsibilities they are expected to perform. When the employee blatantly fails to meet the objectives expected by them, the manager is expected to intervene with the situation.

3. Do You Allow Paid Time off to Occur at Times When It Should Not Occur?

When employees accept an offer for employment, they become a member of the entity which is employing them. For the entity to be able to provide payment for their time, they must have some form of success in their industry or market. As such, there are times which known as "crunch times" for the organization. The expectation is that when a "crunch time" impacts the team member, asking for personal time off is not typically a good idea.

4. Do You Typically Have a Blind-Eye to Events That Are Transpiring?

Team members under management should be recognized as individuals. They each have different personas — maintaining their own identities, priorities, and agendas for their lives. There is an expectation that conflict will arise as these personas clash and differences in opinion begin to surface. As a manager, it is important to recognize these differences, but at the same time squash any unproductive events (or side effects) that can emerge before things escalate.

5. Do You Have a High Degree of Tolerance for Excuses That Have No Merit?

It is normal human behavior to maintain an excuse-driven mentality. I feel that such behavior is accommodated in primary educational institutions - which (unfortunately) helps cultivate this manner of thinking. Employment of the classic "dog ate my homework" form of excuse should not be something acceptable by a manager for a team of individuals getting paid to their job. Allowing such an environment to exist will only lead to further challenges for team management.

Scoring The Results

After honestly taking the quiz, count the number of times you answered "yes" to the five questions above. If your answer is one or higher, you are managing scared.

Sorry to be so binary, but the idea of "managing a little scared" really doesn't equate here.


The driver behind managing scared does not have to be related to the fear of losing good employees.

In fact, I have seen cases where the manager recognizes their positions are not ideal and have been validated by having trouble recruiting staff for new positions. If your company has an unappealing location, doesn't offer remote employment opportunities or is employing practices that are long since dated in today's world, managers find themselves managing scared in order to keep from losing their existing staff.

Keep in mind, doing anything out of fear of losing something is typically the number one way to achieve the result you are trying to prohibit. In my view, being 100% clear and honest is always the preferred management style. I have reached this conclusion as both a manager and a person being managed. Sending the message that "sub-par is okay" is never a good idea.

One last thing; when I talked to that salesman at the Honda dealership and told him I wasn't pleased about wanting to pay more than sticker price for a vehicle, he went on a short rant. I will never forget this part, as his rant to me included the statement that "within five years all households would have a Honda robot too." He was referring to Asimo and his bold statement (obviously) never happened. Part of me smiled last summer when I read that Honda officially retired Asimo.

I wonder if that guy is still making such bold statements?

Have a really great day!

Further Reading

Thoughts of a Chronic Blamer

Creating a Fear-Driven Development Culture

agile, agile adoption, management, quiz

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