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I read your cover article “The Drone Ranger” (8/26) with great interest; then I read it backwards, just so the piece would have a happy ending. I, too, work in a cubicled environment, where the occasional petty tyrant would storm through and make life a living breathing dancing hell, only to disappear for months to work on team-building and funny Friday-attire ideas. I, too, was resentful—even enraged from time to time; however, after deciding to look at it from the manager’s point of view, I was a lot more empathic and a lot less angry.
A good manager will shield his people from extraneous crap and give honest responses to those above him. A good manager will also lose his job the instant he is no longer essential. What replaces him is the equivalent of a cow that grazes next to a shooting range: a terrified bovine waiting for someone to shoot him in the butt just to see how fast he’ll run. If you work in a corporate setting, chances are your manager has more intrinsic work-related fear than all of those underneath him combined. You see, the higher up the corporate ladder you get, the more bat-shit crazy you become. You think your boss is hard to deal with? Your boss’s boss wants to seat the entire company by height. Her boss wants to improve efficiency by changing ring tones on all phones to the tune “Fly Me to the Moon.” The next echelon up, they want to “quantify network efficiency”—even though not one of them knows what that means! Don’t believe me? Listen to H. Ross Perot, Donald Trump, or Ted Turner some time and tell me I’m wrong.
So, even though a manager’s job is to make things better, a manager usually doesn’t know how to make things better. The average supervisor got his job due to a field promotion after the firing of someone who did know what she was doing. The ineffectual manager is the one with the deer-in-the-headlights look in his eyes. (A deer, of course, has at least some chance of survival.)
These people choose to keep moving, like a shark, doing something—anything—to give the appearance that they are making things better. That way, if things do get better, they can take credit for it. If they get worse, they can claim to already be working on it. The author of the piece wonders why he was asked to “formalize” his creative process. He should be thankful that he wasn’t ordered to map his own DNA.
Why do I know this? Because I was once a manager. I was efficient, truthful, and loved by those under me; consequently, they transferred me after the first year and laid me off after the second. During the first year, my boss tried to instill in me the same fear that she felt. When that didn’t work, she snubbed me—actually refused to exchange words with me, for three months. I hadn’t seen such a display of pure id since my youngest was 2 years old. I knew that I wasn’t long for the job.
All managers are mentally ill. Would a sane person think that you could chart a creative process? Would a sane person care how one answered internal phone calls? Supervisors are either obsessive-compulsive, anal retentive, or expletive deleted. These disorders can be treated with serotonin re-uptake inhibitors such as Zoloft, Paxil, or Effexor. In other words: There is a cure for being a manager, but the manager has to take the first step.
The answer is not in a spreadsheet, folks. It’s in mind-altering prescription drugs.