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Put a Number on Your Boss's Emotions

  • Moscow, Russia
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Managementmanagement Sarcasmsarcasm

You got into a company that believes in democratic values, doesn’t measure performance, doesn’t judge, doesn’t control, doesn’t force, and doesn’t blame; however, at the end of the year they tell you that your performance was not as high as expected. Why? “Just work better, my friend, we count on you!” Bad luck, you are in a teal self-managing organization. They’ve already killed the management, but still didn’t dare to kill the managers. They don’t know how to measure, but still have people who are supposed to do it regularly, in order to distribute monetary rewards. What do you do before you quit? Here is a survival recipe.

Bonnie and Clyde (1967) by Arthur Penn
Bonnie and Clyde (1967) by Arthur Penn

Here are the symptoms of a disease known as “self-managing” organizations (also known as teal orgs, or no-management orgs, or democratic management, or humane management, or just love and peace):

  • You do have managers. They decide when you get a salary raise, when you are promoted, when fired, when moved to a new project, and so on. They do exist.

  • They tell you that they are not managers, but partners, co-founders, friends, or even family members.

  • They meet you time to time for face-to-face talks to focus you on big objectives and inject some guilt: “We must focus on our customers, or our business value, on strategic growth! We must make a big impact! We count on your great results this year!”

  • They don’t give you any numeric evaluation of your performance during the course of the entire year. Unfortunately, there are simply no metrics, mostly because it’s a very bad idea to put a number on a person! When and if you try to suggest some metrics, everybody laughs and says that “It’s very difficult to measure the performance of creative people! Go back to your cage!

  • When the time comes, they make their monetary decisions based on their personal emotional and irrational judgment of yourself and your results. You just get a smaller bonus by the end of the year than Jeff, your less experienced but more vocal and friendly co-worker. Why? Just because. Take it or leave it.

  • If you get brave enough and ask them why your bonus is smaller than Jeff’s, they ask you “How do you know??” and start investigating. Then, when they calm down, you get a long lecture, mentioning some year-old facts about you not attending the office on that Saturday “you definitely remember” when everybody was fixing the production server previously broken by Jeff.

  • Finally, you quit.

Hold on, don’t quit. In almost all other organizations you will meet the same idiots, but with different names. They are not evil people, they are just incompetent. They never studied project management, they don’t have any professional education, they only read books like Reinventing Organizations and listen to lectures on leadership and multiculturalism. They are not managers. Forgive them.

But the question remains, how to behave in order to get the biggest bonus by the end of the year. I would even say that a more important question is how to not get yourself hugely frustrated when your bonus is smaller than Jeff’s, who was obviously less productive, according to your personal judgment. This actually is the key problem: jealousy. If you see that someone, who you don’t respect due to his/her bad results and lack of skills, is appreciated more than yourself by your boss—you get jealous and quit.

Teal gluten-free managers can’t objectively evaluate your performance. They will always judge you irrationally and emotionally. They simply don’t collect any data during the year (because it’s a bad idea, remember!) and the only thing they have in front of them when it’s time to make a decision—is their feelings about yourself!

I think that it’s still possible to survive in this mess though. We just have to understand how their minds work. Is it possible to continue doing what we are doing, while giving these managers something they can use as performance data at the end of the year? I believe, we have one good metric, they subconsciously rely on, which we can more or less easily increase:

“The amount of messages you get from your boss per day.”

If you want to be the best in the team, no matter what are your factual results, boost this metric. It’s simple. Just stay in touch with the bosses: send them updates, ask questions, share news, go to lunch with them, rat on your colleagues, spread rumors, etc. No matter what you do, the goal is: increase the number of messages they send you back. If it’s growing, you are getting closer to them, they pay attention to you, they start feeling that you are important, they will appraise you positively when the time comes. If the number decreases, you are getting out of their circle—it’s dangerous.

This metric will help you understand your position in the team before the end of the year, when it would be too late. Just see how often the boss is texting Jeff and you will know where you stand. No matter what Jeff is working on, what the quality of his code is, what the value of his contribution is—these things are less important than the traffic of messages your mutual boss is sending to him.

Am I being too sarcastic? Not really. This is the new reality the proponents of self-managing teams are pushing us towards: Objectivity and honesty is being replaced with adulation and grovelling. Take it or leave it.

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