Dots on management connected backwards

Many years ago I worked for a manager who replaced the guy I really loved working with. Nothing wrong with that, just the usual in a sense that it just happens. Perhaps, this was even one of those football field situations I blogged about few times already… I liked the guy who had left back then because he always was honest with everyone, many times with me and I always appreciated honesty first. The loss of a good manager is one thing and the replacement with a bad one is completely different one. Bummer.

There was something terribly, terribly wrong with the new guy however and I couldn’t figure out what on earth it was. I just couldn’t figure out the reason behind him criticising the whole department for poor perception amongst other departments. Typically developers are not the most social types so I initially thought it was a joke. It wasn’t and because people always side with the money I wasn’t sure if people really subscribed to the crazy idea of having to listen to this. End of the day everyone is just interested in picking up they pay-check and sooner or later it becomes the major reason for people coming to that workplace in the first place.

I guess that one of the driving forces for his arguments to be understood as even remotely interesting was the fact that the new software development manager’s arrival was strictly linked to the major overhoaul of the management at the company. He seemed to have an unconditional backing from the senior management team of the company. I think that people genuinely got convinced that the way he was carrying his authority and having the team to battle with ghost instances of bad or good perceptions. I think it sounds more credible because the idea of managing perceptions traveled up and down the chain, least back then.

My take was that perceptions are and should typically be a type of worry of managers. The more people I managed the more I realised how true this was and still remains very important to me. His argument on poor team’s perception being a problem of all team members however sounded so plausible that I often thought that I’m the only one to see how ridiculous this worry was. I always thought it should not even be brought to the team of developers who were hired to develop code, build stuff and not to worry about perceptions of the team. I thought back then that this was a manipulation. Since he was the gateway to the feedback only he had control over what improves perceptions and what doesn’t… even if he had no control over anything else.

Until this year actually, when I found a blog of a very smart guy who put it straight and simple terms. Seems like you can connect the dots after a while and it all comes together. Perhaps it takes someone more articulate about this to get the right words to be put into an article. Amazingly the arguments against managing performance by managing perceptions is so crushing that it casts a dark shadow on all managers up and down supporting the idea of building the team by having to constantly worry about perceptions: