"The greatness and the genuine trait of your thought and writings lie on the fact that you positively and interestingly make use of philosophical thoughts and thoughtfulness in order to deeply and concretely cogitate about America's social issues. . . . This does not mean that your thought is reducible to your era: your thought, being inspired by issues characterizing your era . . . , overcomes your era and will still likely be up to date even after your era, for future generations." Bruno Valentin

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Management: Helping vs. Controlling

I submit that subordinates typically view managers as having control issues—by which I mean that managers tend to be obsessed with maintaining control. The pathology because really bad when the manager would rather have a project fail than give up control. Lest it be thought that management as control is intrinsic to managerial capitalism, an alternative approach proffers a way out.

In “To Work Here, Win the ‘Nice’ Vote,” Adam Bryant of The New York Times discusses the management approach of Peter Miller, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Optinose, a pharmaceutical company. Thomas Fox, a compliance practitioner, points out that “Miller talked about one thing you rarely hear in the corporate world, which is to be nice.”[1] As a “young sales manager at Procter & Gamble,” Miller says, “I had five salespeople working for me, and one of the guys was 55 and another guy was 48. They were really successful salespeople, so I realized that I couldn’t teach these guys anything about selling. Since I couldn’t teach them anything, I tried to cultivate trust and respect by working really hard at figuring out how I could help them in a meaningful way.”[2] 

That a manager would admit that his subordinates knew more about selling than he did is quite telling in itself.; that he oriented his managing them to working really hard at figuring out how he could help them in a meaningful way seems almost surreal, given the salience of the control instinct in modern management. It follows that articulating the essential managerial skill as concerns supervision and human-resource management in terms of trying to help subordinates is potentially paradigm-changing with respect to management. Whereas telling people what to do highlights the instinct to control (i.e., management as control), being open to help people by observing (and discussing) and listening stems from a helping instinct (perhaps that of compassion or empathy)--perhaps the nice instinct.

Managers in whom the urge to control other people is dominant are consistent with Nietzsche's new bird of prey figure, which he calls the ascetic priest. This type is too weak to master the instinctual urge so the dominant urge is “out of control,” and thus anything but mastered. Not being strong, the weak whose desire to experience pleasure from power focus on control, and even cruelty, as the means to dominate other people. I submit that managers are typically of that type.[3]  Indeed, management itself is typically thought of in terms of control.

The desire to help implicitly transfers the control to the other person. To want to help someone out of a sense of not having more expertise than him is a virtual hands-in-the-air and “tell me what you need.” The presumption to know better than the person himself how to help him does not spring from the desire to help, but, rather, the urge to dominate. Therefore, on the basis of relative expertise, two different approaches to management exist such that management itself need not reduce to control.   

1. Thomas Fox, “Trust and Respect for Compliance Leadership,” LinkedIn (accessed July 22, 2015).
2. Ibid.
3. Skip Worden, “A Nietzschean Critique of the Modern Manager: An Alternative to Business Ethics,” The Worden Report, July 22, 2015.