Management’s six deadly sins

If you are like most managers, you yearn for a work environment that is free of exasperation. Typically, you want to operate efficiently in a rational, orderly atmosphere. But inevitably you get entangled in emotional, human problems.

Among the shortcomings you may find yourself coping with are your own, as well as those of the people who report to you.

Most of these shortcomings are rooted in a relatively few human failings: pride, pessimism, laziness and the like. Sensitize yourself to these and you may be able to soften their adverse effects on yourself and your work. Herewith, management’s deadliest sins.

“- Pride: Some kinds are desirable—pride in work well done, for instance. Self-respect and teamwork are based on pride. The trouble starts when pride is carried to extremes and allowed to become a vice. Excessive pride can usually be spotted in answers to questions like: Am I unwilling to listen to others?Am I usually impatient with others’ suggestions?

Do I find it difficult, even impossible, to take constructive criticism? Am I coasting on past accomplishments? Do I drive my people to extremes to produce records that will satisfy my pride? Do I try to surround myself with people who think as I do?

A flashy office, conspicuously expensive clothes or habits, and the use of sarcasm are among the external symbols of pride—and are usually efforts to mask feelings of inadequacy.

“- Sloth: This deadly management sin can manifest itself in different ways—lack of planning or taking a problem to a superior without also having a suggested solution, to name two. Some managers delegate duties, not because they are well organized, but because they are lazy. Make sure you aren’t guilty of asking others to do what, by right, you ought to be doing.

“- Envy: A manager who envies others for their innovative thinking or bold ideas will frequently restrict them, often to the extent of suffocating them. Who really suffers? In addition to the individuals, the company itself in the long run, for it will never benefit from their bright ideas. In some extreme cases, managers who envy people brighter than they may take pains to staff their department with less qualified people. A young, bright person is often the victim of this deadly sin, for the group—as well as its individual members—will tend to expel the extraordinary individual out of envy. Even if you are not guilty of such behavior, make sure your people aren’t undercutting anyone out of simple envy. You could be losing the talents of a talented person.

“- Greed: Whether the object of your greed is credit for an idea, personal advancement or power, it almost always backfires. People remember an affront, and long after you have forgotten it, it will fester in their minds and hearts. No one ever really got very far for very long by consistently stepping on others.

“- Anger: Perhaps the most difficult emotion of all to control, anger can be the most expensive in terms of generating hostility in others. It is also self-defeating, for the very thing that it is supposed to accomplish—letting others know you are displeased—displeases them. They are unlikely to want to please you after bearing the brunt of your attack. Impatience, which is related to anger, is another matter—a certain amount can motivate others to perform better. The old adage about counting to ten is still good advice. And while you are counting, think of how your mood affects your people. Is it worth the temporary satisfaction that anger may confer?

“- Pessimism: Whether it takes the form of gloominess, fear of change, or feelings of insecurity, pessimism is a virus that can do irreparable damage to a department or a business. For one thing, it is infectious. People see that their boss is gloomy and think, “The boss must know something. Maybe the company is in trouble.” Then the rumors fly. For another, it paralyzes initiative—frightened people are seldom willing to try anything new or daring, precisely the things that business thrives upon. In short, pessimism is counterproductive. Fight it in every way you can, both in yourself and others.

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