Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Managers Are Evil

For all of you who have worked your way up to a position of authority, I want to congratulate you.

I want to compliment you on achieving your rank & level of responsibility through hard work or education or dutifully kissing the correct butt or whatever it is you did to earn the right to tell other people what to do. I mean it. No one gets to where you are by accident, so if you got there, whether it's the rank of manager or director or supervisor or "lead associate" or sergeant or whatever nomenclature your particular organization has adopted, I salute you.

I'm sure you're proud of yourself, and rightfully so. You make more money than the people who report to you, and that's not insignificant. After all, which of us would show up for work if we had to do it for free?

Oh, and I also feel the need to let you know that you're a big reason why I believe the human race will one day become extinct, like the woolly mammoth and the dodo bird.

Now, I'm not talking about real leaders, the heads of companies, the people who create a business or a product or an idea and work like hell to bring it to the marketplace and thereby change the world. I'm not talking about captains of industry or inventors or innovators or artists.

Those people -- the people who create things and who change the status quo -- have been and will be the salvation of us all, if in fact we can be saved. They'll cure cancer, find a way for us to stop burning oil for energy, and come up with whatever is going to replace the Iphone.

No, who I'm talking about are you clipboard-carrying, schedule-making, dress-code-enforcing busybodies who are just that teensy bit smarter (or faster or more of a suck-up) than the workers around you so that you get recognized for it and are given the keys to the office and the privilege of writing everyone else's yearly reviews.

I'm not talking about workers. Lord knows, we need people who work. (Indeed, it wasn't workers who caused the latest global financial crisis -- it was management.)

No, I'm talking about people who watch other people work.

The fact that managers exist -- and that you need to exist at all, you supervisory personnel -- is the reason why I think the end of civilization as we know it is nearer than we think.

Think about it. We all recognize the need for geniuses, for the people whose creations help us live our lives more safely and comfortably than any generation before us. And we also know instinctively that we need people who work, who follow directions and build stuff and repair it and man the trenches of our economy.

It's the people in the middle who are the necessary evil that's going to get us all killed.

After all, we're human beings. We (at least most of us) are born with amazing powers of perception and cogitation that computers cannot even begin to approach. From birth, most of us can do things that inventors are spending millions of dollars trying to get robots to do, like tell the difference between a rock and a housefly, cook an omelet, or drive a car safely from Las Vegas to Los Angeles.

It would stand to reason, then, that given all this innate ability that has enabled us to use tools and subjugate the planet to the point that we're about to break it, that each of us could figure out our individual jobs and do them without needing someone to check in with us every shift to make sure we're doing it. It would be logical to assume that each of us could know whether or not we're a genius who needs to go out and start up the next Facebook or Google or Starbucks, and, if we're not, we could get ourselves a job we could live with and go do it until the day we retire or get replaced.

In an ideal world, those of us who aren't destined to invent the MRI or create the "Star Trek" franchise would find a job, read the job description, and do that job to the best of our ability for the rest of our careers.

But, no.

Those of us who aren't geniuses (including me) go out and get jobs and need to be supervised. We need to be watched at work, or nothing would get done. This is a stone cold fact, and it's the reason why communism was a flawed idea from the get-go. Without competition and consequences, people get lazy. Capitalism provides the competition, and managers provide the daily consequences.

Without management, every business in the world would fail. Without supervision, we would spend our shifts playing stupid office games like "copier rorschach" or cruising the internet for porn.

Now, it wouldn't happen overnight. All (or at least most) of us start our jobs with the best of intentions, so thankful for that package of wages and benefits that we really do have the company's best interests at heart. But, then, as we settle into our jobs and get to know where all the cameras are, we start to cut corners.

We take an extra 5 or 10 minutes on our breaks. We let the phone ring and ring instead of answering it. We don't wash our hands on our way back from the bathroom. We help ourselves to some office supplies because our kids have a big project they're doing at school. And, pretty soon, the business goes belly up because of inefficiency and waste.

This is why we need managers. They're a necessary evil, like cops and landfills. (And, according to public radio's Marketplace, a Stanford University economist has proved it.) Managers are a bad thing that we need in order to survive in a competitive and unforgiving world, which probably means we're doomed.

So, for all you managers and supervisors, I want to take a moment to salute you. We need you. And it feels good to be needed, doesn't it? You should feel good knowing you're in the same category as sewage systems and antidepressant drugs. And, because we need you, we're screwed.

(Note: I spent years in management, doing painstaking research for this blog entry.)


  1. Sentence "With competition and consequences. . ." seems wrong.

  2. Fixed! Thanks for the heads-up!

  3. Screw managers and screw supervisors I salute the worker and if we take an extra 5 mins oh well! Were doing all the work why they do w/e they want.