Jan 28, 2008

Why are managers such jerks?

I have always believed that most managers are never really trained to be managers. Management schools actually teach us business skills and not management skills. There's a difference. Business skills are the hard skills of knowing how to make a cash flow statement or calculating the net present value of an investment or how to segment your target audience.

Managerial skills are the softer skills of building relationships with employees, suppliers and customers. These skills call for emotional intelligence, which we never get round to consciously building throughout our education - which stresses the hard skills thoughout.

However, this blog post by Bob Sutton where he quotes a research by Dacher Keltner who explains why perfectly normal people turn into jerks when they become the boss:

My own research has found that people with power tend to behave like patients who have damaged their brain's orbitofrontal lobes (the region of the frontal lobes right behind the eye sockets), a condition that seems to cause overly impulsive and insensitive behavior. Thus the experience of power might be thought of as having someone open up your skull and take out that part of your brain so critical to empathy and socially-appropriate behavior."

So what's the solution? How can you take away the heady intoxication of power away from a manager?

Could turning an organization that is more democratic and consensus driven yet focussed on responsibility and accountable be the answer?