Saturday, August 25, 2012

When Management Behavior is Lost in Translation

I'm not talking about cultural differences, such as when an American barely glances at a business card that a Japanese exec will carefully and respectfully study. This post is about something far more subtle: how Manager A can get away with behavior that would cause Manager's B's team to rebel.

Consider the situation with curmudgeons. There are the Charles Laughton/Monty Wooley peronalities who are prickly yet witty and thoroughly competent. Their associates may grumble but they are also fiercely loyal. That loyalty, coupled with respect for the total charismatic package, causes them to take abuse that would be intolerable if handed out by a curmudgeon of lesser appeal.

The latter category is prickly but not witty, demanding but not competent, and there is no glory in riding in their ranks. They are curmudgeons without style; a.k.a. jerks. Who wants to be near them?

I believe that the defining difference between the two group is the virtue of caring. The charismatic curmudgeons can be rough on their staffs, but woe to the outsider who thinks they won't vigorously defend their associates. The jerks, on the other hand, will sell out their team members for a smile from the boss. Their charisma is simple manipulation for a key ingredient is missing and everyone knows it.


Miriam said...

So, what does one call a "curmudgeon without style?" Your post was spot on, on both counts. (Unfortunately, a few names came immediately to mind in the latter description, "prickly but not witty, demanding, but not competent")

Isn't the first example more of the classic definition of a curmudgeon? Isn't the latter just an an old jerk PITA?

Michael Wade said...


Good point. I think a curmudgeon without style is simply a jerk - a knife without a blade - although they may think of themselves as curmudgeons.