I try to be results oriented as a manager.

Well. Results AND values oriented. Focus on the results, and as long as you’re behaving consistent with TAGFEE, then we’re cool.

I want to manage the work and not the people. I don’t care when/how/where you do your work so long as it is done on time and meets our agreed expectations.Books on ROWE; Sarah Bird's Reading List

Naturally, I was attracted to Why Managing Sucks and How To Fix It, a book about how to manage in a ROWE (Results Only Work Environment). I’m about halfway through and enjoying the breezy writing style. Great book for a plane trip. You could get through the whole thing on a flight to and from Seattle to SFO. I haven’t been surprised by most of the ROWE philosophy and technique so far, since I’m already wired for that framework.

But, one section pulled me up short. There’s a ‘ROWE management no no’ that I have always done and actually thought it was a nice thing to do. Here it is in a nutshell:

Don’t Tell Your Team Not To Work.

They are grownups. They know when to work and not work. If they are too sick, they won’t work. If they are grieving and don’t feel up to it, they won’t.  If they just had a baby and want to take some time out, they will.

When I tell someone to stop working because they are sick, or grieving, or are on vacation or whatever, I mean “I care about you. And I understand if you’re unable to get your work done. You should focus on wellness.”

There’s the rub. That’s an inherently paternalistic statement. THEY know how sick they are. THEY know what they are feeling. It’s not for me to tell them how to deal with their grief/sickness/vacation/baby/whatever.  They can decide for themselves when to stop. My job is to show them I trust them to get their work done when/how/where they want.

By saying things like “It’s 6pm, you should go home and spend time with your family,” I’m sending the message that either

(1) I’m judging their commitment to their family, or

(2) I don’t trust them to understand their priorities.

Neither of these things are true, of course. I’m trying to let them know I care.

yeah im going to need you to come in caturday

It’s funny that it took reading this book to help me see that pernicious hidden premise (“I don’t trust you”). After all, when someone tells me not to work because I’m sick/had a baby/on vacation/ etc etc, I do bristle a little. I don’t think I was ever conscious of it before. After all, it’s said out of kindness and concern. I know that and it’s nice. But it also makes me feel a little guilty. Am I a bad person for wanting to work right now? Yuck.

I like working. I love my job. I know when to quit.

Be it resolved, I’m going to be more mindful about telling people ‘not to work.’ They are in the driver’s seat.

If they don’t feel comfortable telling me they need a break, then that’s a separate issue. And a serious one.