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Are Bad Parenting and Bad Management the Same Thing?

Have a whiny, unproductive staff? You probably stink at parenting, err, management.
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If you stink as a manager, perhaps you need to up your parenting techniques. Fortunately, that doesn't include potty training, but everything else pretty much seems to fit. Emma Jenner, a British Nanny just wrote an article on modern-day parenting failures that has gone pretty viral, with half the people applauding Ms. Jenner and the other half condemning her for insensitivity to the needs of their little darlings.

I don't claim to be a parenting expert--you can check back with me when my children are adults to see if my methods were good--but four of her five observations are spot on for management. Here are where Jenner sees failures in parenting and I see failures in management.

1. A fear of our children. Jenner describes the "sippy cup test," in which mom puts the milk in one sippy cup, junior demands another, and mom switches it rather than saying no. How many times have you  been in an office where one rude, demanding jerk is practically worshiped in the way everyone--including the boss--tiptoes around this person? This employee could use a good time out by way of the unemployment office, but for some reason everyone is terrified to say boo. Instead, good employees are told to suck it up and be nice. 

2. A lowered bar. "Children are capable of much more than parents typically expect from them, whether it's in the form of proper manners, respect for elders, chores, generosity, or self-control," writes Jenner. So are your employees--especially your entry level ones. Instead of trusting them to do work, we micro-manage, set up parent meetings (really!), and refuse to listen to any of their ideas.

3. We've lost the village. "It used to be that bus drivers, teachers, shopkeepers, and other parents had carte blanche to correct an unruly child," but now parents insist on appearing perfect, therefore Junior couldn't possibly have done anything wrong. Most managers don't worry about being perfect, but we oftentimes have different groups undermining one another. HR will object to discipline because the employee is part of a protected class and they fear a lawsuit, regardless of whether or not it is justified. Senior managers overrule junior managers because the employee is whiny and feared. We sometimes throw a good manager to the wolves and then refuse to back her up when she does the hard tasks.

4. A reliance on shortcuts. We often make the mistake of just assuming a new employee can do everything, without taking the time to properly train the person. We have no documentation, no assigned trainer, and then punish the person for not being able to do what it is that she needs to do. We think it's "faster" and "easier" or maybe we don't have time to train. And then we wonder why the employees have no clue what they are doing. Worse, we promote someone from an individual contributor role to a management role and assume he'll know how to manage. We take the "easy" way and then end up spending extra time cleaning up the mess.

Last updated: Jul 10, 2014

SUZANNE LUCAS | Columnist

Suzanne Lucas spent 10 years in corporate human resources, where she hired, fired, managed the numbers, and double-checked with the lawyers.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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