Ever Have a Bad Manager Day?

I wish I could tell you I never had a bad manager day. I wish I could tell you I never screwed up. Nope, that would be a very tall tale.

Here's a doozy. I once told one of my employees to leave his emotions at the door. Yes, I really said that. Luckily, he was smarter than I was. He said, “That's like leaving an arm or a leg. Which one of those would you like me to leave at home today?”

Oh. Oops. I blinked. Bad manager day. I said, “That was one of the more stupid things I said. I apologize. Let me try this again. I realize you're having a lot of stuff going on at home. How can we make things work so you get here on time, because you have commitments to other people here?”

He said, “Gee, JR, I think you must be having lots of things going on at home, too.” We both started laughing like hyenas. Yes, we both had children under two, and yes, it was difficult to have predictability in our morning schedules. I had arrived for my 8:30 am meeting with seconds to spare. No, my blouse was not clean; it had baby spit-up. Did I feel like a professional? No. Was I out of sorts? Oh my goodness, yes.

It doesn't take much to create a bad manager day. The car dies, or you get a flat on the way to work. The road has a detour. Your boss wants to change the order of the projects. You were going down the agile path, now you have a new boss who knows nothing about agile.  Something changes, whether it's big or small, and boom, it's just enough to create a bad manager day.

That's the topic of this manager myth, I Must Never Admit My Mistakes.

Maybe it's not even a change that creates a mistake. Maybe you just have a bad day. You got up on the wrong side of the bed. You got angry—maybe even for a great reason—and yelled at someone. It's the yelling that's the mistake. The being angry is fine. Everyone gets angry. It's the reaction that's the problem.

Managers are people. Fortunately or not, every reaction a manager has is magnified. So it's even more important for a manager to admit his or her mistakes. Fast. Pronto.

Never let mistakes fester. Think you can gloss over a mistake? Fugeddaboutit. The truth always comes out. The problem with thinking you can forget about a mistake or glossing over it, is that it has a tendency to get larger or rebound on you. Remember Kenneth Lay? Dennis Kozlowski? Those are big mistakes. I prefer small mistakes.

I hope you have a chance to read and comment on the article over there.

6 thoughts on “Ever Have a Bad Manager Day?”

  1. srinivas kadiyala

    Thanks for the post.

    If you are a person as manager and me – who works/lives with honesty and truth.
    If i want some thing,which you have to approve. And I get anger.
    But you wouldn’t accept as you thinks,if i dont come – productivity on that day will be lost.

    To get approval – should i neccesarily have to tell LIE ?

  2. Several years ago I was beating myself up over a bad manager day. And then I realized, I don’t beat up my team when there’s a bug in their code; I accept that they will make mistakes, fix them and move on. So the next time I screwed up, I stopped, apologized, told my team it was a manager bug and moved on.

    The hardest thing is that a manager bug mostly affects people and that is usually more painful than code that doesn’t work. But by freely admitting my manager bugs I hopefully set a good example, and also remind my team that they shouldn’t expect me to be perfect, either!

  3. This is a great article. I’ve often found the first time I tell a manager reporting to me not to beat themselves up over a mistake – afterall we all make them, they stare at me like I’ve landed in the office from Mars. From then on they aren’t afraid to come to me to tell me when there’s a problem because they know my philosophy is not to worry about who to blame for a mistake but to make sure we deal with the problem and try not to repeat mistakes. I’ve been in organizations where everyone worries that they’ll be fired over the smallest mistake and therefore spends their time fingerpointing – it makes for a very unpleasant, unproductive and stagnant work environment.

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