How to manage the Theory X manager ?

Santosh, a promising young professional, fumes and vents his frustration on the accelerator as he speeds home earlier than usual from work. He has had a real bad day.A new initiative for which he has been working day and night for two whole weeks has been blown to smithereens in front of senior colleagues by his tyrannical boss, fondly referred to as ‘Psycho Sridhar’. This, despite Santosh keeping ‘Psycho Sridhar’ abreast of his work at frequent intervals throughout the whole two weeks.

His initiative was not even given a fair hearing before being dismissed as ‘amateurish’ and not conforming to ‘Psycho Sridhar’s’ tried and tested framework. As Santosh races home, various thoughts envelop his mind. Should he start looking out for another job? Should he pay less attention to work instead of being so industrious and landing up in this state?

Every company has its share of Psycho Sridhars, or Theory X Managers who gleefully indulge in making the life of their subordinates miserable. An oft repeated comment a friend used to hear from his boss about his subordinates was, “What do these guys do the whole day anyway?” All employees, according to them, are ‘kam chor’ types; lazy by nature. 
 
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Is it any different from office? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
They rule by a command and control structure. By instilling fear among people at all times, they create an atmosphere of distrust and insecurity. This, they feel, is the ONLY way to get work done efficiently.
 
Where do such managers or leaders come from and why and how on earth do they get promoted in the first place ?  Let’s turn to the Peter Principle to find an answer to that. The Peter principle states that “People are promoted to their level of incompetence”. Employees tend to rise on account of poor choices made my managements, to their level of incompetence. There is no real assessment of his/her competencies. Finally when the employee is at a senior position and unable to perform, the management starts looking around for answers.
 
When an organization abounds with such managers or leaders, it is bound to fail in the long run. Where then lies the solution to this?
Throwing out people does not solve problems.  That could be taken as the last and final option when all else fails. The first would be for the top management to acknowledge and accept the presence of Theory X managers at various levels in the organizational hierarchy. Such managers/leaders mainly suffer from a lack of desired level of emotional intelligence and social intelligence, both of which are distinguishing competencies for performers ( “Inspiring Leadership Through Emotional Intelligence”- Richard Boyatzis 2013).The organization could embark on a 360 degree assessment initiative covering the boss, peers and subordinates to gauge their behavior and management style. The results should of course be kept confidential.
 
The 360 degree assessment has to be accepted by the managers as a relevant and important means to identify styles of functioning and behavioral traits associated with each management style. “The motivating power of an assessment is affected by how credible it is to the learners.” (“Bringing emotional Intelligence to the Workplace”  Daniel Goleman & others 1998). Hence, it is extremely important for the employees to have faith in the assessment method.
 
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Once the managers having rigid Theory X style of management are identified, they need to be coached professionally to overcome their attitude and behavioral issues resulting from their attitudes.  For any change to be permanent, we need frequent practice and reinforcement, spanning a period of  coaching lasting not less than three months with constant feedback delivered in a positive framework. Change can happen only when there is a strong will or desire on the part of those who need to change. Will or desire is the crucial differentiator. (“Intentional Change Theory”  Richard Boyatzis, 1983 ).
 
It augurs well for companies to clean their stable from time to time by identifying and coaching Theory X managers to fit into the desired mould.  Such timely coaching can prevent these managers from hijacking the company and creating its doom, as bottom lines are closely associated with how well managers deliver with their teams when the chips are down.
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How to manage the Theory X manager ?

by Midhun Manmadhan time to read: 4 min
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