MORRIS: Make your job easier—don’t be a jerk

Greg Morris
November 2, 2013
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MorrisThis is a simple column with a simple message—if you want to be a good manager, don’t be a jerk. As someone who was a jerk manager in his younger days, I especially enjoyed a recent manager training session in Chicago presented by Ryan Dohrn, author of the book “How To Be A Manager Without Being A Jerk!”

In the forward, the book states that if you received this book as an anonymous gift, you are a jerk! The book offers 365 tips to being a better manager every day of the year, many times wrapping solid tips with humor. There’s even a jerk test where you score yourself based on four questions. Being honest with yourself helps determine the outcome.

What follows are some random thoughts taken directly from the book:

Great managers have their office doors open more often than closed. A Fortune 500 CEO once removed all his senior managers’ doors for one month to prove his point. Ask yourself, why am I closing my door?

Email communication lacks tone, voice and cannot accurately communicate your emotions. Unless you are Stephen King, do not expect an email to express your feelings. Chats in person are much better. (I’ll add that if you’re mad, don’t fire off an email. Take a deep breath and walk around the block if you need to. This was a BIG mistake I used to make.)

Involve your team in the hiring process. Often, the manager will be the only person involved in the hiring of a new employee. The resentment will begin from day one toward the new employee because the rest of the team feels that this new person has been forced upon them or chosen only by you. Establish a hiring system that involves the rest of the team and you’ll see a dramatic change in how the new hire is accepted into the group.

Do not conduct all your calls on your speakerphone. One significant sign of vanity or egotism is the boss who conducts every call on his/her speakerphone for the whole world to hear.

Do not talk about employees with other employees no matter the circumstance.

Many managers suffer from SPIT, or “smartest person is talking” syndrome. More often than not, the manager does all the talking. This is seen by others in different ways. Most often, it is interpreted as the manager thinks he/she is the smartest person in the room. Everyone hates the smartest person in the room. Work hard to guide conversations and not do all the talking.

Do not drink the last cup of coffee without making a new pot. (Yes managers, this includes you.)

Ruling by fear went out with the Knights of the Round Table. Fear will get you nowhere in managing others.

Be respectful of your employees’ time. Ask them if they have plans before you drop a “three-hour, last-minute, need to be done by 9 a.m. tomorrow” project on them at 4:30 p.m. Then, if you ask for it, do something with it. Employees hate to see the hard work they have completed go unused. If you ever catch yourself saying, “Hey they are getting paid … they will get over it”—STOP! Rewind your internal systems. STOP! You are being a jerk! Do you value your time? Trust me, they value their time, too.

You are the boss, so if you are leaving early tell the team. Do not make up an excuse. They will find out and you will look foolish.

If you have an issue with one employee, talk to him or her, and do not send out a mass email to the entire team. (In other words, have the guts to address the problem at the source, and don’t drag the rest of the team into a problem they have nothing to do with.)

Last one—if you know it is right, do it. If you know it is wrong, don’t do it. (If you do not know if it is right or wrong, don’t do it.)

That’s it for now. The first step to success is to admit you just might be a jerk. I still fall off the wagon on occasion, but I strive every day to be a better, more effective manager (and not be a jerk). Older and wiser? Maybe. The book is available for purchase online if you want to give it a look.•


Morris is publisher of IBJ. His column appears every other week. To comment on this column, send e-mail to gmorris@ibj.com.


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  1. With Pence running the ship good luck with a new government building on the site. He does everything on the cheap except unnecessary roads line a new beltway( like we need that). Things like state of the art office buildings and light rail will never be seen as an asset to these types. They don't get that these are the things that help a city prosper.

  2. Does the $100,000,000,000 include salaries for members of Congress?

  3. "But that doesn't change how the piece plays to most of the people who will see it." If it stands out so little during the day as you seem to suggest maybe most of the people who actually see it will be those present when it is dark enough to experience its full effects.

  4. That's the mentality of most retail marketers. In this case Leo was asked to build the brand. HHG then had a bad sales quarter and rather than stay the course, now want to go back to the schlock that Zimmerman provides (at a considerable cut in price.) And while HHG salesmen are, by far, the pushiest salesmen I have ever experienced, I believe they are NOT paid on commission. But that doesn't mean they aren't trained to be aggressive.

  5. The reason HHG's sales team hits you from the moment you walk through the door is the same reason car salesmen do the same thing: Commission. HHG's folks are paid by commission they and need to hit sales targets or get cut, while BB does not. The sales figures are aggressive, so turnover rate is high. Electronics are the largest commission earners along with non-needed warranties, service plans etc, known in the industry as 'cheese'. The wholesale base price is listed on the cryptic price tag in the string of numbers near the bar code. Know how to decipher it and you get things at cost, with little to no commission to the sales persons. Whether or not this is fair, is more of a moral question than a financial one.