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. Now if he'd just stay there...

  2. Daniel - what about the many US citizens who do NOT follow what the Bible teaches? The Hindus, Jews, Muslims and others who are all American citizens entitled to all rights as Americans?? This issue has NOTHING to do with "What the Bible says..." Keep all Churches separate from State! Pence's ongoing idiocy continues to make Indiana look like a backwards, homophobic state in the eyes of our nation. Can't we move on to bigger issues - like educating our kids?

  3. 1. IBJ should link to the referenced report. We are in the age of electronic media...not sharing information is lazy. Here is a link http://www.in.gov/gov/files/Blue_Ribbon_Panel_Report_July_9_2014.pdf 2. The article should provide more clarity about the make-up of this panel. The commenters are making this item out to be partisan, it does not appear the panel is partisan. Here is a list of the panel which appears to be balanced with different SME to add different perspectives http://www.in.gov/activecalendar/EventList.aspx?view=EventDetails&eventidn=138116?formation_id=189603 3. It suggests a by-pass, I do not see where this report suggests another "loop". 4. Henry, based on your kneejerk reaction, we would be better off if you moved to another state unless your post was meant as sarcasm in which case I say Well Done. 5. The article and report actually indicates need to improve rail and port infrastructure in direct contradiction to Shayla commentary. Specifically, recommendation is to consider passenger rail projects... 6. People have a voice with their elected officials. These are suggestions and do not represent "crony capitalism", etc. The report needs to be analyzed and the legislature can decide on priorities and spending. Don't like it, then vote in a new legislature but quit artificially creating issues where there are none! People need to sift through the politics and provide constructive criticism to the process rather than making uninformed comments in a public forum based on misinformation. IBJ should work harder to correct the record in these forums when blatant errors or misrepresentations are made.

  4. Joe ... Marriage is defined in the Bible ... it is mentioned in the Bible often. Marriage is not mentioned once in the US or Indiana Constitution ...

  5. Daniel - Educate me please: what does the Bible have to do with laws? If the government wasn't in the business of marriage to begin with, then it wouldn't have to "define" marriage at all. Marriage could be left as a personal, religious, or otherwise unregulated action, with no ties to taxes, legal status, etc. Then people could marry whomever they want, and all this silliness would go away. Remember to vote Libertarian in November.