Being a manager isn’t exactly a straightforward task, sometimes it’s tough keeping track of your own responsiblities alone, let alone those of the rest of your team. And when your employees aren’t exactly giving you an easy ride, it can become somewhat of a challenge.
The trials and tribulations of being a manager in the UK are something that David Brent of the BBC’s ‘The Office’ knows all too well, and although he generally had the right intentions, his management skills were somewhat lacking.
With the man himself due to hit our screens for the first time in over a decade later this year, I thought I’d look back at some of the lessons that we can learn from his management practices and general workplace conduct.
1) You can’t always be the good guy
When you’re managing a team of staff, you can’t always be liked by everyone, that’s just the way it is I’m afraid!
Sometimes it will be your responsibility to communicate tough messages, that may not make you popular in the office; however it is important that you make sure that everybody is staying on task and work is getting done correctly. You may be a pretty cool individual on a personal level, but in the workplace you have to be able to put your foot down when staff are slacking or at fault.
Brent was too often focused on being the good guy that everyone liked, that he forgot he was boss and failed to assert authority when it was necessary. What happened? Tim runs riot and poor ol’ Gareth has to put up with his stapler being coated in jelly and his phone glued together!
— David Brent DVD/CD (@DavidBrentMovie) March 14, 2016
“Because when the disciplining has to be done, then the laughter stops, for that amount of time, then continues…”
2) Don’t sugar coat things
On a similar note, when bad news has to be shared with the team, it’s best to be direct, rather than sugarcoating the message, by putting a positive spin on it.
If there isn’t a bright side, then don’t pretend there is, as it can come across as highly patronising and staff would rather you were honest with them about the severity of the situation.
— David Brent DVD/CD (@DavidBrentMovie) December 27, 2015
“There’s good news and bad news. The bad news is that Neil will be taking over both branches, and some of you will lose your jobs. On a more positive note, I’ve been promoted, so… every cloud.”
3) Don’t go by the book
Sure, there has been a lot of helpful advice written about effective management techniques and communication over the years, so it does no harm to take note.
However, there is a line that should not be crossed when it comes to this advice. This line falls between subtly incorporating tips into your management style and going all out by reciting corny jargon filled quotes directly to your staff.
Nobody wants to hear a load of management cliches reeled out like you’re some sort of leadership guru and it’ll make you appear no more clued up about what you are doing if you aren’t putting the lessons into practice!
— David Brent DVD/CD (@DavidBrentMovie) February 24, 2016
“What is the single most important thing for a company? Is it the building? Is it the stock? Is it the turnover? It’s the people, investment in people.”
4) Actions speak louder than words
Just because you haven’t vocalised how you feel about someone or something, doesn’t mean that they can’t tell exactly what you’re thinking! It’s true that actions speak louder than words, and body language and facial expressions can give away a lot!
As a manager it is essential that you remain professional, so you must hide any gestures that will give away that you don’t like what someone is saying and rather communicate openly and diplomatically.
David Brent is terrible for pulling tell-tale facial expressions, rolling his eyes and making inappropriate gestures – mainly for the sake of his fly-on-the-wall documentary, however I think he may have forgotten that the people around him could see him too!
— David Brent DVD/CD (@DavidBrentMovie) February 2, 2016
5) The boss is not part of the gang
Being the boss doesn’t mean you have to segregate yourself from the team entirely, but you’ve got to understand that you’re going to be viewed differently to other colleagues. After all you are their boss and their job could be in your hands.
David often tried too hard to fit in with the rest of the team, that he failed to set boundaries and lost authority in the office. As a bid to get chummy with the other employees, he also made the mistake of being a little too open about issues going on in the company, which were inappropriate for him to share.
— David Brent DVD/CD (@DavidBrentMovie) March 4, 2016
“I suppose I’ve created an atmosphere where I’m a friend first and a boss second. Probably an entertainer third.”
6) Don’t pretend to be someone else
It’s natural that you would want to impress others and prove that you are competent in your job, but don’t pretend to be someone you are not in doing so!
People will see right through the act, so it’s better to be authentic and let your team get to know the real you. They’ll respect you more for it than if you put on a bravado and rattle off a load of stuff from textbooks. By putting on a false persona or making promises you can’t keep, you will lose trust with your employees and you will fail to build strong relationships.
— David Brent DVD/CD (@DavidBrentMovie) March 5, 2016
“People see me and see the suit, but they know I’m rock and roll through and through. You know ‘Live fast, die young’?”
7) Don’t make colleagues feel uncomfortable
Brent, the King of crap jokes himself, was on a constant hunt for friendship and popularity in the office. As an attempt to integrate himself with the rest of the gang he would frequently make inappropriate gags and remarks that could leave employees feeling uncomfortable.
— David Brent DVD/CD (@DavidBrentMovie) March 9, 2016
“This is the accounts department, the number bods. Do not be fooled by their job descriptions, they’re absolutely mad, all of ’em…”