Managers shouldn’t be above being judged

This article appeared originally in Gulf News: link to original article

My friend resigned twice from two different jobs. Though he does believe that it’s a faster way of moving upwards in one’s career by switching jobs every two to three years, he was forced by circumstances in both incidents to submit his resignation.

I guess that’s Mother Nature’s way of moving people out of their comfort zones. What I find intriguing is that both times, the main driver behind his resignation was his line manager.

Whether by favouritism towards certain individuals within the department or by unexplained disciplinary actions, the result was a build-up of frustration that eventually led to resignation. People who are good at what they do and enjoy it do not quit because of a one-time incident.

So how come things are allowed to build up until an internal explosion within a department becomes inevitable? Consider the annual performance reviews that are conducted in all organisations. It is the best chance for people to know how they have been performing, hence enhancing weaknesses and building on strengths.

However, what leads to issues described earlier is when line managers get to review employees’ performances, but employees do not get to say what they think of their line managers. Laszlo Bock, Senior Vice President of People Operations at Google, emphasises in his book Work Rules! that people quit managers, not organisations.


When my friend submitted his first resignation, his line manager refused to listen to my friend’s side of the story when accused of not performing his job properly. The same was communicated at each higher level of management, with the one running the whole management trainee programme telling him: “I got no time to look into your evidence that you have done nothing wrong”.

When my friend’s second resignation was rejected by higher management, his line manager had a 90-minute discussion with him. Many of you would think that he was talking him out of it. The line manager started the conversation by telling my friend that he took the unjustifiable disciplinary action against him to let him know that “he is dispensable”.

When I first heard this, I kept articulating on it up to the minute of sending this article for publication. I can only imagine how demotivated my friend got after being told that, and how less interested he has become in whatever that he once loved to do.

Think of all the lost hours in productivity for employees who have got to deal with similar line managers. What if those employees could evaluate their line managers? What if performance reviews were done on 360-degree basis and those line managers have got to up their game when it comes to managing people to keep getting their promotions and bonuses?

If they have nothing to lose, what would motivate them to make sure that they manage a happy team? Google has more than 50,000 employees. Yet, time is allowed for managers to give constructive feedback to their employees by following a specific template of feedback instead of awarding scores in accordance to a given quota per department.

Data analysis

Employees on the other hand get to provide a precise analysis of the manager’s performance. Also, the manager gets to know where exactly they need to improve on and where they are excelling already. Managers are then sorted into four quadrants based on the manager’s performance and a team’s happiness with the manager.

Data collection and analysis is carried on by Google’s People and Innovation lab and used to keep improving things within Google. Google thus was named by Fortune as the “Best Company to Work For” five times in the US besides other countries.

They must then be doing something right, not the least of which that managers get reviewed by their teams. The last thought that I want to leave you with: how much do bad line managers cost the country? (Hint: hours of none or minimal productivity, training budgets, Emiratisation …)