Management Articles


Management by Dropping Hints

By: Robert H. Kent, Ph.D., CMC

President of The Mansis Development Corporation, Dr. Kent is a specialist in the structure and management of small and medium-sized organizations, and frequently serves as a personal coach and management consultant to executives for solving their management and employee performance problems. Before founding his consulting company, Bob held senior management and executive positions in federal and provincial government and private corporations. He has been a director of several health care and service organizations and a consulting member of private and government task forces in the areas of government finance, organization structure, personnel management and executive development. Since 1972 he has lectured in management at several Canadian and American universities in the faculties of Management, Administrative Studies, Medicine and Continuing Education where he has been an award winner for excellence in teaching and professional expertise; and he has published over 125 books and articles on management.

There's a common management style I'm discovering among presidents and senior executives. I call it management by dropping hints.

I hear executives saying things like, "I don't understand why Smigelski's not doing her job -- I've dropped enough hints". Or, "Why doesn't Frigelbum take the hint? I want him to give me a once-a-month written report on client calls so that I'll know exactly how successful he is compared to previous months. Whenever I ask him how his calls are going he says everything is fine, but I know for a fact he is making fewer calls." The president feels it's a personal affront to have to verbalize expectations.

Presidents who manage by dropping hints sometimes devise little tests to see if their executives can read their minds. And they present these tests to people for whom they're prepared to pay $100,000.00 to $200,000.00 a year!

Why do managers manage by dropping hints? Perhaps it's due to personality traits, or possibly these managers have never seen managing done any differently so they think that that's the way to do it. Or maybe it's just not clear in their minds what they want subordinates to do.

Other managers may take too much for granted and assume too much. They may assume what's common sense for them (given their goals and objectives) is common sense for the other person. Or, managers may be so involved in what they perceive to be their own problems that they feel they don't have enough time to be telling other people what to do.

As a manager though, you should separate your employee's ability to do the job from her ability to read your mind. It's a shame that so many employees fail at their jobs not because they couldn't do the job, but because they couldn't read the boss' mind. Give your employees a clear indication of what you expect from them and if they don't know what to do, tell them.

Summary Points
  • Don't manage by dropping hints. Develop job descriptions for all employees and be explicit about what you want done.
  • Don't expect employees to read your mind. Tell them what you want.

© Copyright 2001 The Mansis Development Corporation

Other Articles by Robert H. Kent, Ph.D., CMC

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