Management Means Interrupting

World’s Best Boss…questionable, at best

When you watch shows like the Office, it’s easy to describe his managerial style: distracting.  Whether it’s pointless meetings, one-up-manship, office politics, or trying to look good for the big boss, not a lot of work gets done at the end of the day.  It’s easy to see as an objective bystander, but maybe a bit harder to notice under your own management.

When you step back and try to figure out how to maximize productivity amongst your workers, it might be tempting to place the blame on laziness or the economy…anywhere but management itself.  That might be the case, but many workers complain that their offices are just too distracting and that their managers do little about it.  Take a look at a recent description of the modern work place by Jason Fried of 37 Signals:

What happens is, is that you show up at work and you sit down and you don’t just immediately begin working, like you have to roll into work. You have to sort of get into a zone, just like you don’t just go to sleep, like you lay down and you go to sleep. You go to work too. But then you know, 45 minutes in, there’s a meeting. And so, now you don’t have a work day anymore, you have like this work moment that was only 45 minutes. And it’s not really 45 minutes, it’s more like 20 minutes, because it takes some time to get into it and then you’ve got to get out of it and you’ve got to go to a meeting….

And managers are the biggest problem because their whole world is built around interruption. That’s what they do. Management means interrupting. Hey, what’s going on? How’s this going? Let me call a meeting because that’s what I do all day, I call meetings. And so, managers are the real problems here and that’s got to change too.

Friedman singles out management as interrupters.  In fact, he defines management as “interruptions.” And, so, unwittingly, you have become Michael Scott.

How can you un-Michael Scott?

Take some time and survey your specific office situation.  What do you hear from a cubicle?  What is it like to live by the average worker’s schedule?  Are you really bouncing in and out of meetings?  Do the meetings feel valuable, or do they feel pointless?  Do you feel distracted all day?  Even if you disagree with the heart of Freidman’s statement, public perception is king.  If your workers feel interrupted and that their time has been wasted, they will be frustrated about it and, obviously, less productive.

Remedy the situation

It’s time to take action.  You can’t control the economy or each worker’s sense of accomplishment, but you can do your part to help the situation (versus fueling the flame).

  • Rework your office space so that people aren’t crammed next to each other.
  • Institute a “quiet time like IBM and Intel did.  It’s just time to work on projects and be free from distraction.
  • Minimize conversational and other noise-related distractions with sound masking, which provides a quieter, less stressful, more peaceful work environment.
  • Streamline the tech devices you use– consider instituting a Campfire system, or something akin to what Friedman suggested, that enables workers to ignore nonessential interruptions and keep working until there’s a natural break.

Whatever you do, don’t let yourself off too easily- you are the manager and ultimately the one responsible for the bottom line.