We’ve all seen them; the crappy managers. Those who seem to care mostly about themselves and not particularly for their employees. But this is not about them. Most managers I have met care a lot. Which is great. Until it isn’t.
You can care too much, you see. Or perhaps better put, care in the wrong way.
Some managers, mostly men, care so much that they watch their employees like hawks. They seem to feel the need to support or even defend their employees at every opportunity. They will gladly step in to attack a perceived aggressor when conflict arises. It’s like they see themselves as knights in shining armour, riding in with swords drawn. My hypothesis is that it’s connected to feelings of honor and machismo. Under that, perhaps insecure manhood.
If you are that type of manager, let’s be clear on two things: Your employees are not virgin princesses. And you are not their sworn knight. So don’t do that!
The best managers care in the wisest of ways. They stay calm and silent and let their people resolve most of their conflicts all by themselves. They do this because they know that stepping into somebody’s conflict without cause or invitation is disrespectful. This says: “You can’t take care of yourself, let me handle this. I am better than you.” Also, good managers know that a constructive conflict will make the troublemakers grow as humans. And often, after the smoke has cleared, people are closer than they were before the conflict started. Fancy that! Conflicts are not necessarily a bad thing.
A smart manager will step in only if:
- Some time has passed, days or even weeks.
- It seems the conflict won’t resolve itself in a positive way.
- It really needs to.
When wise managers do step in, they step in as mediators – not silly knights.