Sunday, November 5, 2023


Kabhi Kabhi lagta hai ki apun hi Bhagwan hai (Sometimes I feel as if I am God myself)

In the fast-paced, high-stress environment of the corporate IT world, the role of a manager is often portrayed as one bearing the weight of the world on their shoulders. Managers find themselves at the epicenter of responsibility, accountable for the success or failure of projects and the well-being of their team members. This portrayal can sometimes lead managers to feel like omnipotent figures, akin to gods, who must navigate a myriad of challenges. This reminds me of a famous Bollywood movie dialogue - Kabhi Kabhi lagta hai ki apun hi Bhagwan hai (Sometimes I feel as if I am God myself).

Let's explore some of the areas where this perception takes shape -

1. Project Timelines and Outcomes: Managers are often in the hot seat when a project is delayed or fails to meet its deadlines. They're the ones questioned and expected to provide answers. While managers undoubtedly play a pivotal role in project management, it's essential to recognize that project outcomes are a collective effort. Effective communication, collaboration, and alignment of team members' skills and resources are equally crucial factors.

2. Team Performance: When a team member's performance falters, the manager is the one held accountable. While managers do play a role in team performance through coaching, mentorship, and performance evaluations, individual accountability and self-motivation are also vital. It's a shared responsibility between the manager and team members to ensure performance standards are met.

3. Health and Well-being: In some instances, if a team member falls ill, it's not uncommon for them to attribute their health issues to the manager's stress-inducing work environment. While a manager should certainly strive to create a healthy work atmosphere, personal health issues are usually unrelated to managerial actions. A manager's role is to be supportive and empathetic, but they cannot control every aspect of their team's lives.

4. Estimations and Overtime: Sometimes, inaccurate project estimations lead to team members working overtime, affecting their work-life balance. It's essential for managers to encourage realistic estimations and support team members when unexpected challenges arise. However, the responsibility for accurate estimates also lies with the entire team, as it requires thorough analysis and understanding of project requirements.

5. Work Environment: Managers are often held responsible for the work environment, including team morale and collaboration. While managers have a significant impact on shaping the work culture, it's important to recognize that every team member contributes to the overall environment. Creating a positive work atmosphere is a collective effort that involves both management and individual team members.

6. The Influence of Leadership Coaches: Many leadership coaches emphasize the idea that employees leave their managers rather than the company itself. This notion carries significant weight and can demoralize managers. The question arises: Is it fair to place the entire burden of retaining employees on the manager? 

The idea that a manager or leader can be solely responsible for every aspect of an organization's success or challenges is unrealistic and can create unreasonable expectations. Leadership is crucial, but it operates within a broader context, and outcomes are influenced by various factors. Effective leadership involves collaboration, adaptability, and the ability to navigate complex situations, rather than being a panacea for all problems.

Being a manager is a challenging and often thankless job. Managers are indeed human beings with their own personal and professional challenges, and they typically aim to balance their responsibilities while striving to lead, nurture, and motivate their teams. Let's delve into some key points that reflect the reality of a manager's role:

  • Humanity of Managers: Managers are not superhumans devoid of emotions or personal issues. They have their own struggles, and they too can have bad days or face personal difficulties. Despite this, they often make a conscious effort to maintain a positive and supportive demeanor when interacting with their teams.
  • Leadership and Pressure: The expectations placed on managers by their superiors and the organization can be substantial. They are expected to lead by example, motivate their teams, and deliver results. This can be a significant source of stress, and managers often act as buffers, shielding their teams from some of the organizational pressure.
  • Empathy and Support: Good managers often demonstrate empathy and provide support to their team members, not just in terms of professional growth but also by recognizing their personal challenges. They understand that team members are individuals with unique circumstances.
  • Maintaining Professionalism: Even when facing internal turmoil, effective managers often maintain a professional front and deal with their own emotional challenges privately. They understand the importance of being a role model for their teams and promoting a positive work environment.
  • Communication: Open and honest communication is a hallmark of effective management. When a manager is having a tough time, they may communicate this to their team to maintain transparency and set expectations. This can foster a sense of trust and mutual understanding.
  • Balancing Act: Balancing the demands from senior leadership, addressing individual team members' concerns, and navigating the complexities of the corporate world is indeed a challenging juggling act. Managers are expected to absorb pressure from above while supporting their teams below.

It's important to recognize and appreciate the humanity of managers in the corporate world. They play a crucial role in maintaining the delicate balance between leadership, results, and support for their teams. While they may not always express their struggles openly, they often carry the weight of their responsibilities with the intent to create a positive and productive work environment for their team members. Understanding the challenges that managers face can lead to more empathetic and productive working relationships within organizations.

It's crucial for both leadership teams and individual employees to understand that many factors contribute to these situations, and it's rarely the sole responsibility of a manager. Here's a closer look at each of these scenarios:

  • Product Delivery in a Scrum Team:
    • Product delivery is a team effort, and all team members, including the Product Owner, Architect, Scrum Master, and developers, play crucial roles.
    • The Scrum Team Manager is part of the team and helps facilitate collaboration and unblocks obstacles.
    • Leadership teams should recognize that product delivery success depends on the collective efforts of the team, and it's not solely the manager's responsibility.
  • Work-Life Balance:
    • Work-life balance depends on various factors, including personal choices, external pressures, and team dynamics.
    • Sometimes, critical deadlines may require temporary adjustments in work-life balance, and these decisions are often made at higher levels of the organization.
    • Individual time management and productivity also play a significant role in maintaining work-life balance.
    • The responsibility for work-life balance should be shared among team members and the organization, rather than being solely on the manager.
  • Compensation and Hike Decisions:
    • Compensation decisions are typically complex and involve multiple parties, including HR, Line of Business (LoB) leaders, and managers.
    • Managers provide input and recommendations, but final decisions often consider market trends, budget constraints, and organizational priorities.
    • Employees should be aware that their manager is not the sole determinant of their compensation and that these decisions are part of a larger process.

Success or challenges are often the result of a combination of factors, and placing blame solely on a manager is usually unfair and counterproductive. Effective communication and a team-based approach to problem-solving can lead to better outcomes in these situations. Additionally, employees should engage in open and constructive dialogues with their managers and HR to address concerns or seek clarification on various matters, including compensation, work-life balance, and product delivery.

In conclusion, the portrayal of managers as omnipotent figures responsible for everything in the corporate IT world is an oversimplification of a complex reality. While managers do hold critical leadership roles and responsibilities, success and failure are collective outcomes. Recognizing shared responsibility and promoting a culture of collaboration can lead to better project outcomes, improved team performance, and a healthier work environment for everyone involved. Managers should not be expected to be divine figures but rather facilitators of success through effective leadership and teamwork.

"Employees are the most valuable assets for a company and Managers are the best caretakers of these assets." - Rajesh Bhojwani

Disclaimer: The above views are based on my individual experience in the management role. I would love to hear your learnings and views on this topic. Please do message me.

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