When the manager feels lost


Challenges, dilemmas, difficulties, complications, conflicting expectations, changeability, uncertainty, unpredictability – the dictionary that describes the current situation of managers is more than rich. In such reality the contemporary executives and managers function, in this reality they wake up and they go to sleep.

Sometimes, right after awakening or right before falling asleep, they ask themselves the following question – How can I be certain whether I’m doing it right? Where can I find the foundation for my decisions? Where can I find this sense of being certain that will allow me to face successfully all-embracing uncertainty? How can I feel condifent?


Today this sense of uncertainty refers to everyone – especially those that want to hold their positions. Once, belonging to a certain class guaranteed this safety, now it all become all-too-complicated: there is a conglomerate of interdependent factors, which need to be constantly and skillfully managed, if one wants to maintain his position. Simple, one-dimensional solutions lead to nowhere, at most they are a straight way to precariat.

Let’s imagine a following situation – an everyday situation known to everybody, who managed/manages people: What can I do with an employee whose performance has worsened? How can I secure business efficiency and not to deteriorate my relation with him?

Manager, who asks himself such question, can get a million simple answers from all directions. Here are a couple of authentic examples, which our manager could encounter during some training sessions, or in self-help guides, or on the internet:

  • He can cut his employee’s head off – I’ve already written about this in my post about Sun Tzu phenomena. This is a solution with a so-called guaranteed effect.
  • He can use some secret communication tricks on him– e.g. ask him a question: Would you prefer to be a beaver or a squirrel? Would you prefer to be a duck or a hawk? The main assumption is that an employee, shocked with such question, may start doing his job better and more effectively again.
  • He can coach his employee, until all flipcharts and post-its will whirr – exhausted employee would do anything in order to avoid similar meetings in the future
  • He can change his negative mindsets – assume that the glass is in fact half-full, that employee’s performance is generally good, because he could be doing absolutely nothing. At the end it’s best to pat employee on the shoulder, commenting: “Good job.”
  • He can use laughter therapy on his employee (but also on himself) – meaning react with a laughter on worsening employee’s performance. What else is left…

But let’s analyze this situation more seriously now, because it is in fact serious. There is a large number of tricks, techniques, tools, that contemporary manager can access – either during courses, or in management literature, either in press or on the internet – but less than few bring any effects (well, maybe apart from cutting somebody’s head off). Manager confronted with such fount of knowledge feels even more lost. He sees that he lacks both competence to maintain business efficiency and the skill to shape and maintain good relations with his employees. This awareness only deepens his sense of disorientation.

Where can such manager seek support?

From his superior that has exactly same unsolved dilemmas as him? That – what’s highly probable, very rarely has time to speak with him more thoroughly, as more frequently he works in a different country?

From his colleagues, also confronted with such challenges, but being afraid of admitting that – because the times are tough, you don’t know who you can trust, so it’s better not to admit weaknesses to anybody?

From his friends that react on each attempt to talk about work challenges with – And what happened to your work-life balance?

From his family that very rarely understands their husband’s/ wife’s / father’s/ mother’s sense of being lost and that very often fears this feeling, what they show even with such comments: Stop complaining! Your salary is great, what’s your problem? Remember that we have a mortgage to pay off! Do you want us to end under the bridge?

He finds no support from any of these groups.


So he looks further.

For some time he finds safety in adaptive fiction, in self-deception, in illusions that help him to live (but maybe not to live through), in idealizing himself and own declarations, in blaming others for all his problems – the government, American banksters, ecologists, company’s CEO, mother in law.

If this doesn’t help, he occupies himself with his body, his breath, his spirituality. He goes into yoga, meditation, he becomes interested in Buddhism – what certainly relaxes him, but sometimes to such degree that he is no longer capable to solve the majority of problems he faces.

And there is sport – the opposite of yoga – as extreme as possible. It allows switching off processes of thinking, it clears mind and it helps to get the confirmation of own self-esteem by managing own body (if it’s not working with my employees, that at least it will with my quadriceps).

Finally there are motivational speakers and psychological gurus. But they are also looking for this sense of security, even if in imaginary class divisions, in nobility and other similar phenomenas, imaginary, because functioning at least a century ago. What you can see in a quote of one of them: “It’s completely normal, to look in own genealogical tree for some glorious and wonderful moments.” http://biznes.gazetaprawna.pl/artykuly/801950,kapitalizm-po-polsku-folwark-ma-sie-dobrze.html

Or he can simply get drunk.

This quick and non-exhaustive review of potential sources of support shows one thing. There are no simple answers, there are no simple ways to achieve even relative sense of confidence. And in the meantime this lost manager gets a headache from more complex thinking about this topic.

And the subject of manager’s sense of self-confidence is not trivial – from organization’s efficiency perspective, from manager’s personal effectiveness perspective, hell, even from his mental health perspective.

So what can be done?

One of the few effective directions – visibly integrated into above-mentioned conglomerate – is permanently proving own value through actions (meaning mainly through their effectiveness), not a single time, but periodically, constantly verifying it. Meaning, in above-described situation with the employee whose performance has worsened, manager would feel more confident, if he managed to help employee to improve his result not only once, but in a longer perspective, and at the same time maintained, or even improved partnership relation with him.

In our series “Integrated manager” we are showing, how such manager can strengthen his sense of self-esteem and self-confidence, by solving a couple of typical managerial dilemmas.