A lot of the advice you see about management is bullshit. For example, I recently read some post, probably on some pretentious site like medium.com, about how you shouldn’t send emails late at night if you’re a manager because it sends the wrong message to your people. It creates the impression that your people should be working all the time and destroys the idea of work-life balance.
Don’t get me wrong, I get where they’re coming from. The 1990s.
For some reason, this piece of management advice made me angry. Let me describe my team. I have one person in San Francisco, two in Canada, one in Sweden, one in Copenhagen, a couple in Ohio, one in Australia, and I live in Washington. So pray tell me, when exactly can I send an email that won’t be received by someone out of “normal” working hours?
I believe the advice is well meaning, but it’s severely out of date with how distributed modern teams work today. I also think it mythologizes managers. It creates this mindset that managers wield some magical power in the actions they take.
True, there’s an implicit power structure at work between managers and those they manage. But healthy organizations understand that managers are servant leaders. They serve the needs of the team. Managers are not a special class of people. They are beautifully flawed like the rest of us. I sometimes have too much to drink and write tirades like this. Sometimes I get caught up in work and am short with my spouse or children. I say things I don’t mean at work because I’m angry or tired. We have to recognize management as a role, not a status.
The point is, rather than rely on these “rules” of business conduct, we’d be better served by building real trust amongst members of a team. My team understands that I might send an email at night not because I expect a response at night. It’s not because I expect people to work night and day. No, it’s because I understand we all work in different time zones. They know that I sometimes work at night because I took two hours out during the middle of the day to play soccer. And I understand they’ll respond to my emails when they’re damn good and ready to.