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99.9% of U.S. managers are dolts, survey finds

March 08, 2013|By Paul Whitefield
  • A sign advertising jobs in the window of a Jack in the Box restaurant in San Francisco.
A sign advertising jobs in the window of a Jack in the Box restaurant in San… (Justin Sullivan / Getty…)

“Executives doubt U.S. workers have skills to succeed, survey says.”

How’s that for a thought-provoking (or maybe just “provoking”) headline? Talk about "Workers of the World Unite!" time.

It seems that the American Management Assn. surveyed U.S. executives and found that a majority rate their workers "average at best" in creativity, collaboration, critical thinking and communication.

Actually, it gets worse. As my colleague Shan Li reported Friday:

And the number of managers who rate their workers "below average" rose in all four categories: 9.8% believe their employees lack critical thinking skills (up from 6.2% in 2010), 19.7% in creativity (up from 15.6%), 13.2% in communication (up from 10.6%) and 12.4% in collaboration (up from 11.3%).

What’s management’s beef? Here’s Ed Reilly, chief executive of the American Management Assn.:

"The emphasis over the past years has been on high-tech skills like math and science for workers, but what's missing in the discussion is the ability to communicate and make key decisions at lower levels."

Such criticism, when you think about it, is remarkable. Apparently, these guys were born managers, never having had to actually work. And apparently, they don't have managers themselves. Or perhaps they just never stopped to think that they might be one of the "workers" another manager is so down on?

Who's "below average" now?

Anyway, being a creative, critical-thinking, collaborative type myself, I decided to do a little survey of my own (in between working, and surfing the Web, and checking Facebook and emailing folks). I reached out to colleagues and friends and asked them to rate their managers, past or present, on their critical thinking skills, creativity, communication and collaboration.

Now, some were obviously biased, having been downsized in the last few years by their managers. Or they’d been a manager until some other low-life manager outmaneuvered them and handed them their lunch. Others were just plain envious, wishing they were managers so they could have a nice office and have others do their work for them.

Not that I threw out their opinions. Rather, I treated these biases kind of like Fox News did with its pre-presidential election polls -- I ignored them and tallied on.

And guess what? According to my survey, 100% of workers think 99.9% of their managers are, or were, well, dolts. (And that’s up from 99.8%.)

I caught up with one of those surveyed, Bob (not his real name) at the track, which he finds both a creative and collaborative way to spend his time. Here’s what Bob said about management:

“The emphasis over the past years has been on high-tech schmoozing skills like LinkedIn and Twitter for managers, but what's missing in the discussion is the ability to communicate with anyone except their golfing buddies, their mistresses and other CEOs, and to make key decisions at any time, unless they’re absolutely forced to, in which case they take all the credit when things turn out right and lay lots of people off  when things don’t work out, all while making sure they get paid obscene amounts of money.”

There was more, but Bob had to run off to cash a $47 exacta ticket and get in the beer line.

OK, full disclosure: I made Bob up. Actually, I made the survey up too. (I told you I was creative.)

But here’s the point: In February, U.S. employers added 236,000 jobs, bringing the unemployment rate to a four-year low of 7.7%. And I’ll bet the vast majority of those hired are glad to have a job and want to do it well.

But if they are to succeed, it wouldn’t hurt for some of those disappointed managers the American Management Assn. surveyed to -- here’s a novel thought -- actually do some managing.

I’m pretty sure I read somewhere that that’s what they get paid for.


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