Thursday, 8 May 2008

Nice people can't manage apparently

Every now and then I get a flyer for a management conference that epitomises everything that is wrong with contemporary management practice.

The latest one arrived yesterday from the Australian Institute of Management offering two courses for women. It is probably enough to tell you that one of them is called ‘Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office’.

It is of course part of a broader push to sell the line that women are hard done by in the workplace – they are better managers on virtually every criteria, a news report told us breathlessly a few days ago - but don't the big bucks:


Women are better managers…except for the bottom line!

The first issue is the claim of gender bias. It is perfectly true of course, that niceness alone won’t get you promoted, and in some cutthroat work environments, niceness can be a positive hindrance. But that is as true for men as for women.

The big problem with the latest study is that the two things women weren’t as good as men at were – wait for it - focusing on financial returns and operational management.

Now don’t get me wrong, I think women can be really excellent managers. But trying to claim that they are overall better managers than men except for actually making things happen and making a profit does seem a bit of a stretch to me.

I actually do think women managers get judged differently, and generally less favourably to men for doing exactly the same things (and not necessarily for the right reasons) – but this kind of glossing over the evidence doesn’t do anything to help address that.

Ruthless ambition should rule

More fundamentally, it does seem to me that Catholics should be working to counter the unremitting promotion of ambition as an end in itself that is implicit or explicit in so much contemporary management theory.

There can be good reasons to seek promotion – to avoid working for someone incompetent, for example; or even to be in a better position to make a difference.

The presenter of this seminar though has her mind firmly on the lures of the world and the flesh as the motivation – she has apparently written lots of books with titles like ‘Nice girls don’t get rich’ and ‘Nice girls don’t get the corner office’.

The flyer for the seminar actually includes a little quiz. Apparently, you need a makeover to get rid of those girlish foibles if you:

§ bring muffins to share with your workmates to an early-morning meeting;
§ think office politics is painful and unbearable;
§ fail to crow to the boss about any positive feedback you get; or
§ actually listen to a co-worker who dares come up to your desk uninvited!

Silly me, here was I thinking that a management might include making the workplace a pleasant place to be.

A place where we work to make generosity, peace, kindness, humility and charity prevail.

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