Humble Management Tips From the Managed

Being a student and having work a number of jobs I have worked under numerous managers both bad and brilliant. My  CV includes a number of stereotypical studenty jobs from working in a call centre to seasonal hospitality, you name it I’ve worked it. Below are just a few of my experiences of management with some humble observations:

Terrible Manager

Firstly lets look at call centres. The magical sea of cubicles and the pleasant drone of 150 phone lines still brings a smile to my face, not. We were instructed in dulcet and often sarcastic tones to “smile and dial” whilst a bored manger swung side to side in a nicer-than-ours swivel chair listening to calls. Whilst I sympathised with his struggle understanding just how menotenous listening to hundreds of calls a day must have been, probably worse than making them, he didn’t make life for us easy either. This is my first example of poor manger for a number of reasons; firstly when you got something wrong (which is easier than you think in market research) instead of simply telling you where you went wrong he would intimidate you with a guessing game where you would have to guess what you did wrong with every incorrect answer followed by an insult.  When strike rate was down (number of people agreeing to give an interview to the number of calls made) he would walk up and down like a sergeant major insisting “nobody is leaving until we hit strike rate” or “try harder or get out!”. If you ever plucked up the courage to ask him about something he was completely unhelpful suggesting the question was stupid and common sense, though I cannot fathom why someone should inherently know what social banding an auxiliary nurse from North London falls into.

Brilliant Manager

I have worked in a number of venues across London for a number of hospitality agencies, whilst there is no actual management from the agency itself you fall under the manager of the venue or the event organiser. This was a real mix of good and bad. The best example of hospitality manager I have come across was a lovely lady who really understood the staff eventhough she would never know them for more than eight hours. On the particular day I worked for her she greeted us all with a smile and a wink whilst politely suggesting (that being the important word) we do our top button up and showed us how to tie our apron in the “poshest way possible”. Being quite new to the industry I made some classic rookie errors like dropping a plate of duck into a customers lap, dramatically smashing glasses of champaign in domino fashion and of course forgetting to place knives and forks a thumbs width from the edge of the table. What made her a good manager was that she responded quickly to my mistakes, told me why they happened and showed me how to do better in the future. Where I got things wrong she didn’t demene me or suggest I was stupid but instead recognised my inexperience and I have never dropped a plate since, my second champaign incident happened at a separate event involving a slightly tipsy oil executive, that was’t my fault. She was approachable at all times even during busy dinner service and I think that’s why the event went so smoothly, by doing this she averted problems before they became problems. Her attitude made me want to work harder recognising that she genuinely valued me eventhough I had made mistakes, the day went quickly and the guests left very happy even Mr Duck as I now refer to him.

Bad Manager

I once worked an event at a high end fashion label in the West End, this was one of the worst experiences of my life and probably one of the worst managers I have had. I feel it important to note for this event I was being paid the princely sum of £5.70 which is better than nothing but most of which was spent getting to the event and the stale supermarket meal deal I hastily swallowed on my less than legal 7 minute break. She was the prime example of a hospitality manager that doesn’t leave the posh in front of house. When I arrived at this event we were lined up for an unorthodox uniform inspection where she dished out reprimands (fines for inadequate appearance or uniform) to most of the staff, she was particularly displeased that I wasn’t “freshly shaven”, I was and you would have had to have been within 3 inches of my face to see even the slightest missed hair. It seemed to me that she was either trying to exert her authority or make the whole thing cheaper for the company either of which are just completely unacceptable. This particular event involved carrying antique silver trays, which were extremely heavy, full of canapés which didn’t justify the tray. It was so ridiculous that the guests even started to recognise that the trays were far too heavy for the waiters, I don’t think the trays were even intended to be used for that, so they gobbled down as many green pea and pork jelly parcels as they could in sympathy. After three hours I asked one of the waiters if I could swap jobs for the easier task of topping up champaign to which he agreed. So there I was thankful my silver platter hell was over when a storming manager came and whispered in my ear “downstairs now!”, I toddled down to the basement where I was told “how dare you, I told you to carry the tray!” she was so angry she gave me another tray overloaded it with parcels and didn’t even put the other guy back on champaign. This lady clearly took her job far too seriously and had some sort of superiority complex, needless to say her management style was ineffective and just left staff with miserable faces whilst sympathetic guests assisted against her tyranny.
If there is any advice I can give from a managed point of view it is this; help don’t hinder. Its a question of attitude;  exude positivity and it will be met by the same feeling from staff. It is far more effective to get people to do things out of respect for you than fear of you and really the only way to get staff to respect you is to respect them. For me money wasn’t the issue, put simply I have learned not to work for someone who doesn’t respect me and I have been all the happier since. I worked hard for the manager that respected and valued me and did the minimum to get paid for the manager that didn’t.

By Lewis Sweeney
Llb Law Student
University of Westminster