Effective Solutions Through Partnership

Why Managing People is not for Everyone

Human Resources, Managing/Leadership

Not Managing People

By Catherine Kendall

I am convinced that the biggest mistake organizations make is underestimating what it takes to manage people. Managing people is not the same as ‘leading’ them or ‘project managing’ resources; oftentimes because of their great project management skills, PMs are put into people-management roles and the effects can be less than stellar.

Managing people consists of, what I like to call, ‘holding their people card.’ As a people manager, one has control, influence, and authority over another person’s destiny in an organization. A people manager determines raises, vacations, bonuses, evaluations, and promotions. A people manager can also make or break another person’s reputation.

It sounds relatively easy, right? Well, after years and years of managing people, I have concluded that not only is it the hardest job, but there are too many people managing people who are completely unqualified to do it.

Business schools crank out MBA types and attempt to train them to manage people using organizational behavior and theory techniques. However, extrinsic motivation, intrinsic motivation, theory X, theory Y, etc., are too general when it comes to the complexities of human nature.

I would like to see business schools offer a class encouraging students to evaluate their ‘management chops.’ For example, the business school can team up with the drama department and develop a curriculum where a student has to manage a group of drama students portraying employees in a simulated environment. The drama students will portray good employees, hard workers, lazy workers, drama-laden workers, etc. The professor will evaluate the performance of the student and the student will evaluate him or herself as well. The goal: Does the student have what it takes to manage people?

Managing people is as much about disposition as it is about the bottom line. Managing people requires the delicate balance of empathy and compassion, combined with sharp business skills. I understand, however, that no matter how much kindness or compassion one has, people will always find reasons to hate management. I just wish some managers would face their own realities and recognize that they should not manage people and should instead pursue a role where they can bring their other skills and strengths to their organization or company.

About the Author: Catherine has fifteen years of experience in managing large scale information technology systems integration projects as a former Project Executive at IBM from 1999 to 2010. During her tenure at IBM, she was a certified Executive Project Manager, a certified Project Executive, and she was an appointed member of IBM’s North American Project Management Board. Prior to joining IBM, Catherine worked for both Deloitte Consulting and Accenture as an analyst and programmer. Catherine’s industry background is predominantly in health and human services’ state government information technology projects. She has her doctorate in education from Drexel University and she has an MBA and a B.S. from the University of California at Davis. Catherine is a board member at WEAVE and an animal rescue volunteer. She enjoys playing classical piano, exercising, and spending time with her family.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


*