"No obstacles are insurmountable when God commands and we obey"
- - Heber J. Grant
June 19, 2012
Managing People
by Adam Smith

Anyone that has been a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints for any length of time has known someone that received a leadership calling in the Church and who then immediately became dictatorial. Doctrine and Covenants 121 is a constant reminder of how we should lead in the organization of the Church and our homes and gives the following warning:

"We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion." D&C 121:39

But what about at our jobs where we make our living? Does D&C 121 apply to our careers?

One of the most important tasks of a manager at all levels of a company is to efficiently and effectively direct the people that work for him or her. Directing the activities of a person is not inherently evil.

Remember the centurion in Matthew 8 who was concerned that his house was not worthy for the Savior to enter because he had authority over soldiers. He would tell the soldiers to go and they would go, to come and they would come.

Of course with Roman soldiers, the order may have been go over there and kill those people or come here and enslave all of these people. But still, there is nothing about having authority over people that is bad. It is how we use that authority that matters.

Christ directs the affairs of His Church and has authority over us. He has given us commandments to follow, provided prophets who give us counsel, and endowed us with the Holy Ghost to help lead and guide us. He has provided all of these things because He loves us and so our lives can be blessed.

When it comes to our employment there are clearly some managers who think that unrighteous dominion is actually the goal.

The first item to understand about this manager is that it is all about him and his progression up the corporate ladder. This manager does not hire new employees with proper care. He thinks that all employees are replaceable and if one does not work out, then fire him and get another.

This manager does not properly train new employees. He works his employees as long and as hard as possible until they either quit or they tire and make mistakes and then the manager fires them. From his first day, every employee knows that his job is on the line every day. The manager constantly threatens to eliminate people's jobs in an attempt to squeeze a little bit more work out of the employee.

He can never take the time to try and correct areas of weakness in employees. Weaknesses are to be documented in the employee's file so that termination can be swift whenever the manager is in the mood.

This manager loves to scream at people and intimidate them. He confuses fear with respect. He reasons that someone in management needs to "throw his weight around."

This manager takes the praise when something goes right in his area of responsibility and blames his employees when a mistake has been made.

Perhaps a few examples from my time in corporate America would be beneficial.

I was in a meeting one time and Sally, a senior manager, was angry because it was a busy time of year and an important employee of hers, Steve, was sick in the hospital. Steve's illness was severe enough that the doctor had ordered no work. He was going to be in the hospital another week, and all Sally could say was how inconvenienced she was. She said if all he was going to do was lie in bed all day, couldn't they at least stick a computer in front of Steve so he could get some work done? Nice.

Bill was a VP over a big department in a division of a large corporation. Bill basked in the glory when the division was doing well. What the people that reported to Bill did not know was that all the years Bill was their VP, whenever anything went wrong Bill blamed them to make himself look better.

When Bill was going to retire he was nice enough to tell the people that worked for him that it was only a matter of time before they were all fired. Corporate management thought they were all incompetent after years of being bad mouthed by the VP. Nice.

One more just for fun. Sandy already had a full time job and enjoyed what she was doing. She was well liked by her peers and always got good reviews from her manager. The VP over Sandy's boss needed someone to fill a position that had recently been created. The VP did not want to hire someone but wanted to look like a hero saving the company money.

He made Sandy an offer she could not refuse. She was told to keep all of her old responsibilities and take on the new role or be fired. Sandy began working crazy hours, getting in at 6am and leaving no earlier than 7pm, Monday through Friday. And then she was expected to work on Saturday and Sunday. Even with all these hours she could not get all the work done to the satisfaction of the VP and was fired. Nice.

In this article I have presented some examples of bad behavior of managers. The next article will continue the focus on the behavior of managers.

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About Adam Smith

Adam Smith is obviously not the actual name of the author of this column. The real author has worked for two Fortune 500 companies, one privately held company, and a public accounting firm. His undergraduate degree was in accounting, and he earned an MBA for his graduate degree. He also has completed coursework for a PhD. in finance. He continues to be employed by one of the Fortune 500 companies.

The author grew up in the Washington D.C. area but also lived for several years in Arizona. He currently resides with his family on the East Coast.

The author has held various callings in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

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