Managers: Do They Help or Hinder?

Is your manager a help or a hindrance when it comes to your analytics work and initiatives?

Bryan Beverly, Statistician, Bureau of Labor Statistics

January 11, 2017

3 Min Read
<p>(Image: Photographee/Shutterstock)</p>

If you are a fan of the cartoon strip Dilbert, then you know that managers are often portrayed in a negative light.

Just look at a few of these Dilbert strips.

While all of this is humorous, it does raise the question: Do managers help or hinder the work environment? Let's consider both sides.

Managers help the work environment. They do the heavy lifting of making it easier for the staff to do their work. They provide the equipment and resources needed to accomplish the corporate mission. They handle recruiting, timesheets and send flowers to bereaving staff members. They order and set up the food for the company all-hands meetings. They handle the difficult employees and often work after hours. They communicate the corporate vision and help everyone to stay busy with interesting tasks. Managers are the glue that keep things working smoothly.

Managers hurt the work environment. They hover like helicopters. They ask for status reports every five minutes. They use big words that have no meaning for everyone else. They are arrogant, overbearing and do not add value to the work products. Managers have meetings to plan meetings. They are disconnected from the real world. The staff would be much more productive if the managers would just disappear.

So which view is correct? They are both correct. Managers make the work place productive and they also serve as bottlenecks. They make sure that projects stay within scope, time, and budget. But managers also can have so many meetings that the staff does not have time to actually do their work. They are loved and reviled. Managers are a blessing and a curse.

Let's think specifically about managers in the context of analytics. If you have access to the data, project schedule and analytics software, then how much value do managers add to the delivery of analytic products/goods and services? With all of the intelligence built into software and with staff members who are capable of being self-directed, then what role do managers play in providing analytic work products?

Is it possible that managers do not directly add value to analytic initiatives, but do expedite the process by which the initiatives are executed? While managers may not perform step-wise regression, is it possible that they do ensure that the software license is current? Using a football metaphor, are managers the running backs or are they the linemen who open up the gaps and block downfield?

What are your expectations of your manager? Do you expect him/her to have equal to superior technical skills, or are you just happy to have him/her approve your leave? Do you expect your manager to have all the answers, or do you expect your manager to know where to find the answers? Do you expect your manager to be tall with perfect teeth and hair? Do you expect your manager to have a Master's degree? Would it make a difference if you had more education than your manager? How much credit should your manager get when things go right? How much blame should s/he get when things go wrong? How much better would your work place be if you were the boss? In what ways can you perform better than your manager?

Do managers help or hinder?

About the Author(s)

Bryan Beverly

Statistician, Bureau of Labor Statistics

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