Is that Managing or Manipulating?

The following article by U. Mahesh Prabhu was first published by BW Businessworld.

Management is defined as “the process of dealing with or controlling things or people”, it’s also defined as “trickery; deceit” by Google dictionary. While the first definition is somewhat agreeable the second is downright negative. Won’t you agree?

Management is among the world’s highest paid profession. Managers are paid at par, or even, more than doctors. This is the reason why MBAs are the most sought after post-graduation degrees in large parts of the developed world.

Wellbeing, be it personal, familial, organizational, societal, national or even global is defined by the way issues are managed. An organization may have people with only good intentions at the helm of affairs, but if they are bad managers it’s pretty obvious that they’ll run even the best enterprise into the ground.

Present day management theorists are not interested in defining what constitutes “good” or “bad” management practices. In business organizations those who contribute most to the productivity in their specific departments and, thereby, profitability to the organizations are called “best managers”.

As per Drucker’s “Management by Objectives” or “MBO” organizations are trying to achieve maximum productivity as well as profitability by defining short term objectives. The idea is that just by managing short term objectives – long term goals can be achieved. A great many thinkers as well as doers in management seem to agree with this.

As a result, there are many organizations which indulge in taking short cuts or even undercutting – to make productivity as well as profitability possible. This has resulted in various frauds occurring at Wall Street and at other establishments which has severely jeopardized the well being of the organization; leaving them liable to default as well, as being guilty in the eyes of the law. Given this can one still call such management behaviours as good practices?

True. MBO doesn’t say anything about undercutting or taking shortcuts. But does it say anything about not doing it – either?

Besides, management in terms of modern business thinkers, teachers, as well as managers is something to do with the process. While, people are definitely a major part of the process – they are still considered as a part – not the quintessential reason for everything. As a result we’ve a great many of the MBA, MBM or PGDBM degree holders knowing nothing as to what they are to do in ordered to build organizations that are assets to themselves, their colleagues, customers as well as society at large.

A lot many management grads often forget that an organization’s intent is also to contribute something positive to society. Drucker’s wisdom is often forgotten. What then follows is that when management students get into the real world, they are turned into menial labourers who are handed down a salary on the condition that they’ll complete pre determined tasks. And the better they get at their tasks; the more chances they will have to get climb the corporate ladder.

Climbing up the ladder then becomes a process that is little more than bootlicking, blind subordination as well as absolute loyalty – where sincere adherence to principles as well as human values are completely forgotten.

Great managers who speak vehemently about corporate social responsibility and the idea of “uplifting the poor”, ” the dejected” and “impoverished” are often those who’ve no care or concern for their own subordinates.

Why is this so? Why is it that organizations have become a place for mercenaries, and opportunists; which convert even those with good intentions about making a true and lasting difference to society into selfish individuals? This is because we’ve lost faith in truth, honesty, integrity as well as principles.

We are so obsessed with profitability and money that today that nothing else matters. This is because we think that only profitability can bring happiness. While I won’t disagree with that in totality – profitability by itself means nothing.

Take a look at the Wall Street – a good number of our brethren work round the clock in expectation of sustaining, retaining as well as thriving at work with the goal of making big bucks. They end up making so much money that in the end they don’t have the time to spend it. The happiness they talk about is often induced through carnal pleasure, narcotics as well as sadism.

More often these managers develop health problems, starting with stress induced hypertension, diabetes and what not. Before they reach 40yrs these individuals take more medications than food. While they’ve access to the best facilities they’ve neither time nor peace of mind. If you think they’d have made their family happy – most don’t have one. If they aren’t divorced their kids often experience loss of parental love and care – leading to their children developing anti-social habits.

Do you think they make a good name for themselves? Wall Streeters suffer from complexes, rivalry, are loathed as well as cursed for their sadistic pursuits. In 2008, when the American economy was in the dumps – Wall Street bankers still enjoyed handsome bonuses in millions for themselves! While they gambled other peoples’ hard earned money and lost – it was the government and peopled who faced the brunt. Do you think people would respect them for this?

And yet, all these Wall Streeters were from Ivy League b-schools. When someone from these Ivy Leagues is made CEO and Chairperson of top notch companies – they are immediately heralded, applauded as well as given honorary doctorates. But when a great many of the very same Ivy leaguers were found guilty of corporate fraud and betraying public trust – none of those same b-schools thought if there was some soul-searching to be done. Why is it so?

The answer lies in the approach to management. The management that is being taught isn’t management in the first place. It’s manipulation in essence. The idea of the management practice today is apparently to create fine organizations that can be positive contributors to the society – but is this followed?

Retrospection is needed; but not yet sought after.

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