Management and Team Leadership Is Telling People What To Do

This is a vicious cycle of trouble.

Employee to Manager, “What would help me the most is some clarity on what you expect me to do and by when, this would be really useful in prioritizing my work and multiple projects sent to me daily.”

Manager to Employee, “I feel that it is insulting your intelligence, telling you how to do your job. You need to figure out how to organize your work and let us know and see your progress.”

WTF!? Did that just happen?

My reaction when I heard the above conversation.

The employee is asking for clarity from the manager and the manager does not want to insult his intelligence by telling him what to do?

Managements job is to tell people what to do

Clarify specifically what the employee is supposed to do; when to begin; when to end; what the final product is supposed to look like.


do people know what to do?


This happens too often, and many managers take the feedback and questions from employees as an assault on their management accountability. It is Not.

What it is, is your staff asking for clarity so they can get on with their work and so can you.

The next time you find your staff and work team not doing what they are supposed to do. Ask yourself and your team Do you know what you are supposed to do? If the answer is no, tell them and you will be amazed at the results and at your talent as a manager and team-leader.

What do you think?

As a manager / team leader are you annoyed when people ask you what it is you want them to do? Have you ever been accused of ‘not doing it right’ when you had no idea of what ‘right’ was?

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4 thoughts

  1. Right on Michael!!!
    We are doing a lot of ‘role clarity’ work these days and also encouraging the leader to do the work of their role, exercising that authority to assign tasks (Veto selection, assign tasks, review recognize and reward, and initialte removel from role.) If a managerial leader is not exercising these basic minimum authorities (or does not have them!) then it is unlikley they can be doing the work of their role. And then one needs to ask what the manager’s manager is doing about that…..

  2. Rod.
    role clarity is on of the ill-defined terms that many banter around. And Jaques did a great job of clearing up what that actually means.
    Creating an org to change its policies to reflect the areas you mentioned can be tough. I have had success creating variations on the 4 from Jaques.

  3. Demetri I looked at your article and it is not similar. It may be simpler but simpler in the way the managers who feel that “All they want me to do is tell them what to do and I don’t manage that way” or “You want me to tell you what to do, why did I hire you” or “I saw the report you turned in and it is obvious you just don’t know what you are doing” feel it is simple, because they are not being clear in what they expect from employees.

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