Hackernoon logoBabysitter Managers Are in Trouble and They Know It by@atrigueiro

Babysitter Managers Are in Trouble and They Know It

The big push to return to normalcy has begun. This means remote work must end, at least that is the position of some leaders and managers. They cannot fathom the business world might not need them. As the business world became more and more complicated, they knew in their hearts the 21st century had left them behind.

The "babysitter" manager clung to power as we entered the new century. As tech became more and more ubiquitous and doing business became ever more complicated, the "babysitter" manager seemed a necessity. Leadership was unable to truly grasp what was happening in the trenches. How could they really know if the workers were working? It was not like screwing nuts onto bolts where you could count them.

There were clear metrics of productivity even boneheads could evaluate in the 20th century. Worker A did 50 bolts a minute and Worker B did 45 bolts per minute. Fire Worker B or "squeeze" Worker B was probably the more likely outcome. Those babysitter managers insisted they were required to be there to "squeeze" the knowledge workers.

The business world had become so complex. The workers in the trenches were doing complex tasks not screwing nuts onto bolts. The metrics of productivity became muddy. This is why methodologies like Agile and Scrum et al came into being. To be honest these methodologies helped the "babysitter" manager understand better the worker they were managing...WHEN those methodologies were implemented earnestly. But when they were not, it actually gave the "babysitter" manager more ways to "squeeze".

In any case, this fogginess about the output of the knowledge worker has kept the "babysitter" manager employed. For every great leader who came along there were many babysitters. For each one who demonstrated how freeing the knowledge worker increased productivity, there were a hundred babysitters who ground out lesser, but still increased productivity through the "squeeze".

There were just not that many businesses really willing to take risks when the "babysitter" manager was a known quantity. The "babysitter" who could guarantee productivity via the "squeeze" was a stabilizing force providing steady output. This was the pitch of the "babysitter" manager. This was what the "babysitter" manager brought to the table. This was their value proposition.

The pandemic forced businesses to take the risk of sending workers home to work remotely. As it turns out the workers performed for the most part. The stock market reports on earnings are clear indications of this. The amount of time required for a commute, dressing for and eating at the business location is not small. Workers learned they were contributing something like 15 to 20 hours a week of support to this business model.

Think of it this way. The average worker has about a 45 minute commute, so that is 7.5 hours a week in a car. Say it takes a mere thirty minutes to prepare for work(very efficient) then we have 2.5 hours, so now we are at ten hours a week. Factor in the longer lunch break one might take because one is away from home, we are easily at 15 hours. Add in any other daily chores related to children, pets, parents or hobbies and the amount of time the commuting workers gives to the business is not small.

The pandemic brought so much fear and trepidation. Workers pushed hard, but they found they now could put in 5, even 10 hours of overtime and still have time to be with their children, to walk their dog or water their garden. Workers have to work harder at home but they get the benefits of more control over their lives.

When the "babysitter" manager tried their "squeeze" during the lockdown maybe the worker just disconnected from Zoom for a time. The worker came back later due to the value proposition the business is offering. If the worker produces they will get money. This is a fine deal, especially if one has a decent house and a loving family. Wow! What a deal! More work, but more time to LIVE! OK! We are in!

That means the workers are self-motivating though. Where does the "babysitter" manager fit in this new business world? They know they are unable to actually DO ANYTHING. They KNOW this and that is why they squeezed so hard and are so desperate now. That WAS their job. It was their ONLY job. No one wanted to risk the productivity loss losing the babysitter might lead to.

As the knowledge worker, you are beginning to understand this. The desperation of the "babysitter" managers to prove they provide value is real. It is no longer a foregone conclusion. When you understand their desperation, you realize no amount of numbers or metrics can change their desperation.

The babysitters know they cannot do anything else. They MUST have workers back in front of them. Otherwise, the babysitter managers may find themselves worse than furloughed. They have no other value proposition than the "squeeze".

The babysitters will be laid-off due to lack of work, if the workers do not return. When you understand this, you understand why they are fighting so desperately. They are passionately trying to break something which appears to be working very well, because this new model has no place for the "babysitter" manager.

The "babysitter" managers know it. Now you know it. Understanding this can help you negotiate...hopefully. Good luck.


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