There are typically two types of individuals at work, ones that are independent and ones that are not. Sound fairly simple? Sure, but what exactly are they dependent on? Their managers. There are many good, valid reasons that cause someone to be more dependent at work such as being in a new role, learning a new technology, or potentially even the culture you were raised in has engrained that thinking in you. Many times, being dependent is ok because it’s the beginning of your progression to an independent worker and that takes time and experience.
Independent engineers are great as long as they balance their independence with communications on what they have accomplished and still have an attitude focused on inclusion. Independence in this regard is not about being isolated, but more about being able to do your work with little help or intervention. Everyone should strive for that no matter if you are an engineer or a manager. Your approach should be focused on getting your work done, especially the very basic tasks, without needing help.
Many times I come across needy people at work, those folks on a team that need help with everything. Sometimes they are partially independent but because of their lack of confidence, need to give regular status, or because they are overdoing their communications, they take a lot of their manager’s time. Most teams have a mix of people with varying degrees of dependence and independence which is normal and acceptable. But when the team is made up of too many dependent people, the manager can get overloaded with trivial issues and tons of unnecessary information. A manager pays a high tax for the team members that are needy. What I mean is that managing these people can be taxing on a manager. It costs them more of their time and focus in dealing with the overly dependent people on the team. All managers want a team of low-tax people.
But is it the employees fault, or could it be something about the manager that causes this behavior in the team? If managers are very controlling, this could result in conditioning your team to need you for every issue or decision. Or if you have an ego or like to be-in-the-know all the time, you also could be training your team that they can’t do anything without your guidance and approval. If you feel like you spend a lot of time reviewing others’ work, redoing others’ work, and think that maybe it would be better if you just did it yourself, then you probably are a bit more controlling than a manager should be. Over time, your team will become unreliable, or passive, because they know the manager will do all the work, remind them of their tasks, or catch all their mistakes.
Another phenomenon I have seen is a team that demands things from their manager. Yes, to some degree your manager is there for you. But dictating what your manager should be doing or not doing on a regular basis is unhealthy for the organization. There are so many things that happen in a manager’s world that individuals aren’t exposed to that this reverse sense of authority can really cause confusion for the team. All workers, whether managers or individuals, should come to work thinking about what they can do to make their manager’s job easier. Teams who think this way are the healthiest because if you can help your manager be successful, your manager will recognize your cooperation, independence, and teamwork. And as this frees up time for your manager, they will take on more stretch assignments which will then give you opportunities to also work on these stretch assignments or to work on other items your manager delegates to you for your growth. If your manager is spending time dealing with your high amount of needs and demands, there is no time to move the team, product, or themselves forward and then this becomes unhealthy for everyone on the team. And the team eventually becomes unsuccessful.
So my advice to you is look at everything you do through your work day and ask the questions: 1). Am I making my manager’s job easier? 2). Am I working independently enough?
For those of us in the United States, April 15th is coming up fast enough. So while we pay taxes to our country, we shouldn’t be taxed by our coworkers.