Hands-Off Managers

In my last post, I included links from Cate’s blog on how to be a good “hands-on” manager.

For example, a good “hands-on” manager:

  • Actively tracks direct reports’ progress.
  • Holds regular one-on-ones.
  • Advises on career path.
  • Intervenes to help with personal conflicts and organizational changes.

That’s really hard, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen the full package in my long employment experience. (Sometimes that that’s just because the team is too large.)

What I have seen frequently is the “hands-off” manager.

For example, a “hands-off” manager:

  • Talks to you only if there’s an issue or problem.
  • Provides little to no oversight.
  • Delivers bare minimum of a performance review.

The negative side of this kind of manager is that you get no support when things go wrong: you’re on your own to find solutions to your problems.

But that’s also the positive side. When you do something right, it’s not because of someone else’s input. It’s all you.

And “leave everybody alone unless something goes really wrong” is a lot easier than the first set of bullet points above, so you’re a lot more likely to find bearable “hands-off” managers than bearable “hands-on” managers: if there are fewer interactions overall, there’s less chance of bad interactions.

If you can’t have good managers, would you rather have a career full of so-so “hands-on” managers, or full of of so-so “hands-off” managers?