We know you don’t mean any harm. You’re probably trying to help your team members, but in the long run, you’re limiting their professional development. We're talking about ‘managersplaining,’ a phrase coined by Scott Mabry on soul2work.com.
Mabry has adroitly listed several kinds of ‘managersplaining’ activities leaders tend to engage in. Mostly these behaviors have to do with you talking too much and listening too little. Here are three examples from Mabry’s list of ways that you put your foot in your mouth and suggestions for what you can do instead.
Been There, Done That – Managers who have been around for a while like to draw on their years of experience when talking to team members. In their opinions, they’ve seen it all before and they know exactly how to handle whatever problem has come up. When managers rush in with their solutions to a problem, they prevent team members from learning how to think for themselves. They’re also proving to be short-sighted, as they’re not open to learning about new ways to tackle problems.
Death by a Thousand Words (also known as building a watch when someone asks what time it is) – Team members pretty much get that managers know how things work in the organization. There will be times when they need the short version of what’s going on. Managers should tune into how much information an employee needs to solve a problem. Don’t give them a dissertation when a five-word answer will help them stay on track.
Pretending to Listen – Your employees will figure out pretty quickly if you aren’t exactly listening to them. Sure, you may be nodding your head while they talk, and you may even mumble yes a couple of times. But, if you consistently turn down their ideas, or tell them you’ll think about something and never get back to them, they’ll get the message. It’s your way or the highway.
Mabry correctly identifies the core issues with these types of managers. They are afraid. They don’t want to lose control or look like failures. Ironically, engaging in ‘managersplaining’ will drive away employees and cut into team productivity. Employees will be afraid to speak up or suggest new ideas because they know nothing’s going to happen.
Resist the temptation to control everything. Stop talking and learn the art of active listening. Once you trust your employees to make decisions and let them learn from their mistakes, they’ll have the incentive to work harder and everyone will win.