Debunking Management Myths: 8 Things to Know as a Manager

by Sep 12, 2019Leadership and Management

Alejandra Fonseca

There’s no single management style that suits every work environment or setup. You will never find a way of managing employees that works for all types of people. That’s why numerous management approaches and schools of thought exist. Unfortunately, this multitude of styles also results in the rise of management myths.

The following are some of the common misconceptions in management

Myth 1: It’s about telling people what to do

Many still have the wrong idea that management is centered on ordering people around, dictating the tasks that need to be done or what should not be done. This remains as one of the most common myths in management. Management involves instructions and prohibitions, but these are only a small aspect of the overall effort in taking charge of a team.

Harvard Business School executive director Patrick Mullane says that few employees react well to being commanded. For him, the idea of dictating people what to do is one of the biggest myths in management. People prefer being given a framework for setting priorities and choosing strategic projects. While management cannot be dissociated with giving orders (and expecting results), it should be emphasized that it goes well beyond an orderer-follower relationship. According to Henri Fayol, one of the important personalities acknowledged as a founder of modern management, management operates through the following basic functions:

· Planning. This is about deliberating and deciding on what courses of action to take in the future. It is also referred to as the process of making decisions in advance.

· Organization. Largely about staffing, this aspect deals with the appropriation of human as well as non-human resources.

· Coordination. This involves the development of a structure through which an organization’s plans are implemented, through which goals are achieved.

· Commanding. Obviously, this is the “ordering” part, which is what most people tend to commonly associate with the term management.

· Control. This is about monitoring or progress checking.

Other schools of thought include more functions such as communicating, forecasting, and investigation (Lyndall Urwick) as well as responding and budgeting (Luther Gullick). The bottomline: management is more than just about commanding and controlling. It has many aspects that are equally as important as commanding, and should be given due attention.

Myth 2: Management should always be orderly and predictable

Workplaces can benefit greatly from having order and predictability. These attributes give managers and employees alike a sense of what is good and bad, what should be done and what shouldn’t be done. However, good management does not always have to establish a pattern or routine. It’s difficult to create predictability in the workplace especially when there is diversity involved.

This is not to say that office manuals, guidelines, procedures, or mechanisms for resolving issues are useless. There are two main points here:

· Being dynamic or adaptable to unexpected changes

· Implementing variety to break the monotony

In adapting to contingency situations, predictability is often thrown out of the window. Order can be broken. The usual routine can be drastically changed. For example, if a client asks for major revisions or if there are problems encountered in the machinery and supply chain, employees may be asked to work overtime or do more than what they are used to doing. Things can get messy when these happen and managers are necessarily a failure when they lose control sometimes.

Myth 3: Personal interaction is vital

If this idea were true, no telecommuting setup would ever be successful. Personal interaction can be beneficial for some, but it’s not a necessity. It can even be argued that remote team managers tend to be more ingenious, patient and tenacious as they try to make things work in an unfamiliar setup.

On the other hand, effective management also does not necessarily mean being able to overcome the challenges of not being in the same place physically. You can be an excellent manager in the traditional workplace setup without being a good telecommuting manager. Not every (traditional) manager must be excellent in the teleworking

arrangement in the same way not every remote work manager should be good in managing a traditional office where personal interaction is expected.

Myth 4: Brilliant managers can deliver the desired results even with a bad team

The success of a team always depends on the performance of both the manager and members. Resourceful and creative managers can pull out the best among the worst, but it’s often not enough to achieve goals. A team that produces the desired results with only the manager exerting most of the effort is not sustainable. Eventually, the manager will suffer from job burnout and decide to bolt.

A team whose members underperform demonstrates inefficiency, something no company should tolerate or further. Decreased productivity raises expenses while possibly decreasing revenues and creating opportunity expenses. It only makes sense to demand optimum performance from everyone.

Myth 5: Consensus is a must

Building consensus is ideal, but it does not necessarily make for good management. Taking into account all team members’ opinions or inputs helps boost employee morale. However, there are times when it’s better to make decisions autocratically. It is in such cases when good management skills are tested – when a manager evaluates whether or not consensus should be obtained first before making a choice or implementing a new policy.

Discussing something among team members before deciding on a course of action is often time-consuming. Managers regularly encounter concerns that require prompt actions. Imagine how much time would be wasted if everything needs to be consensually decided upon. Being a good manager is knowing when to call for a meeting to ask for inputs from team members and when to decisively address issues without the involvement of the latter.

Myth 6: Close personal relationship with employees should be avoided

It’s a common misconception that personal relationships are a burden to becoming a good manager. Many believe that being close to employees dilutes authority as subordinates may feel too comfortable around their supervisors or managers. While this could be true in some instances, it is not a general reality. An Olivet University survey found that it’s becoming common for bosses and employees to have close personal relationships. The study, with a sample size of 3,000 American

employees, found that 68% of employees have the number of their bosses. Around 34% of the respondents also said that they asked for personal advice from their workplace superiors while 29% claimed that their bosses ask personal advice from them at least once. Additionally, 32% reported that they have their bosses as friends on Facebook and another 32% bought a gift for their managers or supervisors. Moreover, 28% of the respondents said that they have called or sent SMS to their bosses on matters not related to work, while 24% have already visited their bosses’ homes.

Close personal relationships don’t necessarily hamper good management. Still, it all boils down to the skills of the manager. Personal connections can create challenges, but they can’t be automatically equated to failure of management.

Myth 7: Leadership and management are the same

The terms leadership and management are often used interchangeably in business lingo. They are two different terms, but they have aspects that tend to make them similar.

Management is often defined as the way activities in a business are organized and coordinated to achieve goals and objectives. Leadership, on the other hand, is about motivating people to do things towards the achievement of goals. It is more of an abstract concept. It does not spell out specific functions and strategies, unlike what is usually observed in management which is associated with titles or hierarchies and definite sets of obligations.

Where management and leadership meet is in their ultimate goal of ensuring success for the team. You may have heard of the expression that an ideal manager is a leader. This means an integration of the abstract and specific. It entails the ability of a manager to fulfill specific obligations while using charisma, persuasion, and conviction to motivate others in carrying out their respective responsibilities. Good managers are not only well-versed with their obligations and goals; they are also able to positively influence others to commit to common objectives.

Myth 8: Managers should lead by example

It is admirable for a manager to be a role model. However, it’s unnecessary to follow the clichéd dictum of leading by example. Leading by enabling can also be an effective model for management. Managers don’t have to be what they want others to be. They just need to be clear on the team’s goals and be knowledgeable in the most appropriate strategies to bring out the best among employees or team members.

Managers can enable employees by creating detailed plans and protocols on how to complete tasks. They can also provide some leeway for employees to perform tasks using alternative approaches provided that the manager ascertains the dependability and resourcefulness of these employees. Thus giving of some degree of autonomy is also a way of enabling. It’s about providing the right guidance and support.

It’s not necessary for team members to see the manager doing what he wants others to do. Imagine how difficult this would be in the case of remote work setups. How will employees follow their manager when they don’t have any personal interaction with them? In such cases, they only have to rely on guidelines, instructions, and the motivational gestures the manager conveys online.


Your idea of management may not be compatible with the best practices or common sense. Take note of the points discussed above. Your management style may need a few tweaks if it is based on common management myths.

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