The Lazy Management Problem

Alex Kraft
Feb 3, 2023

I’ve wanted to write something on this topic for a while and Tom Brady’s retirement presented the perfect opportunity. I’m not surprised at many sports stats, but this graphic highlighting Brady’s excellence in his 40s compared to his 20s blew me away. More TD passes from the age of 40–46 than in his 20s? Ridiculous.

Where am I going with this? We all see the same articles nearly every day covering a labor shortage and others questioning the work ethic of the younger generation. There is some truth to both premises, but no one ever talks about the employer’s role. From my perspective, companies bear some responsibility in this problem by not having any structure to develop their employees. There is a lazy management problem. Everyone wants the Tom Brady in his 30s and 40s, they don’t want the 6th round pick Tom Brady that needs a ton of coaching and development. Those early Patriot teams relied on a strong defense and a conservative offensive game plan. Brady made some key plays at opportune times, but he was largely a ‘game manager’ early in his career. The Patriots developed Brady and gave him more responsibility as he improved. The offense evolved into a more aggressive pass-happy scheme that relied on Brady throwing 40+ passes per game, which was the exact opposite of those early Brady led Patriot teams.

I’ve seen the lazy management problem in heavy equipment my entire career. Every sales manager wants to “manage” the A+ sales rep who kills it every year. Conversely, they want to fire the low performer immediately. I’m not suggesting that every low performer can become an A+ contributor, but how many managers do you see devoting considerable time and effort into helping those low performers improve? It almost never happens. Everyone wants to go on sales calls with the A+ sales rep to their biggest accounts. Rarely do they work alongside the young struggling rep as they try and build their territory. The younger inexperienced employees become a nuisance to the managerial layer. We get easily frustrated by the basic mistakes they make, by the “stupid” questions they ask, and how they just don’t seem to get it.

The same climate exists with younger technicians. How many companies have a formal plan to develop inexperienced technicians? Sending technicians to product training school every 6 months doesn’t count. There doesn’t seem to be much thought put into what jobs these younger techs should focus on. Instead, managers are in reactionary mode dispatching an available technician to the next repair job without any real understanding of their capability. If that technician screws up the job, he or she isn’t any good. It’s sink or swim. Companies are expecting everyone to hit grand slams right out the gate. We are setting people up to fail and blaming them when things go wrong.

The excuses are all the same. Managers will lament about how they are a lean company and don’t have the resources available to provide ongoing training. Blah Blah Blah. Why are the excuses always pointing to what other people need to provide? What then is the role of a manager? What are managers paid to do? Their collective laziness is making the job an unnecessary layer. This reality is devastating for organizations. It creates employee burnout, frustration, and ultimately leads to more turnover. I’ve seen this firsthand. I remember jotting down names of former coworkers in different positions over the years. The numbers were staggering. With some self-reflection, I realized that it was unlikely that we hired incorrectly those 50+ times, maybe the problem was our company not supporting/developing those 50+ people?

My intent is not to place blame solely at employers. I wanted to point out that the discussion around labor mostly seems to blame workers for not choosing a certain path or for a lack of work ethic. There is a joint responsibility between employees and companies. Clearly, not everyone works as hard and is devoted like Tom Brady. His desire, work ethic, and selflessness are huge parts of his unparalleled success. But the Patriots organization deserves a lot of recognition for helping him grow into the player he became. Maybe instead of hoping that more people decide to become technicians or younger people work harder, we ask ourselves ‘how do we help our existing employees become the best version of themselves?’ Control what you can control. I bet anyone reading this can think of a few managers they’ve worked with over time who would’ve said, ‘this kid Tom Brady sucks…he’s a 6th round pick for a reason!”