I was chatting with a business acquaintance recently, who expressed frustration at their manager – weak decisions, unclear plans, always caving in to other managers and not supporting his own team – this manager sounded feckless to me. Feckless? What sort of antiquated word is that? The origins of the word date back to the late 16th century, In Northern England, and referred to someone who was not ef-feck-tive, thus feckless. In the conversation with my business acquaintance, the word seemed wholly appropriate. So what are the common traits of a feckless manager, and what can you do about it?
Lacking Initiative: Sometimes, we all get a little comfortable within our routines. We fall into the trap of doing the same thing the same way, and we forget to innovate. We get so ingrained in the detail, that we even apply the same “tried and tested” approach to new challenges. This is a dangerous way to operate – you fall behind the competition, apply a solution that may not be the most expedient or efficient one, and rely on ideas that may have been replaced with newer thinking. As my business acquaintance shared their frustration on the feckless manager’s lack of initiative, we brainstormed new solutions to the problems.
Creating a little space to reflect, observe others and apply a new logic can inspire you to step up and own delivery of a better solution. If challenged by the feckless manager, demonstrating where others have better success with a different approach will invariably give you the freedom to deliver.
Lacking strength of character: My business acquaintance highly values those who stand up for their beliefs. But this is a trait that the feckless manager really lacks. Making a commitment to the team, only to change it at the last minute, giving in to a stronger or more forceful colleague, or even compromising on standards are behaviours that you might see from feckless manager. Avoiding confrontation by agreeing to an unreasonable deadline not only hurts the feckless manager’s reputation, but that of the team, too. But complaining after the fact won’t change anything.
Instead, my business acquaintance and I talked about how, even after the feckless manager had conceded, that it was still worth picking up the conversation to push back and renegotiate. You might not always gain concessions, but by offering to take on the role of “broker”, and focusing on a very small number of discussion points, you might well get the result you hope for. Turn your frustration into positive determination to help you remain objective and avoid sentimental distraction.
Irresponsible: The final frustration for my business acquaintance was the irresponsible behaviour of their feckless manager. Agreeing to an impossible target to impress the new boss, agreeing to a customer deadline without engaging colleagues or keeping core information from peers to avoid looking bad are all traits of the irresponsible feckless manager. My business acquaintance referenced the feckless manager’s inability to manage the worklad, resulting in excessive late night for the team, month after month. Each time the feckless manager was confronted, despite agreement to make change, nothing ever did.
This is a tough situation. Sometimes it’s right to engage the feckless manager’s boss to highlight the issue. But this can also be challenging, and cause friction when the feckless manager feels undermined or caught out. Better to first engage the feckless manager in a discussion, and encourage them to handover responsibility for the problem to you / your colleagues, allowing for change to take place. The feckless manager may resist, so explaining why it will reflect well on them is important, too.
Through the frustration my business acquaintance felt about their feckless manager, there did seem to be opportunities. Rather than quit their job, it felt like there might be actions that they can take to overcome the impact of their feckless manager. In fact, with a little hard work, my business acquaintance might end up in a better position as a result of their persistence and commitment. So perhaps there is a positive message for any readers who also face off to a feckless manager – turn the situation to your advantage and increase your own respect and credibility by taking action and managing your manager!