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Mis-management part 476

I don’t like picking on one particular group of people and it feels like I have been picking strictly on employees and candidates. That is unfair because, as everyone knows, management is to be blamed as the root cause of most problems. When I say “most,” I mean closer to 75–85% of the problems in the workplace could be fixed by better management. The great management thinkers of the 20th century agree with me and thinkers in the 21st century are on the bandwagon too.

So what’s the problem with management? It is usually a question of numbers. Either there are too many or too few. I worked for a company that had a ratio of one manager for every one and a half reports. That is silly and luckily, that company was forced to restructure their business and stop the insanity. In many startups, I see the complete opposite problem where you have one manager for every 20 reports. Any cost savings met by having that few managers is lost significantly through productivity losses.

The point being: supervising one person is about as stupid as supervising 20 and both of those situations will sink your business. So what is your optimal number you should be aiming for?

Studies show managers should have three to eight employees directly reporting to them. The more complicated their tasks, the less amount of employees that should be reporting directly. So if you are managing managers, you should be closer to three than eight and if you are managing entry level sales associates or retail clerks, that number should be closer to eight than three. This formula allows for the efficiency of being able to manage multiple people but the ability to micro-manage when necessary.

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How to get fired gracefully

Chances are, at one point of your working life or another, you’re going to get canned. I feel bad to be breaking the news to you but in the world of higher turnover and rapidly changing demand, the American employee is more expendable than ever (as long as “ever” means before 1940). Expendability aside, we should all be preparing for the worst. A downturn in business, a relocation, outsourcing, a bad personal decision…the list goes on. You should be ready to seek a job tomorrow. But that is a post for another day…

One way to not get fired gracefully is to make a big scene. It is really easy to lose it at that moment. You are thinking about everything that is going to change and hopefully you have an HR guy who prepares you and emphatically explains how to go about picking up your final check, belongings, filing for COBRA and maybe even giving you resources for with the unemployment office. I’ve had people getting fired (either being laid off or being fired for performance or misconduct issues) punch a supervisor in the face, flip off the entire office, throw a chair, scream, cry and not say anything at all.

To say it lightly, we’ve seen it all. And frankly, HR guys are unimpressed with this sort of bullshit. You might be pissed but your HR guy is likely going to be pissed for you. It is true. Even getting fired for all but the worst misconduct can be smoothed over by an understanding and apologetic employee. In those situations, I am much more likely to pass your future employer asking for a professional reference to a co-worker who liked you as opposed to the supervisor who now hates you because of his black eye. An employee who throws a fit is likely to get no sympathy and as soon as I get the reference release from your future employer, don’t think that I am not going to let them know every factual detail.

In short, don’t be stupid when fired. Take it calmly, be apologetic, ask all the questions you need and pack your stuff. Your future employability depends on it.

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Interview Tip: Show up, Bring Booze

Nothing delights me more than people showing up to an interview with alcohol on their breath.

It makes my job as an HR guy more interesting and gives me good stories to tell. Considering this has happened multiple times, I’ll tell you what pretty much goes through my mind:

This is awesome.

I am going to interview them until I can identify what kind of booze they were drinking.

That’s definitely not wine.

Ask a long question and lean in closer.

“Tell me more about your career history?”

It’s not beer either.

Oh, it is definitely whiskey . Oh man, how cool is that?!

This is a morning interview, right? Yep, 9:30AM. Well, let me wrap this up.

If you need something to ease your nerves, there are very effective prescriptions to help I’m told. Booze will not help though. Most people who do interviews know what booze breath smells like.

The audacity of also doing absolutely nothing to cover it up means you must have drank a lot. Or you are just an idiot. Or both. Probably both.

Originally published at on May 25, 2006.