How Not to Manage Like Bill Lumbergh

By Kelly Batke

5 min read

How Not to Manage Like Bill Lumbergh

”Are you going to go ahead and have those TPS reports for us this afternoon?”

— Bill Lumbergh, Office Space

If you are familiar with the cult hit Office Space, you will easily recall the heartless micro-manager Bill Lumbergh. Lumbergh uses a leadership style of giving specific instructions and closely monitoring and overseeing the work of his employees. According to the Hershey and Blanchard ‘Telling’ leadership theory, people using this style use one way communication and often believe their employees are incapable of performing tasks given to them. While this leadership style may suit a variety of settings it can also be an employee’s worst nightmare.


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With an abundance of Gen Y workers and a concern that social enterprises are too social, it’s understandable that workplace leaders are struggling for a balance on how to effectively manage employees. But if your employees are running off to the nearest coffee shop by 9am for opportunities to rant you might want to reconsider your management style.

Here are some common sense tips to ensure you don’t turn into the next Bill Lumbergh:

Don’t sweat the small stuff.
Nothing says micro-manager more than nitpicking. If your employees are failing to put coversheets on all their TPS reports, it’s probably not the end of the world. Pick the larger battles and let the little stuff slide.

Give your employees a break, especially on weekends.
Nothing is worse than working a full week and then finding out you need to come in on the weekend. If you have a project that must be completed over a weekend allow your employees to either work remotely or offer days off in lieu. Make sure to also give them as much notice as possible.

Establish a personal rapport.
You won’t win any respect if the only time you speak to your employees is to ask “What’s happening?” while assigning them more projects. Make a point of knowing your employees on a personal level.

Create enjoyable workspaces.
Don’t make the mistake of forcing your employees to work downstairs in ‘Storage B’. Employees are the most productive in open collaborative work spaces, not in silos. Ensure headphones are used for those that want to listen to music at a ‘reasonable volume’.

Show employee appreciation.
Hawaiian shirt theme days or birthday cake celebrations are outdated ways to show employee appreciation. Set an example by creating activities and events that every employee can benefit from.

Put people before process.
If even the most mundane and insignificant tasks require a stringent set of rules, you might want to look at the bigger picture. A company is as strong as its people, not its policies.

Remember, you hired employees because of their amazing skills and talent. If you force them to work only your way you risk losing the very qualities they were hired for.


Kelly Batke

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