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Meta Makes Mega Mistake

When an individual is successful, I ask myself one question - were they successful "because of" or "in spite of" what they did. This is subjective, but is accurate most of the time. Mark Zuckerberg is a clear example of the latter. One recent story confirmed my belief.

Bloomberg recently reported that Meta, as part of their project to get rid of staff and become more efficient, has issued an ultimatum to managers to either start being individual contributors or lose their job. Meta is not the first company to take such action - they would be the first to have success because of it. Let's look at the myths that go into their decision and why the decision is - to be blunt - boneheaded.

Myth 1: Managers don't create product, so they are by their nature inefficient.

This is a common surface level mistake. It is probably even true when you a company of 5 people (maybe 10). Once you get bigger than that, things take coordination. There has to be communication and there are many things that happen with the purpose of enabling the individual contributors to make product. For example, would you rather have an software engineer coding or researching purchasing office equipment? You want the engineer coding, so you find someone to purchase the equipment. You don't question the efficiency of that move, unless the person you hired can't do it better or faster.

The question isn't "is the manager a layer of inefficiency". The real question is "does the manager enable to engineer to do the job faster and better". Good managers do exactly that.

Myth 2: Management is an extra layer that confuses communication.

The concept here is that when you have layers of people, the message gets garbled much like the childhood game of telephone. What the first person says is rarely what the last person hears because it gets confused during the process. The flaw in this thinking is that it assumes the message from the executives is clear and actionable. It rarely is. When an executive speaks, every employee asks themselves one key question - how does this impact me?

A great manager is able to answer that question for the employee. They have the knowledge and access to people who can provide the further guidance they need. Without the manager, you get chaos. The executive who thinks they have the ability to communicate to that lowest level and continue to keep productivity high is at best arrogant and at worst foolish.

Myth 3: No one likes managers, they just get in the way.

This is partially true.

First, executives don't like managers because the managers actually tell them what will and won't work. This tends to frustrate them because they like to believe they are always right.

Second, employees don't like BAD managers, of which there are too many (sidenote: because the executives and the company do not know how to identify or train great managers - so by all means blame the manager). This myth is particularly perplexing because the data shows the exact opposite. Gallup has shown that the manager is responsible for at least 70% of the variation in the engagement level of the employee. And over 50% of employees routinely indicate they left a current position because of a manager. If managers retain and engage employees, how can you justify getting rid of them.

A Better Answer

In the end, this will be a gigantic failure for Meta. So what could Meta do instead? A few suggestions:

  • Focus on selecting and training the right people to be great managers. Don't just promote a great individual contributor (which way too many companies do).

  • Don't make managers glorified individual contributors - let them be managers. Too many companies like the phrase "working manager". As if leading a team isn't work. So the sales manager still makes sales calls, etc.

  • Listen to employees. They know good and bad managers. Make it safe for them to be honest and hold managers accountable.

When this fails for Meta (and it will), we will be provided with another example of their success "in spite of" leadership or failure "because of" leadership.

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