Quidquid Latine Dictum Sit, Altum Videtur*

Managers who ask a lot from their charges but never take up their causes are rarely respected.

Art Wittmann

March 29, 2007

2 Min Read
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Managing staff is a challenge when everyone works in the same building. Those challenges are compounded by physical distance. Like many IT organizations, Network Computing runs a far-flung operation. With labs in Green Bay, Wis., and Syracuse, N.Y., a production team on Long Island, editors in Boston, the Bay Area, Rochester, N.Y., North Carolina and Israel, and major freelancers in Florida, Iowa, New Jersey and Virginia, we spend a lot of time thinking about appropriate management styles.

We have no single driving philosophy. I lived through a period when bad managers tried to ram TQM (total quality management) down the throats of their reports, and so, for better or worse, I'll never impose a formal management style on our editorial team. That said, I do live by certain management tenets. One of them is that if you can find a Latin phrase to back you up, you'll sound more credible. I'm only half kidding about this. Forcing people to look up a Latin phrase makes them think about why you used it in the first place. Here are some favorites.

» Ratio decidendi: The reason for the decision. Making decisions is hard, and it's made harder when you can't look your team in the eye to gage reactions. It's therefore important to fully explain your decision. It's also important that your team understands how the decision was reached. There are three types of decisions. 1) The boss decides--no input solicited or desired. 2) The boss decides, but only after everyone has a chance to say their piece. 3) Consensus is required, everyone will be heard, and everyone must agree before we move on. All too often type 1 decisions masquerade as type 3 decisions.

» Qui tacet consentit: Silence implies consent. Whether or not you introduce this little gem into your management dialect, it's useful to remind your team, particularly when they are widely distributed, that if they don't comment on decisions relevant to them, their silence will be interpreted as agreement. It's always nice when managers seek out individual opinions, and if we had all the time in the world, we'd do a lot more of it. But we don't, and letting your team know a decision is imminent may prod them to proffer opinions that might otherwise go unspoken.» Qui vult dare parva non debet magna rogare: He who wishes to give little shouldn't ask for much. It's a tongue twister, but a worthy one. Managers perceived as always asking something of their reports but never taking up their causes are rarely respected. The reason is simple: If you want respect, you have to give it. People understand and appreciate a boss who values input. Respect and trust are earned, not granted by title; you get what you give.

If these tidbits don't work for you: Quando omni flunkus moritatus.

Art Wittmann is editor in chief of Network Computing. Write to him at [email protected].

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