Managerial Authority is Not an Excuse to Waste People’s Time

Jake Wilder
5 min readSep 27, 2021

Don’t be a Hoarder

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Managers need to remember one thing above all else: they don’t do the work. Their employees do. A manager’s job is to help them do it easier and better.

It’s easy to forget this. It’s easy for managers to start believing that their employees are there to support them. They’re not. It’s the other way around.

If you fall into this thinking, you start to value your own time more than that of your people. You start to sacrifice your team’s time for your own convenience.

On the wall of my office, I have a sign that reads, “Managerial authority is not an excuse to waste people’s time.” It may sound obvious, but it’s a good reminder that our people’s time is precious. With every request, we need to be a good steward of our people. After all, they do the work. And sacrificing the time of those who do the work, for someone who doesn’t, seems like a poor strategy.

In Paul Graham’s Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule, he highlights how managers force employees into their own routines, heedless of the impact it has on their creative output. While managers are used to days broken up by meetings, this doesn’t lend itself to making things or solving difficult problems. Quality development needs dedicated periods of focus. You can’t develop a good design or write a program well in hour-long chunks. Good managers recognize this and account for it. As Graham writes,

Since most powerful people operate on the manager’s schedule, they’re in a position to make everyone resonate at their frequency if they want to. But the smarter ones restrain themselves, if they know that some of the people working for them need long chunks of time to work in.

This isn’t limited to meetings. Most organizations are drowning in reports because once created, they never go away. Many companies are mired in restrictive procedures because making new rules is an easy way to solve a problem. All of these things make life easier for managers, yet employees pay the price. Just because managers don’t see these costs, it doesn’t mean they’re not there.

And if we’re going to help people gain back some of their time, this is the place to start.

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Jake Wilder

I don’t know where I’m going. But at least I know how to get there.