DH had separate conversations with his brother and his cousin this break in which they both said the same thing.
Whenever each asked his boss how he was doing, the boss said, you’re doing fine. When asked to elaborate, the boss would say, you do what we ask you to do.
However, at end of the year evaluation, each was told that just doing what was asked isn’t enough to excel. It’s enough to do ok. But to excel each needs to show initiative and to figure out what to do before being asked to do it.
DH’s brother maintains that that’s just not his way, and if his manager were a good manager he’d manage DH’s brother so that DH’s brother would excel without having to show initiative (though he didn’t use the words “initiative”– that’s me not knowing how else to describe it) — he’d be told what to do and he’d do it and he would excel.
DH’s cousin’s situation is a bit more dysfunctional in that he actually gets in trouble for showing initiative and is thus getting severely mixed signals. DH’s cousin’s boss sounds a lot worse than DH’s brother’s boss.
This made me think about education levels and management and what makes a good employee.
DH and I kind of agree with the brother’s boss. We have PhDs. We’re trained to have initiative. We couldn’t do our work without a lot of self-direction. We both supervise people without PhDs for whom we do the vast majority of the direction. And it’s great when we get an employee who shows some initiative because they’re closer to the work and often see things that we don’t and it decreases our mental load (though it’s good when they ask before going off on a wild goose chase). The PhD, in essence, is valuable in the work world because we don’t think there’s anything wrong with being asked to do self-direction and we expect to do it and we know how to do it. Hopefully that translates over for humanities PhDs and other areas where supply outstrips academic demand. That ability to work independently is worth money to industry and government.
DH’s brother has an MS (masters of science). DH’s cousin has an AS (that’s the practical version of a 2 year community college degree– associates of science). DH’s brother’s boss is fine. DH’s cousin’s boss is pretty bad. Why should you get education? To make it easier to avoid terrible bosses. And maybe each extra degree really does make you more productive– there’s a lot to be said for independent thinking and independent work skills. Sure, there’s something to be said for being able to be a cog, but right now there’s a lot of people able to be cogs and not as many able to direct the gears on their own. So gear direction is worth something.
So what do you think– should employees show more initiative even if they don’t want to or should good bosses be better micromanagers? (That’s a loaded framing– perhaps you have a way to load it the other direction?) Is higher education worth something? Does it really teach thinking and self-direction?