If I Was A “Management Referee”: 10 Penalties I’d Call

management ref

In the final minutes of the recent Super Bowl, 49ers coach Harbaugh was upset about a holding penalty on Michael Crabtree that he thought should have been called. After the game, he said “there was no question in my mind there was a pass interference, and then a hold on the last play.”

What would professional football be without good officiating? From Coach Harbaugh’s perspective, it would be the difference between winning and losing the most important game of the season.  Unfortunately, when it comes to the workplace, there are no management referees. Managers get away with all kinds of fouls, with little or no consequences. Often it’s because no one with any authority is there to catch them in the act.

What if we created a new job called a “Management Referee”? Just like those NFL-like referees that roam the airports in the Southwest Airlines commercials throwing penalty flags for bag fees and poor customer service, these referees would patrol the workplace looking for flagrant management malpractice violations.

Here’ are 10 penalties I’d look for if I were a Management Referee:

1. Employee pass interference:

Otherwise known as micromanagement, this penalty is for getting in the way of an employee or team of employees that know how to do the job better than the manager.

2. Illegal use of meetings:

A meeting with no agenda, no apparent purpose, no process facilitation, little or no collaboration, and no meaningful decisions or action items.

3. Unnecessary roughness:

Unfair, undeserved, overly harsh, unprofessional and disrespectful criticism.  Often referred to as bullying.

4. Offsides/neutral zone infraction:

Inappropriate touching, language, innuendos, and other types of sexual harassment. Depending on the foul, “illegal use of hands” could be called as well.

5. Unsportsmanlike conduct:

An ethical violation.

6. Excessive use of buzzwords:

Should be self-explanatory. Words that would most likely draw a flag: anything 2.0, pushing the envelope, out-of-the-box, sea change, low-hanging fruit, and nailing Jell-O to a tree.

7. Humor with the intent to injure.

Over-use of insults, jabs, gotchas, sarcasm, or cynicism.

8. Offensive hubris:

Over-the-top self-indulgence and arrogance, often as a result of an over-inflated ego

9. Delay of game:

Slow decision making that slows down critical projects and causes employees to miss deadlines or have to rush at the last minute.

10. False Start:

Confusing, contradictory, or a lack of direction that results in projects starting and stopping.

What penalties would you call as a management referee?

About the Author

Dan McCarthy is the Director of Executive Development Programs (EDP) at the Paul College of Business and Economics at the University of New Hampshire (UNH).  He authored the Great Leadership Development and Succession Planning eBook, and is an influential voice in social media.