Real leaders don’t change diapers

Published on
February 28, 2014
Kira Hug
"Your professional brand and personal brand have collided. Instead of avoiding the overlap, expose it. Understand the rules so you can break them."
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Babysitters belong in the home with our children, singing ABCs with gusto and wiping applesauce off the couch.

You know where babysitters don’t belong? In the office, poppin’ into our cubicles uninvited and monitoring our daily activities with a smug smile.

Call me crazy but I thought if you were hired to work for a company, said company respected your work ethic enough to give you space to… you know, actually do you work. This is not always the case.

I worked in an overworked and undervalued department with five incredible colleagues not so long ago, and I distinctly remember an afternoon when all five of us chiseled off the chains to actually leave the office and eat lunch together. A rare occurrence considering our challenging workload.

This particular lunch was in honor of a special occasion. One of us had landed an exciting new job at a different organization – we felt like celebrating her success over a lovely lunch that didn’t involve ordering Chinese takeout.

Upon our arrival to our cube post-lunch, we found the Accounting Manager, an intimidating stand-in for our absent HR Manager, waiting for us with a look of disapproval on her face.

We were instantly transformed from a group of five confident professional adults into five squeamish children, waiting to be scolded.

“Do you know your lunch was two hours long?” she asked. We nodded and explained that we hardly ever left the office for lunch but this was a special occasion. God forbid we don’t return to our shackles on the hour.

Our manager was notified. The excitement from our celebratory lunch had disappeared and our embarrassment soon turned into anger which then turned into confusion. Why were we being monitored and why on earth did we have a babysitter? We had all graduated from diapers long ago.

I was left with a lot of questions: Is this how organizations operate? Is hall monitoring the best use of anyone’s time in a growing organization? Is this how success is rewarded, with a strict adherence to “rules” and lunch break regulations?

Babysitters can break apart businesses. They deserve a home in the home and NOT in the cubicle. Most of us are guilty of micro-managing at one time or another. We incorrectly associate it with leadership and managerial diligence but it needs to stop.

If you hire the right people, they will monitor themselves. They are adults, after all, and no longer need a sippy cup or scolding.

Just like the U.S. Department of Homeland Security says, “If you see something, say something.” It’s time for us to apply these words to our own offices. If you see a “babysitter” micromanaging, call it out. If you catch yourself no longer leading but babysitting, question yourself. And don’t just say something about it, do something about it.