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Why We Should Put an End to “Hamburger Management”

Why We Should Put an End to “Hamburger Management”

Hamburger Management is a shoddy, debased version of real leadership that focuses on just three things: whatever demands least, can be used fastest, and costs least. It thrives wherever organizations seek to meet unrealistic targets with insufficient resources to maximize short-term profits. Indeed, Hamburger Management is short-term by nature, and will habitually sacrifice long-term advantage and value for the immediate gratification of bosses and investors.

To force people to work long hours at high pressure, for little if any additional reward, Hamburger Managers frequently resort to bullying of one kind or another. A survey in Great Britain found that 60% of respondents said that bullying is increasingly common across the UK; and about a third believe that their organization is ineffective at deterring such aggressive behavior. My guess is that most Hamburger Managers don’t even realize that they are acting like bullies. They have been brainwashed by describing their actions as “hard-charging,” “go-getting,” and “tough-minded”—all seen as pluses in the Hamburger Management universe. They were bullied themselves by their own bosses, so they see such behavior as normal.

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Competition is one of the most frequently used approaches to aid in the process of driving staff harder and harder. Organizations like to think of themselves as meritocracies. They believe the ruthless internal competitiveness they stimulate lets the best people rise to the top. If only it were that easy. In Western (and especially American) society, we are brought up to believe that competition is a good way to motivate people, that it guarantees an optimal distribution of resources, and that it builds character. In reality, most people end up labeled as “losers” and become thoroughly demotivated as a result. Even the “winners” suffer. If success is so sweet, failure become a hideous nightmare. Many “high fliers” are filled with anxiety at the mere thought of failure, becoming some of the most superstitious and anxious people around.

All this pressure to deliver the impossible, and do it yesterday, forces people to take short cuts whenever they can. One of the simplest is to hire consultants to help you imitate what you believe others have done. In this way, creativity is excluded from people’s jobs and is no longer seen as an essential part of management or leadership.

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The result of all this Hamburger Management, though it is given fine names like “practical business attitudes” or “getting things done on time, every time,” is to create a workplace that sucks. In another British survey:

  • 20% of respondents say that they are simply bored.
  • Almost a third of those interviewed claim to have no loyalty towards the organization they work for.
  • Almost three-quarters said that they did not believe they were making the most use of their knowledge and skills.
  • When asked if they thought their employer recognized their potential, an overwhelming eight out of 10 said that they didn’t.

We seem to have lost track of the notion that people come to work as people, not as mindless bits and pieces in some vast economic machine. Much of management education sucks as well. Those in charge are afraid that encouraging people to think will also encourage them to think “heresy” and challenge the present way of doing things—their way. (It should—and a very good thing too!) The result is boring mediocrity, based on learning that has nothing to do with business success, and everything to do with maintaining the status quo and minimizing the risk that someone, somewhere will do something new or creative.

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Hamburger Management approaches fail on all counts. People are treated casually, pushed around, driven to exhaustion by continually escalating demands, rarely trusted to do anything without constant “appraisals” and threats, and often forced into producing shoddy work, cutting corners and sailing close to the wind, ethically, just to make this quarter’s numbers.

It’s time to call a halt and get back to working lives that mean something and produce the chance for genuine satisfaction.

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P.S. My new book, Slow Leadership: Civilizing The Organization

    , was published last week. It’s available at Amazon and all good booksellers. Please take a look. Better still, buy a copy . . . or several!

    Adrian Savage is a writer, an Englishman, and a retired business executive, in that order. He lives in Tucson, Arizona. You can read his other articles at Slow Leadership, the site for everyone who wants to build a civilized place to work and bring back the taste, zest and satisfaction to leadership and life.

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    Last Updated on October 9, 2018

    How to Write a Personal Mission Statement to Ensure Peak Productivity

    How to Write a Personal Mission Statement to Ensure Peak Productivity

    Most of you made personal, one sentence resolutions like “I want to lose weight” or “I vow to go back to school.” It is a tradition to start the New Year with things you want to achieve, but under the influence resolutions are often unrealistic.

    If you’re wondering when will be a good time to write a mission statement, NOW is the time to take a personal inventory to make this year your most productive year ever. You may be asking yourself, “How am I going to do that?” You, my friends, are going to write personal mission statements.

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    A large number of corporations use mission statements to define the purpose of the company’s existence. Sony wants to “become the company most known for changing the worldwide poor-quality image of Japanese products” and 3M wants “to solve unsolved problems innovatively”. A personal mission statement is different than a corporate mission statement, but the fundamentals are the same.

    So why do you need one? A personal statement will help you identify your core values and beliefs in one fluid tapestry of content that you can read anytime and anywhere to stay on task toward success.

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    For example, Tom Cruise in Jerry Maguire came to the realization that he had lost track of what was important to him. After writing a personal mission statement, we saw him start his own business and he got the girl, Renee Zelleweger. Not bad, wouldn’t you say? A personal mission statement will make sure that, through all the texting, emailing and constant bombardment of on-the-go activity, you won’t lose sight of what is most important to you.

    Mission statements can be simple and concise while others are longer and filled with detail. The length of your personal mission statement will not be determined until you follow this simple equation to create your motivational springboard for 2008.

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    To begin your internal cleansing, you will need to jot down the required information in the following five steps:

    1. What are your values? Values steer your actions and determine where you spend time, energy, and most importantly, money. Be specific and unique to yourself. Too much generalization will not be as effective. It is called a “personal” mission statement for a reason.
    2. What are three important goals you hope to achieve this year? Keep your list of important goals small and give them a date. It is better to focus on the horizon and not the stars. Realistic goals are keys to ultimate success.
    3. What image do you hope to project to yourself? How you see yourself is how the world will view you. Think about this carefully. Your image should encompass what you look like and feel after you have achieved your goals.
    4. Write down action statements from each value describing how you will use those values to achieve your three goals. Start with “I will…”
    5. Rewrite your statement to include only your action statements. Make portable copies for your wallet, car or office.

    If you followed the steps above, congratulations! You have just written your first personal mission statement. Your personal statement will change over the years as your goals change. You can have more than one statement for the different compartments of your life such as your career, family, marriage, etc.

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    Writing a personal mission statement is an effective method to ensure your productivity is at its peak. It is an ideal tradition to start so that when next year rolls around, the outdated practice of resolutions will be something you permanently left in the past.

    Featured photo credit: Álvaro Serrano via unsplash.com

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