should your manager know how to do your job?

A reader writes:

Should your manager know, or at least fully understand, how to do his employees’ jobs?

It depends on the work in question, and the level of the manager.

If you’re a first level line manager, yes, you probably need to know how to do your employee’s job — because you usually have to train them, supervise them fairly closely, and often work side-by-side with them doing similar or even the same work.

But the higher up you go, the less that tends to be the case.

If you’re, say, a COO, you’re probably managing a bunch of diverse functions — like, sales, communications, lobbying, finance, I.T., and so forth. You’re certainly not going to know how to do all those people’s jobs, nor would you need to. What you do need is to know enough to be able to hire the right people and to judge whether the right goals are being set and whether those goals are being met and to probe for potential problems, offer resources the team may need, and have a working BS detector.

Even at lower levels, you’re still probably going to know more about your area of focus than your boss does — because it’s your job, not theirs. Your boss needs to understand your job enough about your job that she can do her hers, but her job is different than yours and her knowledge and expertise will reflect that.

People sometimes like to complain about how their boss doesn’t know things about their jobs — but that’s often the way it should be.

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