The problem with seagull managers
Maybe you’ve worked for, or are currently working with, a seagull manager. You know the type; they fly in, make a mess all over everything, and then they are gone. In this management style, the person typically only shows up when a problem has arisen. They then come in with little understanding or context and then proceed to wreck productivity, morale, and progress.
Do you have a seagull manager? Here are some of their characteristics and how to handle them.
They come flying in, often out of nowhere
Have you ever fed one bird at the beach or park and suddenly you have a ton of birds around you? It’s like they just materialize out of thin air sometimes! Seagulls managers are the same way. They usually appear with little to no notice and are there because of a problem, either real or perceived by them as an issue.
Ready yourself by leaning into your emotional intelligence skills. The awareness about the behavior ahead of time will help you quickly prepare yourself when they suddenly show up. Have your self-management and social awareness skills high, so that you don’t overreact to the person in the situation that they are bringing. Letting your emotions get the best of you because you were unprepared will only compound the issue and interaction that you have with the leader.
They are loud and call attention to themselves
Seagulls are ridiculously loud for their size. Oftentimes your first indication that they are around is that you will hear them before you see all of them.
A seagull manager rarely slips in with little notice and gets out without attention. Instead, everyone knows that they are there and what their business is. They want you and everyone else to know that they are in charge and they are here to “fix” the issue at hand.
Redirect these people the best that you can. Move the conversation to a less populated area. Lower your speaking voice so they have to talk at a lower level use the environment around you to your advantage in order to lower the disruption.
They make a mess everywhere
Seagulls are messy. They poop everywhere and obviously don’t care what mess they make. Seagull managers act in the same way, verbally dumping negativity and critically charged comments. Some of these managers may even be a straight-up bully. Pushing the envelope in how they treat people in order to get the results that they want. Seagull managers don’t care either. It’s getting what they want at the cost of the people around them.
If the manager is acting unethically or against the company’s set values, you have an obligation to talk to someone about it. Partner with a good HR representative or a mentor to help you navigate that process with respect and empathy while holding to the standards that you and the organization have.
…And then they are gone
Just as suddenly as they are there, they disappear. You’re left with a mess to clean up and it’s likely that your whole day is shot as a result. Don’t worry though; they’ll be back for the next problem!
Pull your team together and focus on the positive moves that you make together to move the team and objective forward. Try to stay away from spending a bunch of time talking bad about the leader or what the leader just did with others. It’s a waste of energy that is not productive, besides, they all know that the person is a bad leader anyway.
Instead of letting the circumstance dominate your day, own the opportunity, and rally your team. One of the positives of a seagull leader is that your people will likely be much more committed and dedicated to your personal leadership because they see such a stark contrast in leadership styles.
Know the seagull manager and what their typical characteristics are. You can lessen their disruptions through good leadership and being mindful in the moment.
Make a better tomorrow.