I have had many managers at the jobs that I have worked throughout college. I have worked mostly at small local restaurants, but I have had numerous other jobs along the way. Each position has given me a new manager in a new atmosphere. The managers and supervisors that I have worked for have given me examples to learn from and have taught me how to adapt to managers with different styles. Most of my managers and most of the owners of the stores I have worked at have been very nice people, helping me feel relaxed and motivated at work, but their styles have always varied. Through reflection observations, I have been able grow by becoming more aware of how I should act when I am in leadership positions. My managers and supervisors have ranged from absent or very lax to demanding and even one manager who I can only describe as a jerk (the first clue in that job came on the first day when he told me he was a jerk and I was going to learn how to deal with it).
I can find positive and negatives in all of my managers, but those who were truly effective managers for me and my co-workers all shared several characteristics. They were all managers that I would classify as demanding, but in a positive sense. Unlike managers who are best described as driving, demanding managers I see as being flexible and approachable. They allow you lee way when working, and give you a chance to prove yourself before they criticize you. Demanding managers do not hover over you when you work, or constantly follow you to make sure you are on task, but expect you to be an adult who can work independently, and put 100% effort into your job. The manager I describe as a jerk did not have any of the characteristics I just mentioned. When I first met him (he was not part of the interview process) he treated me as though I was not worth his time. Rather than giving me a chance to prove that I was hard working or a chance to demonstrate my skills, he acted as though I was not good enough of an employee, and I felt as though he treated me like a child. He pressured me and watched me to make sure I was working constantly and putting in a full effort, but did not provide positive feedback. Luckily for me, I had other options and did not have to work long under that manager. Working a minimum wage job through college does allow you freedom in the work place. Finding a job that is flexible is important if you are going to school, and looking for positive people to work for is incredibly beneficial. Leaving a job early is not a bad thing if you learn from your experience, and are able to say that you fully applied yourself during your time at that job.
The positive aspect to working for a jerk manager is that you do learn how to focus on small details and avoid cutting corners. Managers who push their employees to the edge will see good results in the work place for at least a short term, but they risk burning their employees out quickly, or driving away good employees. If you do work for a manager who is a driver, reflect on the positive takeaways you have received by working for them. You will understand the importance of punctuality, and will know how to look at the fine points to make sure your work is great, and not just good. These are skills that you will not develop with a lax or absent manager. After working for the jerk I went to work at a local golf course where I had two managers that I hardly ever saw. I would work alongside one manager on the weekends for an hour or two during the morning shift, and the other I normally would only see when he walked to his car at the end of days that I worked the closing shift. Because we hardly ever saw the managers it was hard to know what they expected from us or what they wanted us to do. We would usually get written notes with instructions but no time line. Without stating when they wanted something done, tasks would get pushed off or ignored for multiple shifts. The quality of our work was not very good, and many employees spent time sitting, playing on their phones, or wandering around. The workplace for us was relaxed and fun, and if you put in a little effort on your own you had a chance to make good tips, but there was little growth for any employees. We did not have a chance to do work that impressed our managers, or take on new responsibilities. The worst part of having an absent manager is the frustration that accompanied negative feedback or unusual requests. Employees would not take criticism well, and the managers had a difficult time asking people to do tasks that needed to get done, but were not part of the regular work routine. Easy jobs with lax managers can be nice to have, and can allow you to work on goals away from work without stress spilling over, but they do not offer much in the way of personal growth.
What I have learned from working with demanding managers is that my work is more than a reflection of me, it is an integral part of the workforce. Demanding managers are demanding because they need you to be a contributing factor for the team, and not just a passenger along for the ride. They will push you to perform at your best, and if you can live up to their expectations you will grow. If your manager pushes you, but is good at giving you positive and negative feedback, and if they give you a chance to learn without treating you like a child, then you will find yourself in a position where you are able to develop skills far beyond the tasks noted in the job description. Demanding managers should be flexible and open to suggestions from the staff to help keep everyone happy, engaged, and working as a team. Observe your manager, and take notes on what you do or do not like about their style, and what you will find if you have a demanding but not driving manager is that you can appreciate the things about them that make them a tough but great manager.