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1032 Different Management Styles

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Complete Transcript
Welcome to English as a Second Language Podcast number 1,032 – Different Management Styles.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast episode 1,032. I’m your host, Dr. Jeff McQuillan, coming to you from the Center for Educational Development in beautiful Los Angeles, California.

Visit our website at ESLPod.com. Become a member of ESL Podcast and download a Learning Guide for this episode. You can also like us on Facebook at facebook.com/eslpod.

On this episode, we’re going to listen to a dialogue between Bianca and Conrad about management styles – the way people handle, or manage, other people. Let’s get started.

[start of dialogue]

Bianca: Today’s the day. We’re supposed to find out who the new manager is going to be. I hope they’re not making a mistake by hiring internally.

Conrad: I just hope they don’t pick Melissa. She would be a disaster.

Bianca: Why do you say that? I like Melissa.

Conrad: I like her, too, but she can be so autocratic. Give her a little power and it goes to her head. Every decision would be top-down.

Bianca: You might be right, but I think Quentin would be worse. He would be so laissez-faire that it would be like not having a manager at all. He’d delegate everything and then sit back and do nothing.

Conrad: I’ll grant you that. Quentin would be a horrible manager. What about Jemima? She’s popular with nearly everybody in the office.

Bianca: I suppose Jemima would be a bearable option. She likes to collaborate and often consults with other people to get their feedback. But I’m backing a different horse, one that would be the ideal.

Conrad: Who?

Bianca: You.

Conrad: Me? No way. I don’t have a chance in hell. And plus, how do you know I’d be a good manager?

Bianca: You’d be democratic in your decision making and I’d like that. You wouldn’t rule with an iron fist.

Conrad: That’s what you think. Give me a little power and you can start calling me commandant.

[end of dialogue]

Bianca begins our dialogue by saying to Conrad, “Today’s the day.” This is a common expression in English which means simply that something important is going to happen today or something I’m about to tell you is going to take place today. Bianca tells us what is going to happen today in the dialogue. She says, “We’re supposed to find out who the new manager is going to be.”

A “manager” is a person who is responsible for controlling or handling or taking care of other people, usually related to some project for your work. We might also use the word “supervisor.” A supervisor is a manager who takes care of other people, who is in charge of other people, usually in a work environment.

Bianca says, “I hope they’re” – meaning the company – “not making a mistake by hiring internally.” “To hire” (hire) means to give someone a job. Sometimes you’ll walk into a grocery store or a restaurant, and there will be a sign on the window that says “Now hiring.” That means they’re looking for people for jobs that they have available.

“To hire internally” (internally) means to hire someone for a job from within your organization, from within your company. When you hire internally, you don’t bring someone new to the company. You take someone who’s already working at the company and you give him or her this job. That’s often the case in large organizations where there are a lot of employees who already understand what the company does and the way it works. So, it’s easier to put one of them in charge as a manager.

Conrad says, “I just hope they don’t pick Melissa.” “To pick” here means to select – to hire, in this case. Melissa, according to Conrad, “would be a disaster.” She would be a terrible manager is what he means. Bianca says, “Why do you say that? I like Melissa.” Conrad says, “I like her too, but she can be so autocratic.” “To be autocratic” (autocratic) means to be someone who has a lot of power and uses that power very “controllingly,” we might say – someone who is very strict with his or her employees, who’s always telling people what to do, who is always using his or her power to control other people.

Conrad says, “Give her a little power and it goes to her head.” The expression “to go to one’s head” means something makes one feel very proud, very important, and usually superior to other people. In other words, you think you are better than other people because you were given this power, and suddenly you start to use this power – you start to think that you are more important than you really are. Conrad then says, “Every decision would be top-down.” The term “top-down” refers to a system of decision making in an organization where everything is decided by the people at the top of the organization – that is, the leaders.

Now of course, generally speaking, the leaders of any organization or company are the ones who make the big decisions, but if you describe a company or an organization as having a very top-down management style, you mean that almost everything gets decided by the leaders. The people who work at the company don’t have very much power. They don’t have a lot of influence on the decisions that are made. The opposite of “top-down” would be “bottom-up.” “Bottom-up” would be where people who are at the bottom of the company – the lowest employees, if you will – have some power and some influence on decisions that are made.

Bianca says, “You might be right, but I think Quentin would be worse. He would be so laissez-faire that it would be like not having a manager at all.” The term “laissez-faire” (laissez-faire) means hands-off – someone who lets things go and doesn’t interfere, someone who doesn’t try to control or direct the situation. The term is often used in the world of economics to talk about an economic policy where the government doesn’t interfere with business or only interferes very minimally, not very much at all.

If we describe someone’s management style as “laissez-faire,” we mean that this person just lets things happen, doesn’t try to control things or interfere with things. That’s why Bianca says “it would be like not having a manager at all.” It would be as if there were no one in charge, no one serving or acting as a manager.

Bianca says, “He’d” – meaning Quentin – “delegate everything and then sit back and do nothing.” “To delegate” (delegate) means to give other people things to do, to assign tasks to someone else, particularly things that are part of a larger project. If you are working on a large project, you can’t possibly do everything yourself. If you are the manager, you have to give other people things to do. You have to assign them things to do. That is what the verb “to delegate” means.

Conrad says, “I’ll grant you that.” That expression, “I’ll grant (grant) you that,” is used to express agreement with what another person has said – to indicate that the other person has made a good point, has said something that you agree with and that is correct. We use that expression when we are having a disagreement with someone, but there’s something the other person said that we do want to agree with. So, we are using this expression to say, “Yes, on that specific thing, I agree with you.”

Conrad says, “Quentin would be a horrible manager. What about Jemima?” “She’s popular with nearly everybody in the office,” Conrad says. Bianca says, “I suppose Jemima would be a bearable option.” When we say something is “bearable” (bearable) we mean it would not be too difficult. It would not be too awful, but it wouldn’t be very good, either.

Bianca says that Jemima “likes to collaborate and often consults with other people to get their feedback.” “To collaborate” means to work with other people in order to get something done. “To consult” (consult) means to ask other people’s opinions, to get other people to tell you what they think. “To get feedback” (feedback) is to get the opinions and reactions from other people. It’s similar to “consult.” “Consult,” however, has some other meanings in English which we won’t talk about here, but here it simply means to ask other people for their opinion. Bianca is saying that Jemima is the kind of person that would collaborate, consult, and get people’s feedback.

She says, however, “I’m backing a different horse, one that would be ideal.” “To back (back) a different horse” is an expression that means to support a different person or a different idea – to hope that someone else wins or something else is adopted or is successful. The verb “to back” means to support, usually by giving money to someone or doing something to help that person win. We can talk about people who invest in a new company “backing” the company. They are supporting the company by giving the company money.

Conrad asks who Bianca is backing. Bianca says, “You,” meaning Conrad. Conrad says, “Me? No way.” “No way” is an informal way of saying “absolutely not.” “I don’t have a chance in hell.” The expression “to not have a chance in hell” means that something is simply not going to happen. It’s going to be nearly impossible or at least extremely unlikely that this will happen. I’m guessing the expression comes from a longer phrase, which is “a snowball’s chance in hell.”

A “snowball” is made of cold snow and ice. “Hell” is traditionally thought of as being the place that is very hot. So, if you put a cold thing into someplace that is very hot, it probably won’t survive. In this case, the snowball will melt. Hence, we have this expression, “a snowball’s chance in hell,” meaning not very likely. If you see a beautiful woman, your friend may say to you, “You don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of getting her telephone number.” That would be an example.

Conrad says, “How do you know I’d be a good manager?” He’s asking Bianca why Bianca wants him to be a manager. Bianca says, “You’d be democratic in your decision making, and I’d like that.” “To be democratic” here means that a person would allow other people on the project to vote or to give their opinions and have their opinions matter. Bianca says, “You wouldn’t rule with an iron fist.” The expression “to rule with an iron (iron) fist (fist)” means something similar to autocratic. It means to be very strict, very controlling.

Conrad says, “That’s what you think.” The expression “that’s what you think” is used to mean you have the wrong idea. You may think that, but it’s not true. Conrad says, “That’s what you think. Give me a little power, and you can start calling me commandant.” “Commandant” (commandant) is a senior military leader. The idea here is that Conrad would be like someone in the military, giving orders and not asking for anyone’s opinion. Certainly, the military is not normally known to be very democratic.

Now let’s listen to the dialogue, this time at a normal speed.

[start of dialogue]

Bianca: Today’s the day. We’re supposed to find out who the new manager is going to be. I hope they’re not making a mistake by hiring internally.

Conrad: I just hope they don’t pick Melissa. She would be a disaster.

Bianca: Why do you say that? I like Melissa.

Conrad: I like her, too, but she can be so autocratic. Give her a little power and it goes to her head. Every decision would be top-down.

Bianca: You might be right, but I think Quentin would be worse. He would be so laissez-faire that it would be like not having a manager at all. He’d delegate everything and then sit back and do nothing.

Conrad: I’ll grant you that. Quentin would be a horrible manager. What about Jemima? She’s popular with nearly everybody in the office.

Bianca: I suppose Jemima would be a bearable option. She likes to collaborate and often consults with other people to get their feedback. But I’m backing a different horse, one that would be the ideal.

Conrad: Who?

Bianca: You.

Conrad: Me? No way. I don’t have a chance in hell. And plus, how do you know I’d be a good manager?

Bianca: You’d be democratic in your decision making and I’d like that. You wouldn’t rule with an iron fist.

Conrad: That’s what you think. Give me a little power and you can start calling me commandant.

[end of dialogue]

Although she’s a very powerful person, power has never gone to our scriptwriter’s head – the wonderful Dr. Lucy Tse.

From Los Angeles, California, I’m Jeff McQuillan. Thank you for listening. Come back and listen again right here on ESL Podcast.

English as a Second Language Podcast was written and produced by Dr. Lucy Tse, hosted by Dr. Jeff McQuillan. Copyright 2014 by the Center for Educational Development.

Glossary
manager – a person who is responsible for controlling or overseeing projects, people, and/or resources within a company; a supervisor

* Have you asked your manager if you can take off the last week of July for vacation?

to hire internally – to fill a job opening with someone who already works in a different position with in the same company or organization

* Hiring internally creates more work, because first you have to hire someone for the main job opening, and then you have to hire his or her replacement.

autocratic – referring to a system where the leader or ruler has full power and is very strict and controlling

* That autocratic management style might work well for army generals, but it has no place in a small, family-owned business.

to go to (one’s) head – for something to make one feel very proud, important, special, and superior to other people

* When Kelly’s first book was published, it really went to his head.

top-down – referring to a system of decision-making and organizational structure where the most powerful and influential people make all the decisions, and the people below them are expected to follow and implement those decisions without providing any input

* Lyle’s previous employer had a top-down management style, so he was shocked when his new boss asked him if he had any thoughts about how the company should be run.

laissez-faire – hands-off; referring to a system where things happen freely and on their own, with little or no interference or direction

* In a true laissez-faire market economy, would there be any financial assistance for people who are unemployed or disabled?

to delegate – to assign tasks and pieces of a larger project to other people; to ensure that other people are involved in getting some work done

* If Mohamed could learn to delegate, he wouldn’t have to spend so many hours at the office trying to finish everything by himself.

I’ll grant you that – an informal phrase used to express agreement with what another person says, indicating that he or she has a good point

* He had a creative idea, I’ll grant you that, but do you really think it’s practical?

bearable – tolerable; manageable; not too difficult or awful, but not great

* With light-colored clothing, a fan, and a lot of water, the heat is bearable.

to collaborate – to work with other people to do something

* Has your band collaborated with any famous musicians or composers?

to consult – to ask for other people’s opinions; to refer to people or other resources, especially before making a decision

* Dr. Sanchez consulted a medical textbook and two of her colleagues before making a diagnosis.

feedback – opinions and reactions received from other people about something, especially if they are provided so that one can improve the thing

* After each workshop, we use the participants’ feedback to improve our materials for the next session.

to back a different horse – to support a different person or thing; to hope that another person wins or that another thing is successful

* Most people want Samuel to win the race, but we’re backing a different horse this time. Nancy is our choice.

to not have a chance in hell – for something to be extremely unlikely or impossible

* If Fatima is competing, Miriam doesn’t have a chance in hell of winning the contest.

democratic – referring to a system of governance or organization where everyone’s opinion is equally important and everyone has an opportunity to be involved

* If this were a democratic family, the children would have equal input in deciding where the family should go on vacation.

to rule with an iron fist – to be very strict and controlling, telling other people what to do

* As parents, they ruled with an iron fist when their children were young, but when those children became teenagers, everything had to change.

commandant – a senior military leader

* The commandant ordered the troops to prepare for battle.

Comprehension Questions
1. Which person would be best at listening to others’ ideas?
a) Melissa.
b) Quentin.
c) Jemima.

2. What does Conrad mean when he says, “I don’t have a chance in hell”?
a) He doesn’t think he’ll be selected.
b) He doesn’t think he’d do a good job.
c) He doesn’t want to be the manager.

Answers at bottom.

What Else Does It Mean?
top-down

The phrase “top-down,” in this podcast, refers to a system of decision-making and organizational structure where the most powerful and influential people make all the decisions: “This comes as a top-down decision, so don’t ask any questions. Just do it.” If something is “top-secret,” it is confidential and should not be shared with other people: “These documents are top-secret, so only a few people have a password to open the files.” The phrase “top-heavy” refers to an object that is heavy at the top and light or small at the bottom, so it might fall over: “If you put too many things on that top shelf, the bookcase will be top-heavy and it might fall over.” Finally, when talking about an organization, “top-heavy” means having too many managers overseeing too few workers: “They used to be top-heavy, so they got rid of a lot of middle managers to save money.”

to back a different horse

In this podcast, the phrase “to back a different horse” means to support a different person or thing, or to hope that another person wins or that another thing is successful: “They lost a lot of money in the stock market, so now they’re backing a different horse by purchasing rental properties.” The phrase “a horse of a different color” refers to something that is completely different: “After 10 years of teaching, Mr. Meinzen remembers one student who was truly a horse of a different color.” Finally, the phrase “straight from the horse’s mouth” refers to something that is heard directly from the source, not by someone who is repeating the information: “I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t heard it straight from the horse’s mouth.”

Culture Note
Layers of Management

Most American businesses have three “layers” (levels of things that are placed on top of each other) of management: “top-level managers,” “mid-level managers,” and “first-level managers.” These layers form an organizational “hierarchy” (a reporting structure showing who has the most power and influence within an organization, and who reports to whom). In most cases, there are only a few top-level managers, a “handful” (a small number) of mid-level managers, and more first-level managers.

“Top-level managers” are “senior executives” or “c-level executives,” such as the “CEO” (chief executive officer), “CFO” (chief financial officer), “CIO” (chief information officer). They work together as a “management team” for the entire organization, and they work closely with the board of directors.

“Mid-level managers” “tend to be” (usually are) important within the organization and report directly to the c-level executives. They might be division managers or department managers, or assistant vice-presidents. They are involved in some of the day-to-day activities of the company, but they are primarily responsible for communicating executive decisions downward through the organization and making sure that the first-level managers are performing well.

Finally, “first-level managers,” also known as “first-line managers,” are “supervisors” (responsible for directly overseeing the work of other employees). They might have titles like office manager, department manager, crew leader, store manager, and more. They have relatively little power within the organization, but they are responsible for making sure that their team reaches “quotas” (numerical expectation of how much a person or group will contribute, such as sales figures) while “ensuring” (making sure something happens) satisfactory “quality” (how good or bad something is).

Comprehension Answers
1 - c

2 - a