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Management Mistakes from Sheldon Cooper

Dr Sheldon Cooper, the eccentric character from hit show The Big Bang Theory is an academic genius, but he doesn’t exactly excel when it comes to managing people.  In fact, if you want some examples of how not to manage staff, watching Sheldon in action would be a good start.  We have seen examples of him trying to work with people which ended in disaster and in the later series of The Big Bang Theory we have seen him hire an assistant, Alex.  Unfortunately, Sheldon has a real superiority complex and has adopted an “I’m right and you are always wrong” approach to management which inevitably rubs people up the wrong way. Here are some of Sheldon’s worst management mistakes:

Starting inappropriate conversations

Sheldon’s attempt to discourage his assistant from paying any sort of attention to Leonard backfires considerably and he ends up inadvertently bringing up completely inappropriate topics, leading to him being accused of sexual harassment by the HR department. In order to clear the misunderstanding up, Sheldon is asked to take an online harassment test. However, he declares that his time is much too valuable to waste it on “nonsense” like that and asks his assistant, who made the complaint in the first place, to take the test for him. To add insult to injury, he tells her to make sure she “aces” it as the HR department are pretty mad with him.  As a manager, it’s vital that you know what you can and can’t discuss with your employees otherwise you could find yourself on the receiving end of a complaint. 

Believing assistants only exist to carry out menial tasks

The reason for Sheldon taking on an assistant is so that she could assist him with research, but he is determined to treat her more like a slave than as an equal.  He is hesitant to let her sit with him and his friends at lunch, claiming he has watched enough British shows on PBS to know that “Servants should dine downstairs with their own kind.”   Before long, instead of giving Alex any research-related tasks he is asking her to run personal errands for him, such as buy his girlfriend’s valentines’ present.  An assistant is not there to carry out personal tasks for you - there’s no harm in passing them some work that you shouldn’t have to do, but ensure that they are also given meaningful work to develop their own careers. 

Being un-cooperative  

When Raj was in danger of being sent back to India, Sheldon graciously agreed to help him out with a job, even though he insisted on reminding him at regular intervals, “You don’t work with me, you work for me.”   When discussing the role, Raj had certain conditions which Sheldon rejected without even listening to.  As a manager, it’s important to listen to and consider what your employees are asking of you - even if you know some of their requests won’t be possible. 

Being unapproachable                                       

Outside of work, Sheldon will only do things when he is ready and this doesn’t change in the workplace.  When Raj is working for him and comes to ask him a question, Sheldon refuses to acknowledge Raj is even in the room until he is finished working on the problem at hand.  Being unapproachable is a trait that many managers have and it’s one that needs to be changed. As a manager you should be available and willing to help.  Try not to make your staff scared to come and ask you something. 

Being indiscreet

To add to his management problems, Sheldon is neither tactful nor subtle. When he asks his assistant, Alex to check his schedule for that day she notices there is an appointment in for 4pm titled, “Give Alex a talking to.”  Immediately, Alex worried about what the problem could be. If you find yourself needing to have a chat about something your employee has done wrong, be discreet and don’t put the title of the chat in a diary they check regularly. Employees appreciate honesty and discretion. If you do need to discuss a problem with them, it’s better that it comes from you directly and that they don’t find out any other way.

Sheldon has a pretty crazy management style and the bad news is, managers like Sheldon do exist in real life, even if they’re sometimes disguised in other forms.  However, I think we can all agree that having Sheldon Cooper as a manager would be pretty awful.  So next time you’re having a difficult time with your manager, just be glad they’re not Sheldon. 

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