Why clock watcher managers are so scared & how to beat them

Updated: Nov 28, 2018


Clock watcher managers are terrified when they can't see you! They mistake presence for productivity and value it over performance

Clock watcher managers. They're the worst, right? You know the people I mean - they could be your boss, the boss's PA, someone from HR, maybe the office receptionist..... Sometimes they can be the person you least expect when you first meet them. I've known some otherwise enlightened people, really creative and talented people who in disguise hide a terrible dark side..... They are the clock watchers, those unhappy and glum types who value your presence in the office, preferably at your desk, above all else. They know your every move - what time you come, what time you go. They want in depth explanations if you leave the office, and seem to greet each with a long look of dissatisfaction and unease, no matter how sensible, practical and customer centric you are.


They are the office un-evolved. Office Neanderthals, a throwback to a bygone era at its peak in the 1950's. The clock watcher mistakes your constant presence in the office between 8am - 6pm for productivity. If they can't see you, they think you're not working. They get anxious, they get nervous, they get uptight.... Not seeing you rings alarm bells for them and they take on a hunted and tortured demeanour that is eliminated only when they see you sitting at your desk again.



How is it that in this year of 2018 we can have these un-evolved types in our offices, let alone in management positions? Simple. Fear. They're scared. They mistake presence for productivity. In their minds, the office is where the work is done, and if you're in the office, then you must be working. These types are mistrusting, anxious and only minutes away from apoplexy if you linger too long from your desk. Their thinking is that presence = productivity, more than or instead of performance. The video above was taken from where I worked last Friday. This was my office, and there was no desk in sight.


So how do you beat the un-evolved clock watcher when they're your manager? It's surprisingly easy:

  1. Set KPI's which are focused on outcomes with your manager. Put the blocks in place for you to change the game and move the focus on outcomes over office presence

  2. Articulate performance outcomes along with clear metrics which are measurable and quantifiable

  3. Report & measure performance regularly, demonstrating progress towards achievement of your goal outcomes

  4. Make the size of the steps that you take down this path, or the speed that you travel along it dependent on how un-evolved your clock watcher manager is. The more severe their clock watching, the smaller your steps or the slower your speed and vice versa

  5. Lead from the front, foster dialogue within your team, and from your team with other colleagues and up line management that's about performance over presence


Have you experienced a clock watcher manager? How did you manage their over inflated value of presence over performance? Share your experience in the comments section along with any strategies for bringing their focus back to performance over presence.


Perhaps together we can be the change that helps clock watcher managers to evolve, be less scared and to focus on performance above presence and realise that just because staff are present, it doesn't mean they're productive.

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