As a Manager, Do No Harm

In today’s post I wanted to explore a phrase that I have heard a lot during the course of my career.

As a Manager, Do No Harm.

Let’s face a fact.  All of us out there really don’t want to do harm as a Manager by nature.  Ok there may be a few people out there that do – but generally speaking the majority of us strive every day to improve our situations, our environment, the world around us and so on.  If that was the case the notion of instructing someone to “Do No Harm” seems a little silly.  Almost as if you want to respond by saying “Well Duuuuh – of course I want to do no harm”.

I think that analysis is missing the point of this phrase though.  When I internalize this direction I understand it to relate to unintended harm.  Almost as if the mantra should be changed to say “In your quest to do good, don’t do harm by accident”.  You may find as a manager that sometimes you do harm – when harm was not your intent.  Let’s look at a few examples of when you could be doing harm by accident


I think Mis-Communication is the largest culprit of how we as managers can do accidental harm.  When we handed off a task to an employee did we ensure that the criteria was understood.  Does the employee know exactly what needs to be done?  This happens the most when communication is done in e-mails.  E-mails are short, impersonal and are very easy to mis-interpret and mis-understand.  As a manager strive to gain clarity from your employees to ensure that they have all the details that they need to succeed.


As a manager we need to be very careful about when to offer generic thoughts and opinions.  Your employees may take this a direct order or instruction from you.  These often come in the form of “Wouldn’t it be cool if we did this…”.  The employee then turns around and does it because they thought it was a direct instruction.  Often Managers need to think out loud and need to express ideas – but do so in a fashion that is clear about what the direction is and isn’t.

Non Critical Uninvited Feedback

Too often as Managers we may think that we need to give feedback all the time.  I don’t believe this is true though.  Be cautious about when and how you choose to give feedback.  Particularly for non critical issues.  The employee may be having a bad day and a small piece of feedback may blow up to be viewed as a personal attack.  A recent victory may be blown totally out to the water by small feedback and diminish the sense of accomplishment.  These are all just small simple ways that an unwelcome piece of feedback could detract from an employees day to day progress and actual do harm when our intentions were good.  Instead ask if feedback can be shared.  If the answer is no – then respect that and circle back.  The exception of course is if it is a critical issue or if the employee blows you off for a while – but those do not fall into this category.


As a Manager, you should do no harm.  Pay particular attention though to accidental harm that you may cause.  Put yourself in the shoes of your employees and imagine how you would react.

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