Why Managers don’t say “ I do not know… please help me!”?


Ok… now I am confident I qualify to write this post given my experiences as Manager!




While at work as Manager, I have been fortunate to head a department (at some point), work with responsible colleagues and report to senior-management and mix-match of all of these. Through the years, I have – time and again – come across situations where many managers are afraid to utter sentences like "I don't know," "Would you help me?" or "I'm not sure I get it." Somehow, the central believe in failing to admit when one makes a mistake or lacks knowledge is that acceptance will make one less effective.


Though I understand that some managers might not deem inability for such inacceptance as fear or insecurity of any sort, and might genuinely be convinced of their own idea to the extent that any new idea must been shown the dustbin, I beg to differ. Over estimation of one’s own ability, especially when there is little of it, is the perfect recipe for disaster.


       When you pretend to know everything, you miss opportunities to learn.

First, it will keep you from learning. If you're in a first-level manager's position, you may know more than your people because you once excelled as an individual in the work they do. But, as you advance, you'll soon rise beyond the level where you can be expert in the work of all those you manage. Sooner or later — probably sooner — you must learn to manage those who know more than you and know they know more.


       When you try to hide your ignorance or your errors, you'll lose peoples' trust.

When you lose trust, you lose respect from others. When you lose respect from others, you lose your self-confidence. When you lose self-confidence… you become puppet-manager. People know when you don't know something or make an error or try to cover up. Fess up when you're in those situations. Acknowledge your own limitations so others can do the same. And when you need it, ask for help and be open to learning.


Time for disclaimer. This is another of those fine lines that managers must approach but not cross. On one side of it, people respect your ability to recognize your own shortcomings and your willingness to learn. Without those qualities, people are less likely to trust you. On the other side of that line, however, too much expression of weakness, error, and uncertainty will also diminish people's trust in you. In every situation, you must find that line and remain on the positive side. Straying too far from it, one way or the other, will make you less effective.

2 Replies to “Why Managers don’t say “ I do not know… please help me!”?”

  1. Very Very Important  – though difficult – is to admit out right when you don't know. Here lies a wonderful opportunity to revisit the once bookmarked page "will read / learn about this someday" and then forgotten.

  2. an insecure manager would be afraid to utter those words. A self confident manager will not hesitate to acknowledge the fact that no one knows everything and there is no shame in asking. Once this inhibition is overcome the manager will experience a new freedom, freedom from pretense of knowing everything.

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