Management Myth #3: We Must Treat Everyone the Same Way


One of the biggest management myths is, “I must treat everyone the same way.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Everyone has different goals for their career, and those change over the course of a career.

One of the biggest management myths is, “I must treat everyone the same way.” In our organizations, we have career ladders that try to fit us into “ticky-tacky” boxes for promotion, assume that everyone brainstorms the same way, and that everyone likes the same kind of projects. Nothing could be further from the truth. Everyone has different goals for their career, and those change over the course of a career.

Watch as Susan, a manager, discusses career development during staff one-on-ones.

Two weeks ago, Susan asked Karen, a senior developer, what she wanted for the next step in her career development plan.

“Hi, Karen. Have you thought about your career development plan?”

“Yes, I have. I want to continue the book allowance. And, I want to modify it a little. Instead of just a book allowance for me, I want you to extend the allowance for the entire team. I was reading about a new way to do a reading group, and I think it will work this time. Last time, I couldn’t get anyone to read with me.

 “I have an idea about how to encourage people to read in time. Instead of just reading a chapter a week, I have exercises and games for each chapter. I want to do those instead of just discussions. I think that will work. And, since I’m working on my facilitation skills, that will play really nicely into developing those skills.”

“What a great idea!” Susan agreed. “How much money do you think you need for the first month? We can assess how things have gone after the group has read the first book and you’ve developed the first set of exercises.”

“I might need to go to a local conference, too,” Karen said. “And, I really want to go to that national conference in November.”

“OK,” Karen said. “Now that I have the whole plan, I can add the expenses and see what I can shake loose. Give me a couple of days and I’ll let you know.”

Later that day, Susan met with David, another senior developer. He ambled into Susan’s office and sat down. He grinned his deceptively lazy grin.

“Susan, what’s shakin’?”

“Dave, I’m supposed to ask you that! Tell me, have you thought about your career development plan?”

“I have, and I have a little problem. I don’t want to go anywhere for training. I just want to stay here and work, and drive the kids and do that soccer-dad thing. I really like the fact I get to leave early a couple of days a week and coach Little League for Little-Dave and take Jenny and Barbara to gymnastics and dance. I never would have pegged myself for the minivan-dad kind of guy, but I’m loving it. The kids say so much when I’m driving them. In a couple of years, Jenny will be able to drive, but until then, I really don’t want to travel.”

Susan smiled. “I suspect that’s not a problem; I bet you don’t have to go anywhere. What makes you think that’s a problem?”

“Well, I need to work on my people skills. I’m fine here in the team—I can pair with anyone; I can interview anyone technical—but whenever I want to find out what’s going on with the stories from sales to get a better idea of what they really want for the acceptance criteria, I ask them questions and they look at me as if I’m from outer space. You know, that Mars and Venus thing?”

About the author

Johanna Rothman's picture Johanna Rothman

Johanna Rothman, known as the “Pragmatic Manager,” helps organizational leaders see problems and risks in their product development. She helps them recognize potential “gotchas,” seize opportunities, and remove impediments. Johanna was the Agile 2009 conference chair. She is the technical editor for Agile Connection and the author of these books:

  • Manage Your Job Search
  • Hiring Geeks That Fit
  • Manage Your Project Portfolio: Increase Your Capacity and Finish More Projects
  • The 2008 Jolt Productivity award-winning Manage It! Your Guide to Modern, Pragmatic Project Management
  • Behind Closed Doors: Secrets of Great Management
  • Hiring the Best Knowledge Workers, Techies & Nerds: The Secrets and Science of Hiring Technical People

Johanna is working on a book about agile program management. She writes columns for and projectmanagementcom and blogs on her website,, as well on

AgileConnection is one of the growing communities of the TechWell network.

Featuring fresh, insightful stories, is the place to go for what is happening in software development and delivery.  Join the conversation now!