Not literally, of course! Authors William Oncken, Jr. and Donald L. Wass wrote an article in HBR titled “Who’s Got the Monkey” and interestingly after 30 years, it’s still extremely relevant today.
Monkey management is mostly useful to managers but all of us can learn something out of it. So, here it is:
Monkey management is the art of managing upward delegation. When one of
your employees comes to you with an unsolved problem he has two choices
– one to ask for help and the other is to transfer the problem to you.
The later is the classic case of upward delegation. When you take an
unsolved problem from your subordinates, you are allowing a figurative
monkey to leap from your employee’s back to your back. If you have more
than one subordinates, you may end up carrying a number of monkeys on
your back. This will not only cause you undue stress but also your
subordinates won’t progress on the job.
I won’t list everything in the article. However, here is the basic law for managing monkeys (as the authors put it)
time while I am helping you will your problem become my problem. The
instant your problem becomes mine, you will no longer have a problem. I
cannot help someone who hasn’t got a problem. You may ask my help at
any appointed time, and we will make a joint determination of what the
next move will be and who will make it.
Quick question: How many monkeys are on your back today?