The Ketchup Wars  

There are two types of senior manager those who believe success is built on long hours, dedication and hard work ,sacrifice and those who think the best results come when people feel valued, empowered and trusted, fulfilment. 

I’m not saying there can not be a mix and max but generally senior managers lean one way or the other. Some of the most successful are the most extreme. The ketchup wars are simply a graphic example of this in football. Diet is important in professional sport for some coaches this means that the sacrifices you must make to be successful include giving up things you enjoy eating that are not part of your strict diet. Other coaches have a more relaxed approach, the occasional treat does no harm and if it makes you happy it’s probably good for your performance. We have recently seen extreme examples of this with a new manager joining a top club and banning tomato ketchup from the players canteen and by implication their diet. This is the authoritarian manager who believes success is based on dedication and hard work. The type of manager who says, “ you won’t like me, you won’t like my methods, but they work”. They demand absolute unquestioning loyalty. 


However this approach is out of step with today’s concerns for employees mental well-being. It smacks of bullying and it stifles the creativity and innovation that comes with empowering and trusting employees. Innovation, creativity and flexibility are the characteristics of an agile organisation able to respond quickly and smoothly to changes in the external environment. The empowering manager on taking over from their authoritarian  predecessor symbolically puts the ketchup back on the table! 


Whilst the no ketchup brigade can point to a track record of success it is often short term success as individuals and teams burnout under the constant pressure to over achieve and the straightjacket of non questioning adherence. There are plenty of examples of this in sport where bright young tennis stars have burnt themselves out whilst still young and complaints of bullying in swimming, cycling and gymnastics by winning coaches that leave athletes emotionally scared and wondering if the price they paid for success was too high. Like wise in football the three year rule is well recognised. A team is driven to greater and greater achievements but only by greater and greater effort where apron exhaustion, mental and emotional,  takes it’s toll with a dramatic drop off in performance.


The Ketchup Wars are a proxy for different management philosophies and styles and it looks like post pandemic the ketchup will be back on the table.


Blair Mcpherson 

Security level: Public

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