Classifying Bad Managers

Going through your working life you will inevitably come across a range of managers and management styles; this is as certain as death, taxes and getting indigestion from poorly prepared seafood.

To some extent it is worth reflecting and sharing the pain/joy of collecting a rich range of experiences which will inevitably make you a better person for the experience!

The list below is not the end of the matter as new, horrific management styles and types are evolving all of the time.

  • I am your Friend and I am a Friend to Everyone. Totally avoids conflict and making unpopular decisions.  This is a deeply insecure person who desperately needs to be liked.  Workplaces with these managers are usually chaotic and frustrating places to work because the manager will not hold people accountable and will tolerate just about any bad behaviour.  The people with the strongest personalities in these workplaces will take over, and may become the de facto managers if they are willing to make decisions.
  • The Micro Manager – A manager for whom no detail is too small, no decision too trivial, no activity too mundane.  Micromanagement also stems from insecurity and the belief that the manager is the only one who can do a job correctly.  It shows a deep distrust of the skills and decision-making abilities of the employees.  This is very common amongst managers with strong technical skills who have recently been promoted to manager.  In their quest to succeed (and their fear of failure), they have to oversee all the details of the project – if not do all the work themselves.  Micro Managers rarely end up managing large projects – they become quickly overwhelmed as the size of the job increases. Worryingly new managers especially young new managers tend to be Micro Managers (until they learn their way out of the hole they are in).
  • The Fleeting Manager – They fly into a project, make a lot of noise, create a lot of work and then leave, often criticising much of what has been done before they arrived. This is the opposite from the Micro Manger, because they pay no attention to the project for the most part.  They may be there at the beginning, providing some vague direction and then disappear.  Sometime later they’ll show up (probably unannounced) at a project meeting, scream about how everybody is doing everything wrong, disparage all the work done to date, tell you what you should have done and then quickly disappear. They are poor communicators and expect that everyone else can read their minds.  It may be that they have doubts about the success of the project under any circumstances, so they want to distance themselves from the fallout.  Success under this particularly poor management style is down to the discipline and dedication of the staff actually doing the work.
  • The Mushroom Manager – The Mushroom Manager keeps you in the dark and buries you in useless information and advice. What makes this worse is that if you challenge Mr/Mrs/Ms Mushroom pain is the only result because they are control freaks who only provide minimal information on a ‘need-to-know’ basis.  Project goals will be sketchy and the budget will be a state secret.  Any questions you ask will be answered evasively, often with the challenge of “Why do you want to know?”  The MM considers any questioning of the project goals, tasks, or timelines as treason.
  • The Absentee Manager – “I’m sorry, who are you exactly?”Absentee Managers depend on the project team to manage itself.  This is not necessarily a bad thing.  AM’s projects can succeed if the team is skilled and members step up to do to things a manager usually would. Of course, if there are problems with the team that cannot be resolved internally, then the lack of management is immediately apparent and outcomes will be seriously compromised.
  • The Hysterical Child –To the Hysterical Child whenever anything – ANYTHING – goes wrong, it is an absolute disaster.  Not being able to find a sharp pencil is in the same category as losing a major client.  The HC is supremely skilled at finding blame everywhere, except with them of course. How silly to think otherwise!  Everything that happens is around them and is routed back to them. Whatever happens tone down your sarcastic responses however tempting it might be to let a few loose – they will probably not be recognised as such anyway!
  • The Narcissist – The Narcissist is such a special case and so prevalent that there is a specific piece just for them. You know you will be working/have worked/are working for one at some point!

Perhaps you will be lucky and never come across any of the above – but I suspect that is very, very unlikely!

Good Luck!

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