Over fourteen years of working for and with various managers and teams I have witnessed many negative manager archetypes, people who are effective leaders often in spite of themselves.

As many managers as I have worked with, so many management styles manifested themselves. This post wil focus on some of the negatives that have directly influenced myself and my co-workers during the course of the past fourteen years.

I will not cite specific examples, since I consider many of those who have provided examples by their failures to be my friends, and in some cases some of my colleagues might get into trouble for airing their grievances to me.

At least two individuals who served as case studies for some of the management types mentioned here have become lifelong mentors of mine, largely because they have noticed their shortcomings in those areas and adapted to deal with their weaknesses and play to their strengths.

And then a final note, I am in the process of moving into a managerial role in a very awesome little team, and have therefore taken extra care in observing the managers around me, as well as digging through notes of meetings past and remembering events that shaped my perceptions of those I worked with and under.

Finally-Finally, a special thanks to Senór P for daily walks and chats that have contributed a lot to me staying sane during my own baby steps on a new journey.

Here we go.

1 The MANAGER-PROBY

In IT parlance, at least in our discussions, a proby is someone new to a field who still has to be trained.

Similar to an “appy” or apprentice.

A manager-proby is someone who is in charge of a team but does not have any, or little, knowledge of his field.

He might be a very effective strategic planner, a big picture kind of guy, but to be effective he needs to know how to play to the strengths of his team. He needs to be willing to learn the craft of his department.

Unfortunately the manager-probies we deal with are weak in that they do not know their craft, and have no or little desire to learn it.

They tend to lean heavily on the strongest member of their team for practical advice, and tend to frustrate their main producer by wasting that persons time with minor decisions.

Manager-probies tend to place the members of their team under a lot of pressure by making impossible promises to clients. When things go awry they then again lean on their key team members to pull the project out of the fire.

A really effective manager must know the practical aspects of his team members jobs intricately, and preferrably have worked in the field before.

2 The KNEE-JERKER

Knee-jerk is any employees nightmare. If any client lodges a complaint he immediately goes into fixit mode.

His way of getting things done is barking orders with no regard for other scheduled work. He also makes impossible promises to the client in order to pacify them.

This has some immediate results. One, other clients are aggravated because their work is set aside because knee jerk throws all his resources behind immediately fixing the issue at hand. Two, the team is left with a bevy of unfinished work that needs to be re-scheduled. Three, because knee-jerk made outlandish promises to an already aggravated client the team struggles to deliver on those promises and is left looking even worse because knee-jerk left the impression with the client that he “handled it” therefore any failure is the fault of those under him.

Knee-jerk seldom takes the time to investigate the veracity of the clients claims, and often becomes a tool in the hands of clients to manipulate a team to the detriment of the company.

Knee-jerk is also very often:

3 The WEAKEST LINK

I will call him “link” for short.

Many managers fulfill some sort of key role in their department or team. Often they are the only one who can authorise or make payments, sign of on purchases or send out quotations.

Link tends to fail in some key role when his input is needed in a project. Often, when in knee-jerk mode, he has hurried his team into finalising a project to appease a client. When the time comes for him to sign off on the purchase of a piece of software or hardware for said client he delays.

This then causes the deadlines he committed on to not being reached.

Link causes embarrasment and delay time and again.

4 The DOOMSAYER

Doomsayer is constantly looking for something to go wrong. They have a few favourite catch phrases. “If this happened to one of our clients it is happening to all our clients.” or “I am a client as well, I asked you to do this and you should treat me like you would a client!” which is invariably followed by “If you are giving me service like this all our clients this kind of service!”

You can never win with Doomsayer. If you give them excellent service or preferential treatment in order to prove that you are capable of good client service they will look for a project that has fallen behind and berate you with: “This client is waiting for us to deliver on this project! You should not give me preference over clients, my things can wait.”

Of course you know what will happen if you do exactly that, you will get the “I am a client and this is the service I get?” speech.

5 The BULLDOG

Bulldog thinks that the best way to stay in control of their team is to bully them into submission. Motivating his team means threatening them and taking away priveleges.

He will often be rude to his underlings, sometimes openly, alienating them and those observing this behaviour.

Sometimes he will make a big show of protecting someone in his team from a perceived wrong, coming down like a house of bricks on someone from another department who dared deny a request or failed to jump the moment one of his minions asked for assistance. He often bypasses managers in other departments and throws his weight around where he has no place to do so.

He will never act like this when a client is involved, choosing to rather bully a team member into delivering on some impossible request.

6 The SEAGULL

Seagulls make a lot of noise and crap on everything in sight.

They are micro managers at heart but do not have either the knowledge or energy to be really involved in the workings of their team.

They will come and go, asking for periodic reports here and there. An efficient team will quetly churn along until THE DAY.

Seagull will come crashing through the door and all hell will break loose. They will berate everyone in the team for any minor infraction perceived or real.

They will offer no assistance in actually solving any problems they might have come across, opting rather for catch phrases like “come on, we need to FOCUS, this should not be happening in our team!”

If they DO decide to become involved in steering the team in a new direction it will be a two week slog of being micro managed to the nines. Every problem will be knee-jerked into oblivion. Team members will be bullied into submission and forced back in line.

Seagull is one of the worst manager types to work under because during their periodic whirlwind taking control sessions they manifest all of the negatives noted above.

Seagull is often responsible for multiple departments, and will rotate between them causing havoc as he goes along. More often than not Seagull gets in the way and causes the team to become demotivated. Real work is left undone in the desperate rush to appease the tyrant.

7 The POODLE

Poodle is a bit of an unknown in an office. When he is under pressure everyone around him gets snapped at.

You never know if, when, or how to approach the poodle. He will just as likely welcome you into his office with a smile or halt you at the door with a barked rebuke.

Poodle will often ignore requests for assistance and when pushed to deliver will snarl at you while begrudgingly devoting some of his precious time to your lowly matter.

Poodle is a bit of a prima donna, and is best left alone. His team members learn when to leave the Poodle alone, and where possible function is such a way as to trouble their leader as little as possible.

8 The FLY-HALF

Just like an efficient Fly-half in a rugby game passes the ball down the line to keep the team moving forward, the Fly-Half manager passes things around in his team.

Unlike the Rugby Fly-Half he offers very little input into the matter at hand.

He will often pass on emails without reading them, pass on client requests without giving them any thought.

Usually the ones who rely on him or her for directional input need to guess what the next step in a project is.

Those who are supposed to produce products are forced to deal with incomplete or unclear client requests because Fly-Half saw a mail, decided he does not understand what the client wants and passed it on to the team member working on the project to decipher what the hell the client wants.

Fly-Half could not be arsed to put a little effort into making sure he understands the message he passes on. He makes sure he populates any meeting with enough knowledgeable people that he does not need to offer any input.

His favorite catch phrase is “Well I am not a sysadmin haha but that is why we have Bill around.”

He might as well not even be present. He thinks him being able to bring a bunch of people together in endless meetings makes him an effective leader, and sometimes it allows him to make informed strategic decisions, but his tendency to over utilise that skill makes him look like dead weight.

Summary

There you have it, a quick summary of bad management traits.

Most managers make themselves guilty of all of these during a year, no-one is perfect. The trouble comes when a leader defaults into one of these behaviours.

When this happens a team functions in spite of the leader, not because of him. A leader who falls into the trap of becoming a bad manager generally gets in the way, and begins to cycle personnel.

Be aware of the character traits you default to during the course of leading your team. You might just be the reason that your projects fall behind time and again.

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