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What Is A Bad Manager?
08/15/2019 John Grubbs

Bad Manager

What is a bad manager?  I wish I could tell you bad managers are like the fabled unicorn and only exist in lore; or they have been sighted like Bigfoot but never proven to exist.  But alas, bad managers do exist.  Like mutants, they are hidden among normal management genetics. In other words, they are hiding in plain sight. 

If you work a bad manager, you are probably experiencing a period of misery.  They are often toxic and may damage the organization and the team. The worst is narcissistic micromanagers.  Narcissistic Micromanagers (NMs) are the polar opposite of the servant leader on the leadership spectrum. 

Organizations infected by the NM parasite experience higher than normal turnover in key positions.  Good people will not endure the parasitic reality very long and leave to begin healing.  Subordinate employees disengage and withdraw or simply stop contributing.  In fact, many subordinates go out of their way to avoid this self-absorbed, management freak of nature. 

NMs place a high degree of emphasis on low priority work.  They literally sweat the small stuff. They are absorbed with managing the details of subordinate responsibility and believe they are an expert on everything.  In doing so, they cannot manage historical trends for success and cannot see long term impacts from the decisions they make.

NMs tightly control the flow of communication and want to be copied on every email because they cannot trust subordinates to make the best decision without their input.  They delegate with strong reservation and often create the pretense of delegation by vetting actions they approve beforehand.

NMs believe they are experts on everything they have ever been involved with in the past and tell subordinates how to do their jobs.  They rarely ask for input from others and never desire the advice from true external experts that may contradict their perspective or opinion.  They leverage cost as a means to prevent true expertise from entering the organization.  They tell subordinates that it is cheaper to keep this “in-house” because they do not know what they do not know.  They fail to understand that nothing is more expensive than ignorance.

NMs dominate discussions with subordinates because they already know what is best.  They are quick to interrupt a subordinate and end a meeting with their own expectation for action.  While communicating with peers or superiors, they take copious, detailed notes to stifle this temptation.

NMs do not like rules or boundaries unless they have prescribed them.  They justify these actions though a perceived image of expertise.  The rule is outdated or no longer relevant is a common justification for change or exemption.  NMs believe doing more of the same, only better, is the best course of action.

NMs are preoccupied with how they and the organization look to others.  This can manifest itself in personal appearance as well as organizational appearance in the face of adversity.  They are more concerned with how a situation will look to others than championing a true remedy.  They are entitled to a big office, nice desk, and fancy car because image, after all, is very important.

NMs often get past interviews because they are charming.  This is the mask that hides the mutant from normalcy.  Their big personality is attractive at first glance.  They love to share accomplishments from the past.  They say all the right things because they are intelligent enough to tell you what you want to hear instead of what they truly believe.  However, once inside the organization, they begin a campaign of negativity about past practice and success.  After all, they were not there before and it could not have been successful without them. They use manipulation and surround themselves with sycophants that tell them what they want to hear.

Once NMs begin to experience a sense of impending failure from their own parasitic impact, they release the host and seek another.  They hope to find another organization before they can be blamed for the destruction left in their past.  The results are devastating because the organization has been stripped of true talent and those remaining are merely human shells.  NMs are catastrophic little creatures that suck the nutrients out of others and then leave to do it again and again.

If this is a familiar reality, you have but two choices.  Endure and try to rebuild after the devastation because NMs love to blame others.  Or, you need to leave for a new opportunity.  As difficult as it may be, the NM infection can be a chronic disease for those affected.  Leaving with your dignity is far better than sacrificing your integrity for a job!  Bad managers are on a spectrum.  I have shared the worst.  How close are you?