Blog of a Million Dreams

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Ten Clues: What Makes a Manager Bad?

After leaving a hellish job, with a manager better suited for tiddly-winks than management, I've come up with a few clues that should signal that you are working under an incompetent manager. If that is the case, network, network, network and get the heck out! You'll rarely succeed if you are babysitting a bad manager...the best thing you can do is to cut and run...and keep these ten clues on hand to let you know if you got a case of the Bad Manager Blues;

1) Why were you hired? What's the real reason...after you've sorted through all the corporate bullshit, why did the higher ups agree to bring you on board? In my case, I'd had management experience in the past, and my manager didn't know how to manage others. After I'd identified a few problems my manager was having with her lack of communication skills and organization, I was told by our Department Head that my job was to help her become a better manager! Sorry, but if that's the case, change my title to Management Consultant and bump my salary up a few notches. Also, know this; If upper Management thinks that putting someone in a subordinate role to train an incompetent manager is good strategic thinking, then there are bigger things wrong with your company than you are aware of.

2) Watch your Manager in meetings. That's right, watch what your manager does and says in meetings, especially in situations that don't involve you. You get better perspective when you aren't directly involved. If your manager can lie or completely whitewash a situation in a meeting when asked for accountability, you can bet that she/he is doing the same thing when talking about interactions involving you. In other words, the truth is relative when it comes to this person and anyone working under them is not going to be depicted accurately.

3) Be very, very careful with what you tell your manager. One characteristic of a shitty manager is that they will attempt to befriend you and then use your words against you. For example, if you call in sick to attend a professional development meeting or stay home with a sick kid, your manager just may attempt to get you to disclose this information and then deny your paid time off. Be careful, your manager is not your friend.

4) Ask around. There's a very good chance that your manager has a track record of not being able to work well with others. Be careful though. If you really were brought on board to hold this manager's hand, upper management won't want you around if you express your true feelings and attempt to work under someone else. If anything, knowing the track record of this ogre, will help your peace of mind when you do leave.

5) Pay attention to your workload. Often a crappy manager won't know how to juggle tasks and projects. You may be used to getting sporadic and insane workloads dumped on you at the last minute. However, any deviation from the normal craziness (an immediate cessation of work given to you followed by an unreasonable amount of busywork) could indicate that your days are numbered. You should be job searching anyway, but this is a reason to bring your job search up a notch.

6) Your manager is losing clients and has no one to blame but her/himself. Trust me. Your manager will find someone to blame. And it just might be you. What, you say? You haven't worked on those projects that were lost? Doesn't matter...see clue #2. Many incompetent managers are masters of manipulation. How do you think they ended up where they are?

7) Human Resources is suddenly very distant. HR may be the first to welcome you to your company, tell you about benefits and show you your parking space. They will also be the ones who will shove you out the door. Their job is to protect the company with lawsuits. They don't care about fairness, equality or profit. They don't care that your manager is a twit that's losing company money and alienating corporate clients. No, all they will do, in the end, is protect said manager. HR is not your friend.

8) Assume everyone knows your business. A horrid manager will often have no qualms about complaining about your perceived shortcomings to all of their cronies. While this is unprofessional and an indication of the manager's shortcomings, be aware that a manager who lies in company meetings will have no qualms about lying to others about you.

9) What status does your manager have with the company? In my case, my manager was one of maybe 5 employees who had started the company. Her incompetence meant that she was stuck in lower management and probably won't last long should the company grow. Yet, she keeps hiring and firing and others tolerate her behavior because it's easier than confronting her. My manager knew everyone at the company and was the office bully. Her status as an early employee allowed her to do this. Do you really want to work at a company that tolerates this behavior?

10) How are you treated overall? There should be something that let's you know where you stand in the office. I still remember my manager inviting me to lunch. I could only watch with amazement at 12:30 as she hopped in her car with a bunch of her colleagues off to get herself lunch at a local restaurant, conveniently forgetting about her promise to buy me lunch. However, as rude as that was, it was also a kindness, as it let me know where I stood in the company and in her world. My job search ramped up immediately after that moment.

There are other indications that your manager is a waste of space. Does your manager help promote you, let you go to professional development meetings, help you with your career? Or is it all about her/him? Give and take is important in all relationships but often overlooked by those in a managerial role.

So those are my words to those of you trapped under a nightmare of a boss. Know that you aren't the only one, and one day you will look back on these days with a sigh of relief. You will escape and eventually move on to other jobs.


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