Leadership

What is the worst behavior a manager can have?

We've all seen our share of manager behaviors that can derail a team. What do you think is the worst?

I was thinking about all the managerial behaviors that can wreak havoc on a staff. Putting aside for now the obvious ones-screaming, overt belittling, sexual harassment, and the tendency to break out into song-what are the behaviors that can really disable a team and undermine a staff?

I'd like to open this up to you guys, but my vote goes for what I will coin the "What does this mean for me?" Syndrome.

I believe in ambition. I believe that you always have to have your personal career goals and continually made decisions that lead to their achievement. But it's when managers get so wrapped up in their own images that they lose sight of their actual job that it's becomes problematic.

We've all met someone like this along the way. This person is in the job because of its "status" or because he measures his self-worth by how many people directly report to him. (I've actually been in meetings over the years with middle managers in which having an unequal number of direct reports was a major bone of contention. Some people never let go of the playground mentality apparently.) I don't understand how people can be promoted to manager and the main takeaway for them is status and not the excitement of added responsibility.

The team that has this leader can expect to be sold down the river at every opportunity. The executives want a project completed on an impossible deadline? This manager will enthusiastically commit so she can look like a hero. The fact that the team has to work so many extra hours that they have to reach into the fourth dimension to do it, doesn't seem to bother her. That she can then go back to the big table with the completed project after stepping over the overworked corpses of her overworked programmers doesn't register on her radar.

This is also the type of manager who is never available. He has his email sorted into groups based on sender like "Worth my time," "Can help my career," and "all others." When team members' emails go unanswered or they can never find the manager to ask questions, they soon get a sense that they have about as much clout as Lindsay Lohan's AA sponsor. Nothing kills morale quicker.

The truth of the matter is that leadership is not all about the leader. If a manager is worth his salt, he will pay attention to his team and work with his team to get projects done. Don't be a yes-man in either direction.

Okay, so what behavior do you hate the most?

[Editor's note: To the TechRepublic member who has been emailing me saying he doesn't get an answer: I've responded to your emails several times. Please check your Spam folder if you're not getting them.]

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

211 comments
jakes_51
jakes_51

All these behaviors are pretty bad. I wouldn't exactly put one worse than another. It just means they don't really know how to do their job "properly and in a professional" manner. Having manager or leadership courses should be made available or manditory for them. I'm in a limbo myself at my current company. I was hired as a "web conent specialist" in the Information service department in 08. But I do everything from website design, animation, development and etc. My first manager was usually around but we usually didn't need his help for much. Then we got moved into a sales department. My new supervisor was making all these promises for a promotion, making me a supervisor, making a new department and all. But he was never around. In the end he always dropped the ball with empty promises. So now I'm moved into the data management department!? Only now I have my first supervisor for Technical problems if needed, and I also have another supervisor who she states is there for our "personal" issues? Of course this decision was apparently made while my second supervisor was away on a trip. Some people in my department have been moved 6 or more times in a year. oh yeah, I was on a 35 hour weekly check for over a year cause of the economy. Since new move I have 39 hrs but not 40. During all this time I've pretty much managed myself, but don't have a big enough voice to carry in the upper management to get things changed and fixed. This tells me several things. They obviously don't really realize what the web department is responsible for. They rely on us, for the web, emails, banners and other digital media but treat us like crap since we aren't sales bringing in all the money. We are still peeons to the rest as they are concerned.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

The link makes it spam. Merry Christmas.

neelank
neelank

Hello, Thanks for the wonderful article which is really an eye-opener. I am based in Muscat, Oman. I would like to publish this article in a local magazine as here in the arab world these things are more widely seen. Could you please let me know if I can do so? Of course it will be published in your name. I will put my name as the contributor. In case you decide that I should not publish in print media, can I mail it to my friends? Thank you once again for posting this. Awaiting your reply Neelank

neelank
neelank

Hello, Thanks for the wonderful article which is really an eye-opener. I am based in Muscat, Oman. I would like to publish this article in a local magazine as here in the arab world these things are more widely seen. Could you please let me know if I can do so? Of course it will be published in your name. I will put my name as the contributor. In case you decide that I should not publish in print media, can I mail it to my friends? Thank you once again for posting this. Awaiting your reply Neelank

MytonLopez
MytonLopez

These 2 are the worst. If you make an exception for one you must make the same exception for all or that would not be fair and you are now guilty of favoritism. Business is business and should not be mixed with personal/social life. Fraternization leads to favoritism. Think about it. If you hang out with your boss on a personal level he may favor you over another when making a decision. If your boss ask you to come hang out at his/her house and that inventation was not extended to everyone else in the office should tell you about your relation ship. Word will eventually get around in the office and will ruin your credibility if you play into these 2 behaviors.

W.E.
W.E.

For me it was two managers that would not manage their people. The general manager was GREAT with numbers, was not afraid to roll up his sleeves and work right next to us to get it done on time. And then drove it 150 miles at 7PM to the job site. In short he was a great guy, BUT! If there was a problem with an employee that would need disciplinary action (read, something uncomfortable) he would avoid it, hope it would go away, or hope someone else would deal with it. The operations manager was almost the same way, but also in over his head for ability to do what was required of the job. He also would do the same as above. A particular employee would come to work late work maybe 5 hours in a day, and do whatever was easy leaving needed items unattended. Time and time again crews were without what they needed and the operations (whom I later found out was his buddy) would throw man power and money at covering for him. One of the parts of managing people is having to do a tough thing for the better of all/the company now and then. If you don't have the canoles to do it, you should not be managing people.

red bandit1
red bandit1

I think the worst trait a manager can have is to not be one of the team. Good leaders are willing to get down and dirty with the troops and work along side their people, when they have to. If you feel your boss isn't willing to do that you lose incentive to work as a team. You lead by example.

jordan_gozzi
jordan_gozzi

What is the author refering to a male manager 'he' , 'his'. I think is this gender bias and/or bad writing.

kjohnson
kjohnson

Sacking people illegally is the worst magagement behaviour I have come across.

amiryb
amiryb

The lack of communication in the form of appreciation. For example; an old boss use prefer to say "that's what you get paid for", but no amount of money replaces the simple expression of gratitude, such as "thank you" , "good work", "well done", etc.. these simple words can go long way in ones satisfaction of being appreciated and promotes continuous will to even exceed expectations while warms general relationship and respect :)

darrell.jones
darrell.jones

Remember Chauncey Gardener in "Being There?" I had a manager who was once the darling of upper management on the basis of oracular utterances that masked a total lack of understanding of, well, everything. When that became apparent, he hung on like a barnacle. Fortunately he tried to delegate *up* a time or two, which took care of things rather quickly.

anas.medani
anas.medani

the title is a little bit miss-leading !

Reading the Field
Reading the Field

It is so SAD that the many valuable comments on this question are locked away in this inaccessible hidden format! Yes, a reader without anything else to do can pore through all the links - remember that the USA is 29th in Internet connection speed! But in the title words of David Cowan's blog at Bessemer: Who Has Time For This?!

jcommunications
jcommunications

One of the other managers in my department really just doesn't have enough going on in his life after work. He's divorced again, his kids have reached the age where they just want to be with their friends, and he doesn't seem to have many friends because frankly (and this is not my isolated opinion but the consensus of everyone at our shop)he's kind of a boring jerk. To compensate for all this he coddles the techs he supervises and treats them more like frineds than employees, to the point of fighting tooth and nail to keep them from doing any extra work because he doesn't want to be unpopular with them. It makes for frustation accross the aisle because the people I supervise are scrutinized very closely for quality and quantity of work by me, and when they need to improve their performance I take whatever steps are necessary to achieve that end. They don't feel it's fair that other people in the department are allowed to slack off. If you're a no friends boss, get a life. Join Facebook or something. It's ok to have a friendly work enviornment but when efficiency and production are being sacrificed so you can feel like one of the guys, it's a problem for the rest of us who have to pull slack.

finescan
finescan

The buck stops at the senior management team - they define the culture of the organisation by the way they reward and promote their managers. If you are in this kind of organisation get out as soon as you can becuse it ain't going to change even if your 'bad' manager leaves - he is likely to be replaced by the same guy in a different suit.

Twaka
Twaka

INSECURITY which goes hand in hand with TRUST. I don't expect my manager to know everything but trust me to do the job I was hired or tasked with doing. I expect open dialog where I can present my case, after which it is your perogative, the direction you want to go. Or the Parent-Child relationship in the work place "because I am the boss and I said so".

mac56
mac56

The worst behavior I've encountered in a manager is the one where the manager repeatedly blew up over things that were beyond the control of the staff and threatened to kill various staff memebers. Sad part is that he is still with the company after 11 years of hostile behavior. His department suffers a 50% turnover rate every year.

Gis Bun
Gis Bun

Easy one. When your boss gives you crap out loud in front of other people.

greenhouse
greenhouse

Enjoyed reading what everyone has to say! For me the one of the worst behaviors is lying. Usually this comes out of not taking responsibility for things and/or throwing other people under the bus. When they claim to know nothing about things that they were fully informed of, it chaps my hide whether or not it has anything to do with me. Stand up and take responsibility!

day00004
day00004

How about the "invisible manager". My boss hasnt sent out an e-mail to the field for over 2 years. No updates about how I am doing,my clients ,the company ,nothing! Add to that no performance review or salary increases. The CEO in a conf call a few years back talked about how he wanted our company to be one that we can all retire from. I thought "It's a good thing the average age of the techs is 60+ "

eemer600
eemer600

So there are plenty of people who have or have had bad managers. What now? Is there a fix or a plan to make an improvement? Can we get these people to adjust their behavior and improve their skills, or do we start over and begin by selecting and training competent managers? These bad managers cost companies huge losses in terms of employee performance and lost telent, and maybe even some intentional losses from disgruntled employees. What is wrong with the leadership above these managers that would allow this to happen? Is it because the organization as a whole is corupt? Is the only answer to move on (not viable in today's economny)?

todd_dsm
todd_dsm

The word manager has picked up many connotations over the years and none of them good. It appears that the evolution of 'The Manager' has come to obscure their original purpose. As long as we're talking about it - and in the pejorative - I'm wondering why we need these people at all. These are the arguments: 1) We're all adults; do we really need someone to check up on us for status? Maybe we need to hone our social skills as well as the technical. 2) We can pick out a nice tie for the meetings as well. It's not just managers that can shop at men's warehouse. There's no good reason to have a 3rd party represent us @ meetings. Perhaps we pick a permanent delegate from the pool of producers? 3) Maybe we just change the title of the position to reflect our real need? Gopher, office boy, Clerky, or similar, to reflect the requisite station. Then they can collect status, feed us corporate agenda bits from the meetings they attend, and - maybe someday - even fetch us coffee. We don't need them for much more. 4) Managers are there to provide a time barrier between the producers and the work. We simply don't have time attend the ridiculous number of meetings and get the work done too. And, since we're on the subject, it appears that more managers = more meetings; they have to justify they air they breath somehow I suppose. 5) Mangers should have 'trench time' over and above the people they manage. Without years of experience in some field how can you possibly LEAD? I need a manager to tell me when I've malformed a regular expression and, potentially, how to resolve it, and why. Not to explain why I need to push my chair under my desk at the end of the day, and that the seat back needs to be parallel with the monitor; this is a real example by the way. Without GREATER experience and knowledge than the people they manage they are simply there to organize anyway - AGAIN, to provide a buffer to those that are producing. 6) They should be a shield between producers and the type of corporate policy bereft of common sense. Example: I'm a sys-admin but I did time in a shop that dinged programmers on their yearly reviews based on the number of defects they produced. The rough translation was that the programmers that worked 18 hours a day produced more defects than the ones that baled after their straight 8. This is a toxic policy that could have been squashed early if managers had the common sense not to devalue those that worked harder for those that didn't. Sustaining business is no different than sustaining life: if you can't produce then ya gotta go. History has born out a few simple rules for us: i) Those that don't hunt shouldn't be able to eat; of course, this does not apply to the next generation or the last. We need children to carry our civilization forward and we must respect those that brought us up. ii) If you are capable of hunting but indifferent to the need for it - only hunger will educate you. iii) If you are not a productive hunter but eat like one it breeds disdain from the other hunters. Maybe you can think of an example of someone you've worked with; they are less qualified but still move up the company ladder faster. This encourages all of the wrong behavior for all of the obvious reasons. I could go on for hours but - if all of this is true - perhaps it is reflective of producers in general. I move to: a) Encourage producers to take the initiative to learn the skills sought in managers. b) Bar managers entirely from the work place. Just imagine your self in the office saying: Clerky, my coffee is down - I need a refill. Like any other change, it is born from the masses in discontent. If you don't like the world you live in - change it, but only by popular vote.

sjok
sjok

During my career I had mostly adequate managers. However, my adult offspring has an almost inconceivably horrible Executive Director (its a small company). The director sees her position as exclusively one of power and prerogatives, not duty and responsibility, coupled with no detectable management skills unless you consider having a loud voice and a demeaning, intimidating, vocabulary "skills".

CoachRick
CoachRick

I worked for a person (I refuse to call them a manager), who played not to lose and would not make a decision so that he would not look bad or stupid. As a result, projects were in chaos and rarely finished on time nor were they effectively carried out. His motto, "Why build a Cadillac when you can give them a Yugo. They don't need all those fancy features anyway."

todd_dsm
todd_dsm

The word manager has picked up so many connotations over the years, and none of them good, that I move to bar managers from the work place.

blong
blong

"Just do it..." with no explanation of why.... Lack of clarity in instructions, only to be told that the task was completely wrong. This is just a complete waste of time.

lyench
lyench

My last manager was THE WORST manager I've ever had in 39 years of working full-time. Belittling, sarcasm, micromanagement, and general abuse were a daily occurrences. He also refused to send me for any skills upgrade training. After trying to work with him for four years, it was a pleasure to quit! No surprisingly, even though I quit on grounds that would allow me to collect unemployment, he's vigorously contesting it.

steveh
steveh

Managers that come to status meetings with problems that should have been revealed earlier, so they can be the hero in front of others.

give2eric
give2eric

I had a manager whose parents were both CIA and everything was on a need too know basis.

cphillips
cphillips

Not listening. Managers who, for whatever reason, believe that they have the right answer in every situation and therefore don't listen to their staff and take advantage of staff members experience and expertise are the worst. This behavior eventually saps the initiative from team members, who stop even trying to point our possible improvements, mistakes that could be avoided before they have an impact, etc.

srs-tech
srs-tech

"The executives want a project completed on an impossible deadline?" All too often it is not the executives who create the impossible deadline, but the manager. In many corporate cultures it is very advantageous to create an unrealistic schedule so that when it fails one can be the hero by resolving the self created "crisis" and finally managing to the realistic schedule. These managers get ahead. In these same cultures, a manager who consistently produced to the original schedule are passed over, because they are either "sandbagging" or obviously "not aggressive enough".

dan.ader
dan.ader

I worked on an ERP implementation team and had to inform the project lead that some promised functionality was not actually functional (the vendor oversold and under delivered). For this I was banished to a far corner of the building in a half-sized cubicle, and assigned menial maintenance tasks (spreadsheet updates... yeah...) I left that place as soon as I could finagle a severance (they eventually 'downsized' me). Why would someone do this? In this case, it was the project lead: he wanted to make VP MIS and there wasn't ANY bad news gonna get in his way... (and let God count the bodies.)

cjshelby
cjshelby

Or attempts to entrap. When you work for someone who thinks showing up at all of the right meetings is the most important thing, but doesn't know their southern orifice from a subway tunnel when it comes to the subject matter. Worse yet is someone who thinks because they saw a program or two on Discovery Channel that they're now the resident expert on whatever. People who have no life (family, pets, loved ones, significant other, etc.) and think that your entire life should revolve around your job as well.

settle.g
settle.g

The first manager I had in my IT career was the guy Toni described. He was not a pleasant person to work for. One of his classic moves was to come around and make sure everyone is OK then leave for the day. He didn't even have the common decency to sneak out! The worst behavior a manager can have is not supporting the staff. If a manager just lets everyone take potshots at the IT staff eventually the morale will erode and everyone is gone or ineffective.

tespafford
tespafford

"...and the tendency to break out into song" Hey, I like that one. I do that rather often.

SKFee
SKFee

Often my point is lost in someones critique of writing of a thought. I am more interested in what is going on(if anything)in your workplace or life to inspire your thought about gender bias? On a side note this question received more than the average number of responses indicating that a majority must be annoyed by a manager.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

English has no gender-neutral pronouns to refer to a non-specific individual. How should she refer to a generic "manager"? S/he/it?

Candle, burning at both ends
Candle, burning at both ends

So true - for example, management who concoct a PIP as a shield to remove someone in order to make room for a girlfriend, boyfriend, sibling, son or daughter.

SKFee
SKFee

disregard ill try to delete I still need the job

finescan
finescan

What an enlightening discussion. Reading through this should be part of every manager's training! No doubt there is another side to every point of view but just being aware of how your behaviour may be being percieved is an education in itself.

GrizzledGeezer
GrizzledGeezer

...the purpose of manager is help his or her employees do their jobs well. Telling them what to do is only part of this, and hardly the most-important part.

K.Grass
K.Grass

IT DOESN'T WORK.. It only serves to piss your employees off and achieves nothing more than to satisfy that individuals propensity to control everything around them. So for any of you managers out there that are reading this, try leading by example and have your troops respect you rather than fear you. You'll get a lot more done and less time sitting in HR having to deal with in-house squabbles. My two cents...

sissy sue
sissy sue

Replace them all with people who know how to get something done and know how to do it.

GrizzledGeezer
GrizzledGeezer

"English has no gender-neutral pronouns to refer to a non-specific individual. How should she refer to a generic 'manager'? S/he/it?" That suggests a portmanteau pronoun I will /not/ post.

todd_dsm
todd_dsm

some don't. They are like bad house guests. The company invites them into their home. The new manager, potentially incompetent, begins learning on the job. In doing so they make mistakes, and like all animals, they begin fearing for their food supply. Once this happens all manner of poor behavior can surface. This is the point at which you need to help them to understand that it's not necessary to be a 'bad' manager. You choose the method of this 'help' like you would any other time: by what is situationally appropriate. Bad managers are thieves. They introduce greater additional cost to the company than the worker bees. Worker bees can influence some bad behaviors, for them selves and a few others. A bad manager influences policy for ALL other employees under their immediate umbrella of control. What should a company do if they find someone stealing from them? Also, ask yourself, what should that same company do when one of their managers influence policies that degrade worker performance, product quality, and ultimately, consumer confidence. It's just another form of theft. That's why it's critical to find the right TYPE of person for this position.

W.E.
W.E.

And one of my points The best bosses I've ever had (probably three of them) would be tough if needed, but also would acknowledge a job well done either to the team or the individual. I knew if I messed up I'd get the proverbial kick in the pants, but a job well done was rewarded or acknowledged on many occasions. This generated respect on the employees side. When I was managing people I used this method, and you know what? If something blew up on Sunday afternoon and I needed help, they answered the phone knowing it was me. Corporate America has defined the employee as a commodity instead of an asset or part of the "family" Just read a bunch of job postings. It's a laundry list of what they expect from you, many times crossing multiple skill sets (ie we want you to be three people) and not 5% of them willing to tell you what they will pay you. Sad.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

I suggest shite for a shorthand. You have to agree it could refer to a prototypical manager ;) Finnish has hän for all third person prononymical reference, that's so great. Not so good for gossiping though, can't so easily say "and the he said bla bla blag, but then she said bla-bla...etc"