My present manager is a true gentleman in every sense of the
word and even buys me breakfast on occasion. However, in my travels through the
wilds of the information technology field, I have come across many different
species of IT manager. All are from the genus ‘Procurator’ and are very
dangerous in captivity. Some are now on the World Wildlife Federation’s At Risk
Register. However, there will certainly be no captive breeding program to
preserve them as most would be overjoyed if they disappeared from the Earth.
To help classify these dangerous breeds, I’ve created the
following list of species and character descriptions of some common types of
managers. These types are loosely based on some managers I have worked for over
the years. As ever, this classification should be taken with a large pinch of
Species one: Procurator Martyrus
Also known as: The “Anything for the good of the
This species has a distinctive cry that sounds like this:
“Look at me! I worked Christmas day and even when I had
cholera. I walked to the office for six weeks after my car crash, even though
both my legs were broken. Why can’t you stay another hour each night without
pay? I would.”
Yes, the office martyr has finally made it to the top, probably
because it’s the only place where he can’t do any harm.
There is a tradition in the British Civil Service of
promoting those workers whose incompetence seriously affects the performance of
a department. Many such appointees are members of the P. Martyrus
P. Martyrus is closely related to
the next species, Procurator IlligitimusMaximus.
Species two: Procurator IlligitimusMaximus
Also known as: The Mean and Nasty Manager
This manager is of the old school, a right scoundrel. His
idea of being a good manager is to be unapproachable or, in his words,
“hard but fair.” He is neither. He got his present position by
hanging on to the coattails of his manager until retirement, or a nasty accident
left the position open. Thankfully this is now a severely endangered species.
After sacking a member of the team, he might be heard to say:
“I had to let him go; he wasn’t showing the right level of commitment. He
preferred to go to his mother’s funeral rather than come to work. What do they
think we’re running here? A holiday camp?”
He will turn to the shocked and silenced office and shout:
“Anyone else here got any doubts about their loyalty?”
The problem with IlligitimusMaximus is that one day he will make a mistake himself.
When he looks to the team to help him out of his difficulty, they will remember
past actions and develop a selective deafness to his pleas. His is a lonely
path, and for him there is no safe haven.
Species three: Procurator Teflonius
Also known as: The Non-stick Manager
United Kingdom Prime Minister Tony Blair is frequently
referred to as “Teflon Tony” because nothing sticks to him. He
represents probably the highest evolution of Teflonius
ever observed on the planet. Sadly, because of their excellent stealth
characteristics, this species is likely to be around in prolific numbers for
the foreseeable future.
This species has sloping shoulders from which any blame will
easily slide. She will not give a straight answer to a straight question, just
in case you might quote her at the court martial. Whenever something goes wrong,
she will produce documentary evidence that she was somewhere else at the time. She
is more of a nuisance and a waste of salary than a danger, unless you happen to
be the victim of one of her decisions. It is always a good idea to make
clandestine recordings of any meetings with a P. Teflonius.
Species four: Procurator Absentia
Also known as: The Missing link, or
They seek him here,
they seek him there,
Those workers seek him
This manager is critically endangered. When a company is
looking to make cuts, they save more money by sacking this type of manager than
a front line worker. And as a bonus, they don’t lose as much from the skill
Let me give you a real-world example of my encounter with
this species: Many years ago, I worked for a very pleasant young manager called
Tim, who was in charge of two teams, both in different buildings. He would call
in to see us—a small team of three people—and tell us that he would be spending
the day with the other team, which was having problems. Apparently, we were
reliable and could be trusted to get the work done, whereas the others were an
incompetent bunch who needed constant supervision.
Imagine our surprise the day we called the other office to
speak to him on an urgent matter only to be told that he was with us because we were incompetent and needed to have
constant supervision. This was before the days of mobile phones, so the game was
up. He was, it seemed, happy to leave both teams and pass his days playing
golf. Sorry Tim, if you ever read this, we knew all the time!
Species five: Procurator Insignia
Also known as: The Flashy Brass
This manager has a sign on his desk or office door, a badge
or some similar marking of rank. If he thought he could get away with it, he
would wear pips on his shoulders or gold bands around his jacket cuffs. He will
take outrageous liberties, like instructing a junior member of staff to wash
his car or go out to collect his dry cleaning. When you question this, he will
point to this mark of office and say the immortal four words: “THIS says I
This species is universally ignored by “his staff,”
as he likes to call them. As with IlligitimusMaximus, he will receive no help if he screws up. The main
difference is that Insignia can be an amusing figure to mock.
Species six: Procurator Headinsandia
Also known as: The “I don’t want to hear it”
Yes, one type from my original list of 10 most dangerous
types of help desk callers has made it to this list. Perhaps the help desk
caller is, in fact, the manager of the same type or maybe the help desk caller
mutates into this type of manager when he or she reaches the appropriate level.
is probably the manager of a department near you. When the team gives an honest
answer to an honest question about the timescale of a project, she will throw up
her hands in horror and give the cry that clearly identifies the species. In
fairness, this manager takes the cares of the world on her shoulders and
worries about them. She lies awake at night fretting about delivering the
monthly reports on time. She presents herself as a tough, go-getter, but is often
covering an inadequacy. Be gentle with this species, but most of all ignore this
type of manager. It’s easier that way.
Species seven: Procurator Buzzwordia
Also known as: The Buzzword Manager
Often found, after a long search, in deep water wearing the
latest Ralph Lauren concrete collection, Buzzwordia
manages by use of a string of clichés and ideas that he heard at management
seminars. Meetings with him are not for the weak-stomached, and it is advisable
to keep a bucket handy, just in case.
Think about the last person you heard say:
no ‘I’ in team.”
makes an ASS out of U and ME.”
can’t spell success without U.”
want us to be Proactive, not Reactive.” (Of course, in this context, ‘Us’
Despite the extreme reaction this species can cause, they
are mostly harmless. They are prolific in Northern Europe, returning to breed
in sheltered colonies in suburban areas of minor towns. Offspring usually opt
not to work in management but may become social workers or violent criminals. When
this happens, they are usually deemed to be ‘misunderstood.’
Species eight: Procurator Amicus Potissimus
Also known as: The Best Mate
This is a well-padded, red-faced manager, given to
back-slapping and calling in favors, even before any are owed. He makes
unreasonable demands in the name of friendship and invites you to his children’s
birthday parties, even though you can’t stand kids unless they have been
Amicus Potissimus tends to overuse
first names even when not appropriate. Still it is quite hard to be rude to
them. This species makes you want to slit your throat as they ramble on about
the fantastic time they had on their last sales seminar or golf tournament. Although
it is clear to anyone around you that you’d rather be boiling in oil, the Best
Mate assumes that you share his interests.
Species nine: Procurator Impatiens
Also known as: The Two-Minute Manager
This is the type of manager who asks for an update on what
has been done during her absence, then abruptly cuts off the answer after two
minutes with a cry of “I don’t have time now. I want a report on my desk
first thing Monday morning.”
Although she always does this at 5 p.m. on a Friday, there
is no need to worry. She will seldom remember that she has asked for it.
She is closely related to P. Headinsandia
and likes to give the impression that she is too busy and important to bother
with details. She’s very good at delegating tasks, mainly because she doesn’t
have a clue how to do them herself. P. Impatiens is not a very good person to
work for, as your needs will never be recognized or satisfied. The good news is
that she’s usually the first to go in a round of downsizing.
Species 10: Procurator Condescendia
Also known as: The Patronizing Manager
Nobody can do it quite like P. Condescendia.
He was there when they landed on the moon. In fact, he designed and built the
entire communications system. He also cabled Canary Wharf using only a pair of
pliers, a cotton bud, and a cocktail stick. He won the Paris to Dakar rally in a
car he built himself from old beer cans. He caught the biggest fish, had the
best golf handicap, and is, of course, a close personal friend of the Managing
We underlings are all very well, but we needed his supreme
holiness and guidance to see us through even the simplest task. The trouble is
that his intervention nearly always leads to problems. It can be really hard to
find hard disk jumpers with the head of Condescendia bobbing
in front of the light continually.
The simple way to deflate this species is to ask, in all
innocence, why, if they are so talented, are they working for a tuppenny-ha’penny outfit like yours? Rally driving golf pros
had far better earning potential than a junior manager in Grot-Com.
observed a dangerous manager species in the wild?
Would you like to add a few categories to the list yourself? Post a comment to
the discussion below or write to us
about your experiences with the 10 most dangerous species of manager.