Mediocre Managers Manifesto

By Anton Rossouw.

I have had the privilege over the past 30 years or so to work with many humane, inspiring and energising managers and leaders.

Since studying Industrial and Organisational Psychology and Computer Science in the early 80's back at university it has always been my hope that management science (with some technology) will foster the development of better managers. However of late I have not seen much evidence of that.

So in homage to the great leaders that inspired me I decided to create an “anti-” view that can be used to tacitly amplify what “good” leadership looks like as the mirror image i.e. “bad”. As a pattern I used the Manifesto for Agile Software Development (representing those on the good side).

Reflecting on my past career I must also confess that at times I caught (like a bad cold) some traits from the not-so-great managers I worked with because it seemed a good idea at the time and the accepted “way we do things here”. I now recognise that one should never take on bad behaviours but stand firm and be brave enough to change it, even though it means you may lose your job (yep its not as easy as that especially when its about money).

After all is said and done to get the “job done”, I always hope that I leave my workspace as happier places where I helped my teams in some way develop and grow to their potential.

Now for the Mediocre Managers Manifesto for creating Mayhem and leading the organisation up Schitt Creek without a paddle:

We are uncovering strident ways to work by doing it and forcing others to do it. Through these ways we have come to value:

Command-and-control over agility and self-organisation.

Passive aggressive conflict over collaboration.

Arguing the details over working the big picture.

Being promoted over delivering value.

Blunt answers over thinking what’s best.

Information secrecy over transparency.

Talking incessantly over listening intently.

That is, while there is most value in the items on the left, there is little value on the right but we will say we do it even though we don’t.

We follow these principles:

  • Me, myself and I as the supreme manager always know best.
  • Always blindly follow the bosses’ orders because they know best.
  • People are annoying but considered as resources to be consumed and discarded.
  • Get the job done at any cost but remain true to yourself by using manipulation, throwing tantrums, and whinging.
  • Playing people off against each other is an important and fun game.
  • Bantering in a critically logical way will be used to belittle, confuse and disorientate the team, and when that fails because they have better answers, then emotional blackmail must be applied.
  • When I don't understand something then it is their fault.
  • Vendors and suppliers are important because they are someone to blame when my team stuffs up and I don't want to lose many of my team members in one go.
  • With power comes responsibility to weed out clever, considerate and open people. They have no place in this world and must be taught a lesson.
  • Apathy must be applied to protect us from commitment.
  • We believe in our own rhetoric as enforceable doctrine for everyone else to obey.
  • Knowingly withholding acknowledgment and approval motivates people to try harder next time.
  • Managers are not paid to foster happiness at work, rather spend their time growing empires and attacking others empires.
  • My smartphone is at any one time more interesting than what anyone is trying to say in any meeting, except if it is a bosses meeting.
  • In particular don't trust individual workers but specifically not teams because they may over time wield more influence than the manager. Facilitate infighting within teams to reduce their effectiveness.  

The Mediocre Managers Manifesto can be used as an assessment checklist tool for managers “where the shoe fits”. If only a couple items apply then there is hope and behaviours can easily be ameliorated, but if most items apply then major therapy and years of coaching would be required to become a “normal” manager again.

To further explore the "bad" side of management one of the best books about it is by Barbara Kellerman. Believe that good management is possible. Inside every bad manager maybe there is a great leader trying to get out!