Effective Engineering e-Newsletter – 4/29/2004
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Tom Dennis – President, Effective Engineering [email@example.com]
recent e-Newsletter, eN-040205
– Mis-Managers: How Bad Managers Can Poison the Well, I raised
the issue of Mis-Managers and the damage they can cause to not only
their direct reports, but to the organization as a whole.
I also discussed how such Mis-Managers typically got promoted
into their positions and “reached their level of incompetence”.
This e-Newsletter is the last (for now) in the “Mis-Manager”
series (see also eN-040219,
that describes some specific Mis-Manager personality types, the ways
they create problems, and some suggestions as to how employees can attempt to
survive, and hopefully prosper, with such Mis-Managers.
The challenge of effectively dealing with Mis-Managers can be
daunting, as they typically determine (or significantly influence) their
employees’ futures. As with my Herding
Cats series, (see eN-031106,
which discuss Engineer personality types, this one describes Mis-Manager
characteristics, and concentrates on one specific attribute, rather than the
mix of characteristics that will normally be the case.
Clearly every Mis-Manager is an individual with characteristics
that are unique, and most have a variety of personality characteristics.
Every situation is also unique and should be treated in a unique
fashion. The suggestions I make
for approaching such people are just one person’s view – mine.
Given the position of power that a Mis-Manager may occupy, think
carefully about your best approach.
Hands-Off Manager (HOM):
Characteristics: The Hands-Off Manager (HOM) basically ignores his/her
employees. The HOM does
his/her thing, and the employees do theirs.
When an employee goes to his HOM for advice or guidance, that
employee may hear bromides or clichés, but won’t hear anything meaningful;
the HOM’s employees are basically on their own.
The HOM won’t stop employees from trying things (which can be
a good thing, as employees need to stretch and try new things), but won’t
help them or prevent them from making known mistakes. The HOM basically treats his/her employees as “latchkey
kids”. The employees really
have no leader or manager, no one to run interference when appropriate, and no
one to back them up or support them when questions arise. For the HOM’s employees, it’s learn as you go, and
support yourselves. This is not a
The Employee Approach: Try meeting one-on-one with your HOM to see if you can
explain your concerns and need for positive guidance, leadership, and
management. You may be able to
turn things around. Push to get
your HOM involved in the activities of the group and to actively
support the group’s efforts. If
this fails, seek out other managers who can provide guidance and/or convince
the HOM to get more involved. Let
others know, delicately, that you’re getting no guidance or management.
If all else fails, try to transfer to a manager who cares; it’s your
Wheeler/Dealer Manager (WDM):
Characteristics: The Wheeler/Dealer Manager (WDM) is always looking for
the next big deal to propel him/her to bigger and better things.
The WDM uses his/her employees to promote this next big thing.
It generally doesn’t matter if this is tactical, strategic, or even
off-track; if it can gain attention and make the WDM look good to
his/her superiors, he/she will pursue it.
The WDM’s employees are usually critical to making this
happen, but will often receive little or no credit or attention because the WDM
wants all of the attention on himself/herself.
So employees end up being used, and sometimes abused, if their normal
responsibilities suffer in order to do what the WDM insists that they
The Employee Approach: You must determine whether you believe your WDM boss is a
visionary or a user. If the WDM’s
ideas are good and in line with corporate tactics and/or strategies, and if
your and others efforts are appreciated and rewarded, then it may be in your
best interest to follow the WDM to, hopefully, greater glory.
If you believe him/her to be a user, then it probably makes sense to
distance yourself to the degree possible.
You should talk to peers of the WDM and let them know what’s
going on and seek their advice. If
you get nowhere, it may be time to look for a position elsewhere in the
Credit Taker/Thief Manager (CTTM):
Characteristics: To the Credit Taker/Thief Manager (CTTM), any good
ideas are his/hers and not the employees.
Any bad ideas are the employees alone.
The CTTM is always on the lookout for anything that can make
him/her look good, and for which he/she can take credit.
The CTTM generally keeps his/her employees from meetings with
superiors because he/she wants to present all ideas, all progress, and
anything positive as his/her own. The
CTTM will minimize the contributions of others, and maximize his/her
own, or steal good contributions of others if it helps him/her look good.
The employees of the CTTM are used and abused to make him/her
look good; they typically will receive no recognition or reward, and may even
be punished to keep them down. Life
under a CTTM is miserable and intolerable.
The Employee Approach:
possible, you should try to talk to your CTTM and express your
concerns. If this goes nowhere,
you should confront him/her and let him/her know you find this behavior
unacceptable. You should talk to
peers of the CTTM and get their guidance. If you still get nowhere, you should go over CTTM’s
head and report what’s going on; you have little to lose if you’re being
used anyway. It may be necessary
for you to leave CTTM’s group, or even the company, but you should
recognize that you’re never going to advance with a CTTM taking
credit for all of your contributions.
A$$hole Manager (AM):
Characteristics: A$$holes exist at virtually every level of every
organization. They’re like
weeds, and very difficult to eliminate, particularly as they acquire power in
an organization. A$$hole
Managers (AM’s) often belittle those below them, and publicly embarrass
subordinates and others. They
also make frequent out-of-place comments.
They typically praise people in private (if they praise people at all),
and punish in public, exactly the opposite of the way it should be done. They can be difficult to talk to and seldom listen.
As with the CTTM, life under an AM can be miserable and
The Employee Approach: First, try to talk directly to the AM and let him/her
know that you don’t like and won’t accept A$$hole treatment.
If he/she backs off, then that’s good for everyone.
If he/she doesn’t back off and becomes even more of an A$$hole,
talk with some of AM’s peers and get their guidance, or go over the AM’s
head. If none of this gets you
anywhere, try to get out from under the AM.
Life is too short!
are just four more of many Mis-Manager personality types that you will
come across in engineering (and other) organizations.
The key is recognizing the various personality types as early as
possible, and work to address the problems or opportunities that they may
bring. Employees must recognize
that Mis-Managers hold positions of direct authority over them, and so
must approach them carefully. They
must walk a fine line and find what works best for them.
Their work environment, and future, may depend upon it.
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