Thursday, 19 April 2012

The 10 Traits of a Bad Manager

The "Bad Manager" strikes again!!!

Its like the flu, we all have experienced it and no matter how hard you try you can never be totally immune.

The Bad Manager award is given away to individuals in managerial/leadership positions displaying the traits discussed below and not to any particular designation. So you can be a project manager, product manager, general manager, division manager, delivery manager etc. and well, sir/madam you are a disease if you:

1. Avoid transparency - Some managers avoid transparency like the plague, they will hold back information or even mis-inform as an attempt to hide their incompetence.

2. Make false promises - Not much to be said here, I guess we all have been sold an assignment by such managers which turns out to be quite different once you get on the ground or interact with the customer and by then its too late.

3. Think MBA'S are ppt factories - This unfortunately is a trait I have noticed and experienced even in managers who are generally good. In my view a presentation has a two fold purpose, it is used to highlight the key points of the idea being conveyed and to also serve as a electronic cue card for the presenter. To ensure the flow and delivery of the presentation is consistent and engaging the person who is actually supposed to deliver the message should actually create it. The most compelling or convincing presentations that I have delivered have been the ones that I have created on my own. The reason being that I owned the content and the flow of the presentation and was able to visualize what can be said to support the text.

4. Make and push suggestions without understanding the problem - Well making suggestions is fine but pushing them is definitely not, especially when you don't understand or have not experienced the problems being faced by the team or the individual.

5. Are too conservative while appreciating a job well done - In my view managers tend to display this trait since they think that if I appreciate his/her efforts that will mean that I directly or indirectly raise their salary expectations as well. Money is not the only thing that people work for, some of us actually believe or atleast take pride in whatever we do and a unhindered appreciation goes a long way in motivating an individual even if in your view the person had just "met expectations".

6. Push all the hard decisions and conversations to subordinates - Don't get me wrong here I do believe that the team should be involved in any hard decisions that need to me made. What makes me uncomfortable is that most of these hard discussions are due to the faulty decisions that were taken by managers even before the team was formed and in the end the team is usually left to defend these decisions on their own.

7. Have an unpleasant or unstable personality - A manager is looked upon in a lot of situations as a leader who will guide you and motivate you through his/her actions. Someone who you can approach with your problems and not return from that meeting with 10 other problems. Therefore its very important that a manager has a personality that exuberates pleasant and (mentally) stable vibes.

8. Lack clarity of thought - The "brain wave" from lousy managers tends to be devoid in clarity and detail. A presentation needs to be made and you are shoved a vague and usually bad idea which even after multiple efforts from your end never seems to match his/her "genius".

9. Expect more than you yourself are willing or capable of doing - As a manager/leader you need to lead by example if you want to stand any chance of earning your subordinates respect. Anything lesser is unacceptable.

10. Ignore inputs from the team on the ground - As a manager/leader your people are your asset with their ears closely to the ground and if they are feeding you information based on their day to day interactions and observations, then its your responsibility as a leader to understand the concerns and communicate more closely with the team to reach a solution. More often than not bad leaders will ignore these suggestions and form their opinions on their pre-conceived notions.

These have been some of my observations over the last few years working with some good and mostly terrible managers. Also, this takes into consideration that managers most often than not are faced with tough decisions and as all humans are bound to falter. I guess the challenge for a manager lies in being able to identify and avoid these symptoms, and personally speaking the even bigger challenge lies in being able to avoid these symptoms whenever I am cursed to be a Manager.


  1. 10. My way, or the highway - When faced with a problem the Dheela Manager convenes a meeting and asks people for their opinions. The Dheela Manager then proceeds to override each of these suggestions by saying something similar to "I totally get what you are saying, but #{insert_dm_suggestion} is what _you_ should be doing."

    11. Asking for feedback, but not quite - The Dheela Manager usually tries to build a perception of 360 degree feedback. The Dheela Manager will encourage people to provide feedback. But beware! As Admiral Ackbar famously screamed - "It's a trap!" The nicest of the Dheela Managers usually discard the feedback or justify it away. The worst of the lot will use your feedback at a later date just as lord Shiva would use his Trishul - to strike fear into the hearts of the untrustworthy.

    1. Very true... with all the suggestions coming in I think i may have to create a separate blog just to handle this topic.

  2. Very nicely written dude. You have possibly written everything that you wouldn't like to do as a manager. If you are already managing a team, a good checklist to check against, where you are heading. I was doing that myself and have been decently happy. But then I will ask my team to comment on each point and that is when the real truth comes out!!! :-)