Friday, October 07, 2005


Stupid Manager Tricks, Part I

Part of the challenge of finding good people for administrative positions is defining just what, exactly, a good manager is (or does). Like a sculptor, I’ll get at it by chipping away the traits of bad managers.

Stupid Manager Tricks I’ve run across at one time or another:

- Change your mind frequently, but don’t tell anybody. Moving the goalposts is profoundly demoralizing, yet oddly common.

- Tighten controls on meaningless details to show you’re in charge.

- Play games with the chain of command. Frequently overrule the people directly beneath you when people beneath them complain to you.

- Radiate stress.

- Make snap judgments about people, and stick to them in the face of torrents of counterevidence.

- Mistake personal like or dislike for evaluation of performance.

- Play out your personal demons via your organization. That never gets old!

- Refuse to make hard decisions. Always please the person in the room with you at the time.

- Frequently declare, “it’s not either/or, it’s both/and!” That’s non/sense.

- Budgets, schmudgets. Resources are infinite, if you believe hard enough!

What stupid manager tricks have you seen?

1. Writing long emails with alot of instructions in them.

2. Writing memos on attractive Word templates.
Only come around when you want something. Never ask your people what they need from you.
Good one! My division meetings, at this point, consist of 15 minutes of informational points from me, followed by 45-60 minutes of q & a. I'm always a little surprised at what comes up, but it's definitely valuable to know.

And yes, Word templates suck.
Gah! And then they email the memos typed in the Word templates, so you get this stupid massive email attachment with a huge file size.
My favorite manager trick was a manager who gave me no training (just said "answer the phone") and then got mad when I had to ask her questions.
Oooh, I've got one! How about not levelling with your employees, even when morally and ethically you should do so?

An example: at my last (nonacademic) job, I interviewed for another position within the company--same group, more status. Apparently 2 days before the interview, the manager found out that the budget for this line had dried up, and there was no hope of funding it any time in the near future. But the manager (and HIS manager, no less) decided to go ahead with the interview, even though there was no chance I'd be hired. I found out 2 weeks later, and only because I asked directly what the status of the interview was. They said they didn't tell me because they "didn't want to hurt my feelings". Um, yeah, that strategy sure worked like a charm. Needless to say, I left that company as soon as I could, and never looked back.
Promote the people who screw up the most, and then spend lots of money finding them extra staff to help.

Say gratuitously offensive things like, "I didn't fall off the turnip truck yesterday, I know you are [insert accusation]" or "when you have a big club, you have to not be afraid to use it, so I'm going to [insert bullying]."

Fail to fund programs adequately and then punish the directors for "mismanagement"

Of course I don't know ANYONE at my university who would be considered a bad manager. All my managers are great! Just super! A shining example to all!
The only one that I've seen that you do not list is this: pit people against each other for your own evil ends.
Be relentlessly positive, even in times of crisis. Refuse to acknowledge problems. Insist that your school is the best at everything. Never level with anyone. Reward those who favor the status quo, sideline those who see areas for improvement and have concrete ideas for how to achieve them. Fear change.
I've been lurking and want to tell you how much I enjoy your blog!

OK, here are mine:

1. If you are a department chair, tell your subjects (er, I mean adjuncts), "I want to support you in any way I can." Then never reply to their e-mails or return phone calls.

2. Tell them, "I want to make sure your program grows and your students get scholarships." Then don't give their students scholarships. Explain, year after year, that you will have money for them next year, but you need it for your own students just this once. Later each year, be sure to ask why they have so few students in their programs. Act confused when the adjuncts explain that they don't have scholarhips to offer. Imply that the adjuncts should simply recruit more. Don't offer to pay for this time.

3. Say, "I never want to exploit your time." Then ask employees to work extra hours and take on extra projects. Offer no compensation for this.

4. Don't tell your underlings when department events are scheduled...until a day or two before the event. Then make sure that everyone knows that your underlings couldn't attend because of "personal problems."

5. If you work in HR, make sure to send e-mails to everyone to explain the health insurance benefits. This is particularly encouraging for those employees who are not eligible for benefits.

But of course none of this ever happens in academia, right? :)
Plan one-on-one meetings with your workers and don't take any actions on issues mentioned.
Also don't make a report of the one-on-one meetings

Accept bullshit from others without verifying this during the evaluation round

Communicate directly without being delicate with your workers feelings.
I've seen managers claim bogus drawer shortages to keep the underlings on edge to encourage devisiveness.
I've seen managers claim bogus drawer shortages to keep the underlings on edge to encourage devisiveness.
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