…especially if you are the one who is making him nervous.

I have to admit that I have come across some strange managers in my time.

The IT Industry in the ‘70s and ‘80s created an environment where the weird and wonderful could flourish, as due to its massive growth rates, as long as you looked good and proved that you could tie your shoelaces without tech-support, you only had to stay in a company long enough to be pushed up by the incoming hordes.

Very early in my move into sales management I had a boss (thankfully for just a short time) whose only claim to fame was that he was the tallest person in the Field Organisation, as in the entire time I knew him I could not find any other reason as to why he had been promoted, and he seemed to have a unique ability to offend everyone who worked for him.

In my next company I had a boss who measured his success by how many extramarital affairs he could chalk up along with his sales targets, and which he seemed to treat with significantly more importance.

Even when I became a country MD I had a boss who one day freaked out while driving his rental car across the Sydney Harbour Bridge, so he just stopped the car in the middle of the bridge, got out and walked off along the pedestrian walkway, leaving the bridge emergency services to fix the problem of his car blocking morning peak hour traffic, and caught a cab to the airport to return to the US.

By en:User:Ianbrown; GFDL license; via Wikimedia Commons

It got me wondering about, apart from the idiosyncrasies which I am sure we all have, what were the negative characteristics that I hated most in managers that I have worked with.

1. Becoming too self-important

I had a great small Country Sales Director who when made Country MD started believing in his own magnificence. He only travelled first class, started staying only in large hotel suites (all outside company policy), and generally treated people below him with disdain. The final straw for me came when he decided that he did not have to justify his forecasts or budget planning, as now that he was so senior, I should just trust him to deliver without him having to keep me informed.

By Toyotr3333333 at the English language Wikipedia; via Wikimedia Commons

2. Believing that it’s only about money

Managing people through financial incentives alone is never enough to ensure that you recruit and retain the best people and are also able to meet your goals on a continuous basis. One manager I worked with would just keep throwing gold watches, luxury trips and extra bonuses at his sales force whenever sales dropped below budget. He never understood that he had built a culture where his sales force would hold deals back waiting to see what extra incentives would be thrown at them to drive closures. He made his numbers most of the time, but his cost of sale was wildly out of line with what made good business sense, and ultimately his revenue achievements did not compensate enough to make up for his bad business management.

By Ssolbergj (own work); via Wikimedia Commons

3. Telling lies

One company which recruited me in a senior role did so with the promise from their CEO that while they were not currently headquartered where I lived, they were planning to relocate their headquarters to my city in the following year, so whilst I would initially need to do a weekly commute, it did have a planned end date. A year after joining I found out that whilst this HQ move had been a local desire, it had never been approved by the overseas parent, and that if I was to stay there I would have to keep commuting or relocate, which was not an option at the time. I did not stay much longer, but the disruption to my life and career was considerable.

4. Being 2-faced

Managers who say one thing to your face and something else behind your back are the sort of political game players that are too dysfunctional to be allowed to stay in the organisation. I had a manager, who I inherited, who kept telling me how thrilled she was to have me take over the operation but who, from the day I arrived, was sending “anonymous” letters to the global board members behind my back, demanding my removal for lack of cultural sensitivity. The board made sure that I was made aware of this and I removed her as soon as I could do so with “sensitivity”.

5. Going around direct reports

I had one boss who would take it on himself to bypass his own direct reports and go directly to their people when he wanted something done quickly. He felt that this was a way to speed things up by not letting “structure” get in the way of urgency, and never believed that these actions would undermine the management structure that he himself had created. It is great to have a boss that is visible and interacts well with people multiple levels below him, but it is disruptive to have a boss who believes that this includes his assigning tasks to those that don’t report to him.

6. Calling perpetual meetings

Weak, indecisive managers call meetings every time that there is a decision to be made (see “Meetings Bloody Meetings” posted 18 April, 2011). This means that they can spread the blame if things don’t go as planned, still enabling them to take the kudos when things work well. One manager that I worked with believed that meetings were a way to involve everyone in the decision process as he had no doubt read a book about “involvement building commitment”, and so involved as many people as possible in every decision that needed to be made. The problem was that there were too many people involved in too many decisions which meant that ultimately no-one took responsibility for anything that was decided, and the whole place unravelled.

By Pride1760; via Wikimedia Commons

Every organisation needs some weird and wonderful people, even some in management positions, but it is important to remember that … “At some time in the life cycle of every organisation, its ability to succeed in spite of itself runs out.”



  1. Frank says:

    Hi Les, good list.. I can add a few that bug me..
    1. the boss that comes in late, has long lunches and leaves early… not exactly leadership by example,
    2. the boss that uses support staff etc as “hand maidens/butlers”.. get my dry cleaning, coffee etc (pretending to be too busy),
    3. the boss that accepts their way of doing things as the only way it can be done (a trait in many sales managers, because it made them successful, it is the only way)
    4. In my experience the boss that goes around me to the staff direct, is avoiding the likely answer I will give, “no they can’t” they have other (higher) priorities..
    rgds, Frank

  2. leshayman says:

    Great additions … I am sure that there are many more and even some that are specific to non-IT industry where you and I came from.

  3. Carmen says:


    I am wondering if you have ever been perceived to be one of those ‘nervous bosses’ and if someone let you know that – even more later on.
    Maybe will answer one of your past colleagues… ?!

    Have a great day, today and all days after,

  4. Will there be follow up called “Strange Clients I have worked for” … I could definitely add a few comments to that one!


  5. leshayman says:

    What a great idea … i have quite a few of my own.
    in my early days at DEC in NZ in about 1980 I even had a customer send me an order for a box of “fluffy discs” … I decided that this had to be the female version of the floppy ones.

  6. Frank says:

    Les, I remember when I was at CPH/PBL and was a DEC (your) customer, I asked you to give me the DEC internal data centre disk drives as the ones DEC supplied us kept failing because of a glue problem..I argued you can be inconvenienced, not the poor customer.. happily resolved when DEC left a couple of units as “on-site spares”… I was proud to be a demanding customer, but I was a loyal one.. a customer story would be fun.. rgds, Frank

  7. leshayman says:

    Frank, I never had problems with demanding customers as I was always glad to have customers who were prepared to give us their business and thus enabled me to have a job.

  8. Dee Pierce says:

    I NEVER wanted to move into management and you’ve just encapsulated why! Thank you. X

  9. leshayman says:

    Dee … I was talking about a relatively small percentage of managers … there are also a lot of great ones … it’s just easier writing about those that stand out as misfits.

  10. Bruce Rankin says:

    Re your example of Telling Lies, I vaguely recall that was back in the times of Data, Generally??

    I had my own experience when MIS/IT Manager at a large mining company in 81/82, when my boss the Group Exec Finance (a great guy) left to set up KwikKopy in Oz. In the brief hiatus before an internal replacement was made, the Finance Controller, who’d reported to the same boss, said to me “you’ll be reporting to me now”. I carried on – accepting this – until the new Group Exec Fiinance was appointed….and met all his direct reports including me. He was unaware and most surprised to hear about my change of reporting….done without any authority! Needless to say I never trusted a word out of the Financial Controller’s mouth again.

    Best wishes, Bruce

  11. leshayman says:

    Lying is totally unacceptable at any time at any level … I always told my team that “lying, cheating,thieving” would mean instant dismissal with no exceptions, and I always lived up to this.

  12. Karen says:

    How about the boss that comes to you numerous times a day starting with the phrase: “OK, I just sent you an email …” ? Odd that it never dawns on them that I will read the email and action it or provide a response. What a waste of time on her part.

  13. leshayman says:

    Karen, you would think that if she can come to you to tell you about the email, she could just come and talk to you about what she needs rather than sending the email in the first place. If she does this all the time you should try and get a meeting with her every morning to say “Is there anything specific that you need me to do today ?”. This may make her get better organised rather than sending you emails whenever she thinks of something. Les

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: