THERE IS NOTHING WORSE THAN A NERVOUS BOSS
August 15, 2011 14 Comments
…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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”