Working for a bad manager is frustrating, but working for a truly bad manager drives you absolutely insane. Almost daily, truly bad managers shock their subordinates with unexpectedly breathtaking examples of incompetence, stupidity, and malice. Being a truly bad manager requires energy, devotion, and limitless creativity. Managers aspiring to be truly bad need a comprehensive resource of tools and techniques for driving subordinates insane.
This short essay can't possibly be a comprehensive resource, but it does outline methods for achieving one of the truly bad manager's strategic objectives: creating toxic conflict. Here is Part I of a catalog of techniques for setting subordinates against one another, written as advice for the truly bad manager.
- Have overlapping or ambiguous job descriptions
- Ensure that the job descriptions of subordinates are written explicitly enough or ambiguously enough that several of them can be read so as to cover some of the same responsibilities. For extra zing, overlap those responsibilities that are most valued, and most likely to be regarded as bases for self-esteem or career advancement.
- Set ambiguous, immeasurable performance objectives
- To motivate your subordinates to do whatever they can to destroy each other, you want them to be anxious about their own performance. In performance reviews, set objectives that are unclear, ambiguous, and immeasurable. If they also aren't achievable, so much the better.
- Play favorites
- Show favoritism in making assignments, allocating resources, and distributing credit and praise. Be consistent about confiding in some people, and not others. If you have a small circle of favorites, those outside it will quickly learn to resent those inside it.
- Communicate ineffectively
- Whenever you communicate anything important, do it ineffectively, and hurriedly depart for an important meeting, off-site, or vacation. Leave them wondering what you really meant. Let them argue it out amongst themselves.
- Use harassment, blaming, and scapegoating…judiciously
- Repeatedly harassing, blaming, and scapegoating a few specific individuals provides a means of shifting responsibility for failures from yourself or from your favorites onto a few people. Their careers are already in ruins, so it does them no real harm. But it does provide a pattern for other subordinates to use when they need to evade responsibility.
- Deny having made previous commitments
- When someone Being a truly bad manager
requires energy, devotion,
and limitless creativityclaims that you agreed to do or not do something, and you later didn't do or did do it, deny having agreed to do or not do it. Claim confidently that you thought you were just discussing doing or not doing it. And make sure one of your favorites backs you up.
- Overload some people and underload others
- Distribute work unevenly. Make sure some people have to work, well, not 24/7, but maybe 19/6 or something like that, while others can just kick back. Keep stress levels at maximum.
Are you fed up with tense, explosive meetings? Are you or a colleague the target of a bully? Destructive conflict can ruin organizations. But if we believe that all conflict is destructive, and that we can somehow eliminate conflict, or that conflict is an enemy of productivity, then we're in conflict with Conflict itself. Read 101 Tips for Managing Conflict to learn how to make peace with conflict and make it an organizational asset. Order Now!
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More articles on Conflict Management:
- Hurtful Clichés: I
- Much of our day-to-day conversation consists of harmless clichés: "How goes it?" or
"Nice to meet you." Some other clichés aren't harmless, but they're so common that
we use them without thinking. Maybe it's time for some thought.
- Practice Positive Politics
- Politics is a dirty word at work, as elsewhere. We think of it as purely destructive, often distorting
decisions and leading the organization in wrong directions. And sometimes, it does. Politics can be
constructive, though, and you can help to make it so.
- Dismissive Gestures: III
- Sometimes we use dismissive gestures to express disdain, to assert superior status, to exact revenge
or as tools of destructive conflict. And sometimes we use them by accident. They hurt personally, and
they harm the effectiveness of the organization. Here's Part III of a little catalog of dismissive gestures.
- Teamwork Myths: Conflict
- For many teams, conflict is uncomfortable or threatening. It's so unpleasant so often that many believe
that all conflict is bad — that it must be avoided, stifled, or at least managed. This is a myth.
Conflict, in its constructive forms, is essential to high performance.
- Unresponsive Suppliers: I
- If we depend on suppliers for some tasks in a project, or for necessary materials, their performance
can affect our ability to meet deadlines. What can we do when a supplier's performance is problematic,
and the supplier doesn't respond to our increasingly urgent pleas for attention?
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming May 29: Newtonian Blind Alleys: II
- Some of our decisions don't turn out well. The nature of our errors does vary, but a common class of errors is due to applying concepts from physics originated by Isaac Newton. One of these is the concept of spectrum. Available here and by RSS on May 29.
- And on June 5: I Could Be Wrong About That
- Before we make joint decisions at work, we usually debate the options. We come together to share views, and then a debate ensues. Some of these debates turn out well, but too many do not. Allowing for the fact that "I could be wrong" improves outcomes. Available here and by RSS on June 5.
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- The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
- Many people who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.