Stupid things that bad managers do

Revision 12
© 2006-2018 by Zack Smith. All rights reserved.


Over the years, there have been many books and articles written on the subject of how to manage a company well. But how often do we examine the mistakes that managers make?

Most workers experience good management as an uncommon if not rare phenomenon. Workers are more commonly faced with a series of managerial failures, a cavalcade of schmucks and dolts who somehow became managers but whose management skills are not even sufficient to run a Dairy Queen.

In the following list, you may think some of these sound familiar and ring true. If not, you've been quite lucky, or else you've never had a job. If you know of any that are not on the list, you could email me and I could add it to the list,

The List


  • The mismanager lets himself (and his co-managers) be seen by underlings, conspicuously doing nothing and joking around.
  • The mismanager takes hours to respond to important questions or simply ignores those questions thereby becoming an obstacle to work i.e. a blocker or someone who prevents people from doing their job.
    • To make things worse he then blames underlings for interrupting him.
    • To make things worser he blames the workers for not knowing the answers he would give i.e. for not being mind-readers, because if they were any good at their jobs they'd just know.
    • To make even things worse he blames underlings for not knowing that they aren't supposed to have high expectations about communication.


  • The mismanager insists on an open workspace so that he can spy on everyone, even though open workspaces are proven to add large amounts of distract that prevent work from getting done.
    • Why Your Open Office Workspace Doesn't Work by David Burkus (Forbes).
    • The Origin of Cubicles and the Open-Plan Office by George Musser (Scientific American).
  • The mismanager allows and even fosters constant talking at work, which is distracting even in a cubicle environment.
    1. To make things worse he allows loud discussions about divisive topics like politics and frivolous topics like celebrities.
    2. To make things even worse he leads the noisy conversations.
    3. To make things even worse he prevents workers from finding ways to find quieter places
    4. to do their jobs eg. working from home.


  • The mismanager considers every mistake to be a huge deal, even tiny ones, and his identifying of the mistake is cathartic, proof of his (bogus) superiority and his victim's (often wrongly attributed) inferiority, despite the mistake being only one data point.
  • The mismanager blames workers for problems the worker did not cause.
  • The mismanager, in order to justify his unjust blaming, sinks to the practice of smearing:
    1. he misconstrues bits of unrelated evidence
    2. he invents totally bogus evidence
    3. he takes the lies of others at face value.
  • If a worker fixes a mistake, even one the worker did not cause, the mismanager does not thank him or even acknowledge it; but if the worker does not fix a mistake, even a falsely attributed one, the mismanager mentioned it over and over, first face-to-face, then in larger groups hoping to humiliate.
  • The mismanager always claims that one single mistake proves a trend, indeed it is a grand dramatic trend, arising from an unredeemable character flaw.
  • When the mismanager knowingly blames a worker wrongly, as a form of cowardly bullying, he knows he is making the worker disgruntled and discouraging the worker from fixing the problem and that he can then use the worker's not fixing it to blame him again.
  • If the worker makes an attempt at fixing a mistake, the mismanager who is a bully will try to blame his victim for not doing it right.

Lack of compassion

  • The mismanager is insensitive about workers who have a long commute and even rescinds the work-at-home privilege as a petty means of punishing people.
  • The mismanager offers working from home as a reward to his approved sycophants.


  • The mismanager gives unclear instructions and directions about what tasks are important and how he wants them done. But he later blames workers for not doing it just the way he wants.
  • The mismanager doesn't want to admit that he doesn't know what to do, so when he provides vaguely worded task descriptions and never clarifies, he actively avoids and ignoring questions for clarification.
    • To make things worse, he blames workers whom he has blocked for not being self-starters.
  • The insecure, inexperienced mismanager tries to keep up an appearance of being an expert, and is therefore bossy about how to do things, even preaching at more experienced employees.


  • The mismanager allows his favorite sycophants to ignore important questions.
  • The mismanager delegates control to his cronies but never questions or verifies their claims about underlings and situations. He becomes a willing puppet of his buddies as if management were just a power trip for him and he is experiencing the power trip vicariously through his cronies.


  • The mismanager engages in micromanagement e.g. demanding status reports multiple times per day, for several possible reasons.
    1. He is micromanaging to pressure on underlings to deliver faster.
      1. He incorrectly estimated the date when a deliverable will be delivered,
      2. and doesn't want to look like a klutz.
      3. He's desperately seeking a bonus e.g. because he recklessly bought something expensive
      4. like a new sports car, assuming he'd get the bonus.
      5. He's seeking a promotion and is happy to push others down in order
      6. to rise up himself.
    2. He is micromanaging because he's insecure about his ability to manager
    3. and whether he will lose control.
    4. He is micromanaging because he's an egotist (e.g. with a PhD) who has condescending
    5. views about your competence.

Work specification

  • The mismanager doesn't know what they want but wants it now and wants it to be perfect.
    • The work specification changes often.
    • The new work has to be done yesterday.
    • The new work has to be perfect.
    • But the specification is unclear, is vague, is never written down.
    • Due to the managers' indecisiveness, you have to improvise, but when you do so, your ideas and taste are condemned.

Work estimates

  • The mismanager doesn't ask the workers how long a task will take before making unrealistic promises to bosses.
    • He lies to his bosses about what is possible.
    • He conceals from his underlings the promises he has made.
    • He puts undue pressure on underlings to finish tasks sooner than is possible.
    • He keeps team members in the dark about the reasons.
    • Perhaps he expects a bonus and has stupidly spent the money already.


  • The mismanager insists on using a tool regardless of:
    1. whether it's the appropriate tool
    2. whether it's fit for purpose
    3. whether it's the best one available
    4. whether it's unusually difficult to use or learn.


  • The mismanager takes a harsh view of local workers as incompetent, but praises the offshore team.
  • The mismanager is himself a foreigner who looks down on locals, so he is eager to avoid hiring local workers and seeks to hire his fellow immigrants.
  • The mismanager treats offshore staff like golden boys even though they do shoddy work. To him they can do no wrong.
  • The mismanager is eager to quickly to forgive any and all mistakes by the offshore workers, but for a local worker, even the most trivial mistake that doesn't have any impact whatsoever is a major and grave catastrophe, requiring the mismanager to call out the local person and shame them.
  • The mismanager becomes the offshore team's hatchet man.
    1. He maligns local staff every chance he gets on their behalf e.g.
      1. misinterpreting their progress reports to interpret them as having failed.
      2. putting them in a position to fail.
      3. inventing requirements that were never communicated to claim the local worker is doing things wrong.
    2. He believes every invented complaint from the offshore staff about local staff,
    3. who always seek to have local staff discredited, disbelieved, disgraced, fired.
  • The mismanager embraces outsourcing as a panacea, much as how an alcoholic embraces booze.
    • He starts with accepting only low-cost, high-quality geniuses, and gradually lowers his standards until any novice will do.
    • The more offshore workers, the better, because like an alcoholic seeking more booze, more of it solves all problems.
  • The mismanager takes bribes from outsourcing companies to send work overseas, because he thinks he will never get caught and he needs a new:
    1. house
    2. car
    3. foreign wife
    4. bogus feeling of self-worth to address a midlife crisis.

And so on

I'm currently editing this part!

  • The manager is switching workers from task to task before any task is complete. This indicates bad planning, panic and perhaps that worker shortage e.g. as when other workers have quit.
  • Talking over you; cutting you off; ignoring what you say; talking at length to prevent you from talking. This is simple rudeness that may indicate egotism, disrespect, a pecking order or even fear of what you are going to say.
  • Bad managers are hire two-faced backstabbers who routinely betray them. And those bad managers subsequently refuse to believe they have been betrayed. And those bad managers strike out at the messenger(s) who told them the true facts.
  • Management by amnesia: All debates won with great effort, all points made and agreed upon, and all concessions achieved are forgotten and the manager pretends they never occurred.
  • All feedback is expressed in the form of blaming
    • Blaming for tiny problems as if they are equal to large problems.
    • Blaming the over-worked person who not doing a trivial thing or not forseeing a minor problem.
    • Always from a jaundiced and negative viewpoint in which partial evidence or no evidence at all is the basis for jumping to wild conclusions about competence, willingness to be a team-player, willingness to work, etc.
    • Blaming for not using unusable software or systems.
  • The managers tell you that you signed off on some work task when you did not.
  • You signed off a work task however the task changed and management insists you signed off on the new work when you did not.
  • Multiple managers give you multiple directions, and these conflict. This may indicate pettiness between managers, it may indicate disrespect for underlings and a pecking order.
  • Having an attitude that meetings are meant to be won and that the other side should just accept whatever you say, because you are the manager and they are the underling. The underling has nothing of value to contribute.
  • Trying to shame a person in front of other workers about made-up problems in order to make them quit.
  • Adding insult to injury: Blaming you for not following orders when multiple managers are giving you differing orders.
  • Adding insult to injury: Blaming you for not complaining enough about having multiple managers.
  • Hovering over you; watching your every move; demanding that you do or type whatever they say. This is micromanagement; it may indicate egotism, hubris and disrespect.
  • Dismissing your ideas. This is anti-team behavior; it may indicate a big ego, a pecking order or personal disrespect.
  • Not sharing crucial information like who is the designated team lead,
  • Blaming making a complaint to a worker not/ based on facts but on wrong assumptions. Not bothering to check facts before jumping to a conclusion.
  • Walking up to a worker at an inopportune time e.g. early morning and demanding to know on the spot what he did the previous day, which has been forgotten.
  • Stupidly castigating a worker for not knowing what another worker did when he was not around to observe it. Response: I was not there to see it you moron manager!
  • Blaming a person wrongly and later claiming it was just asking not blaming.
  • Refusing to be corrected about wrong facts.
  • Refusing to have bad behavior discussed or even pointed out.