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One tipoff about poor management is a boss who is always busy, with too many projects on the go. (iStockphoto/iStockphoto)
One tipoff about poor management is a boss who is always busy, with too many projects on the go. (iStockphoto/iStockphoto)

The 10 signs of a bad manager Add to ...

If your organization is to succeed, it’s important that you recognize the signs of bad management – in others, as well as yourself.

André de Waal, a professor at the Maastricht School of Management in the Netherlands and academic director of the HPO Center, dedicated to high-performance organizations, offers these 10 signs of bad management on the centre’s blog:

More from Harvey Schachter

Always cleaning up

Bad managers clean up the mess of their predecessors – even if there is no mess. When appointed to a new post, the manager declares that the department is in such a muddle it will take at least a year to clean up (and, of course, for that year, and perhaps the next one as well, the bad manager can’t be expected to achieve departmental targets).

Always busy

Bad managers are always busy, busy, busy – so involved in projects that they can’t handle their regular tasks. Another reason, by the way, not to hold them responsible for departmental goals.

Plays the goals game

Bad managers know that departmental goals should be loose, with lots of slack, so targets are easy to achieve. “Bad managers will never get optimal results from their departments, but that doesn’t matter to them; bad managers would rather have low performance than run the risk of punishment for falling short of ambitious targets,” Prof. de Waal writes.

Manages from afar

Bad managers love to use performance indicators (for others, of course). Then they can practise hands-off management and avoid departmental responsibilities.

Blames others

Bad managers have a host of excuses – from management reports that don’t accurately reflect (their brilliant) performance, to the world economy, or the weather. A common scapegoat is a weak colleague, who should be replaced, and then the manager can achieve the assigned targets.

Makes big, big plans

Bad managers make wordy, expansive plans to impress top management. “They also know that you can bury all kinds of assumptions and preconditions in these verbose plans, which function as safeguards when top management starts complaining that goals have not been achieved,” he notes.

One-way communication

Bad managers can hold open forums for employees to voice concerns. They just don’t act on what they hear.

Focuses on shareholders

Bad managers will do anything to satisfy the shareholders, even if that means hurting the organization’s long-term interests.

Divides, and conquers

Bad managers are skilled at the “divide and conquer” strategies of Machiavelli, manipulating colleagues, employees and bosses.

Poised to exit

Bad managers move on every few years – just when the organization is getting ready to hold them accountable. They always know where their next move will be.



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