"I see that the number of bad managers has been increasing in recent years. Is this my imagination or has there been a change for the worse?"
In my experience, its not necessarily that someones technical skill (no matter how good their people skills are) lets them down as a manager - I used to have an amazing manager, lacking in technical skills but had no problem in coming and asking for technical assistance - I think a huge problem is that they have no skills in the problem domain of what they are managing.
While having great people management skills might make up for some this, it leaves them with no understanding of what they are managing, most of their input is superficial and made up for by those working for them when the details matter, and they arent able to have decent long term strategies in place that really work.
It seems that more and more, gone is the day when someone worked their way up the ladder, years of experience under their belt, (if capable) eventually rising management level. I see many managers these days who are managers because of the management training course they did, or because they have been managers somewhere else (after doing a training course) - maybe managing a completely different problem domain.
With the increase in managers who don't really know what they are managing, Ive also witnessed an increase in those sorts of managers hiring more of `themselves`. Then you get into a loop! Bad managers hiring more bad managers.
This hierarchy of bad management also means upper (bad) managment cant spot problems with lower management - they dont have the skill set to recognise whats going on. Maybe a reason why some departments completely fail?
There is also my favorite, which fits in with the above. The manager who doesnt have the technical skills, or the domain skills, but THINKS they do, and tries to `correct` their staff members who know what they are doing inside out.
Martin (who has had to work with managers along these lines a fair few times)
My "Bad Manager" experience was a true learning experience in my career. He had his own philosophy on teaching us his management techniques. Just a couple of tibits into his style -
He would regularly show up late 10 - 15 minutes late for meetings and then make us rehash everything we had been discussing for the previous 10 minutes. When I thought this was just his way I found out he told someone this was a way to convey power.
Next, His advice to a coworker during a review was to speak over people and be cockier. His belief was being cocky was the way to be promoted.
Also, he told a coworker who was having personnel life issues that he could be having back problems like another coworker. The personnel issues were very serious and his words were not the calming influence one needs to hear.
And lastly, if he did "buy" a treat for the team he would get the day old doughnuts with the 50% off sticker.
I could go on and on but why bother. He did teach me a valuable lesson. Do not accept a bad manager who doesn't care about his people.
Oh, come on. There is little difference between the first and last manager - both border if not cross over into verbal abuse. Flat out, there is no reason EVER for a manager to yell at an employee, and if that is incorporated into their particular management "styles" then you are working for a bad manager. End of story no matter how many times the manager apologizes afterwards.
And the part about a good manager "guiding careers?" My God, are you a professional or a child? An effective manager is one who anticipates the needs of his staff in getting the job done, and paves the way for the need to be met BEFORE the employee is held up by this. A good manager LISTENS to his employees and helps them play to their strengths even when it might be at cross purposes to their spoken desires. In short, an excellent manager gives the employee the path to succeed rather than setting them up to fail.
Recognizing and rewarding accomplishment is an absolute necessity. The learning Oracle example highlights this. Every manager should know the market they are in, and that manager SHOULD have known CICS programmers were readily available. At that point, you look at your staff and decide who has earned the privilege of learning new (and marketable) job skills on the company dime. You reward the staff member with the new, plum assignment and backfill their job, even if it is a mission-critical role. That is, unless you take the approach by so many managers and companies these days, and assume that employees are like buses - another one comes along every 30 minutes.
Finally, the old chestnut about a manager not really needing technical skills is a load. While the manager might not need to be as technically inclined as his staff, he needs to understand the business at that level. You can't take a sales manager and make him the supervisor of a group of developers just because he has people skills. Let's face facts here - at the best of times, IT lifers have more personality quirks than your average employee, and knowing how the employee works - of which the technical aspect is one of the most key elements - is how a manager succeeds.
I am sorry, I don't mean to be so hyper-critical, but having been on all sides of this particular table it is a subject I am VERY passionate about. I once worked for a man who got in the deep brush with me and helped me clear the path - and then stood in the background while I got the credit for a job well done. If I screwed up, he stood between me and the user and took the heat. If I tried to snow him on a tech issue, he called me on it because he knew what I did, not just what our department's mission was. And when I found a new way of doing something that saved ANYTHING, he rewarded the effort. Although he had as much ego as anyone else, he knew how to succeed, and that meant helping his people to succeed in any way possible. After a few years managing the group, the powers that be tapped him to become the youngest VP in company history. Because they, too, recognized how important the individual successes on a team are.
More than anything else I have learned in my career, I have held on to this. Success comes double when you create the environment for your staff to shine. A manager is part counselor, mediator and facilitator, not a traffic cop.
I'm not sure I agree on this one. My manager came out of sales & has few technical skills but he's doing a pretty good job managing the team. His issues were HUGE about five years ago because he didn't know who to trust on the team for technical advice and therefore trusted everyone. He finally learned who was consistently right, level-headed and had the company's interests in mind and now, when he needs to make a decision based on technology, goes to the right people first.
On the other hand, I had a manager who was very technical and felt the need to question every decision, in detail. It really can swing both ways.
Unfortunately, a lot of managers get into their positions through seniority. These people are usually not provided with any management training and when they were promoted, no one thought to consider their people skills before giving them the position. These promotions are often considered "rewards" for people who been with the company for a number of years.
Some of these stories are very familiar. At my last job, the CTO was my boss. Not only did this guy not have a technical background, he was a micro manager and did not allow people in the IT department to make any decisions on their own. One example involved the use of PDA's with e-mail accounts. The mail servers were configured to allow POP3 connections for anyone with a mailbox on the system, but the CTO decided that he wanted each user to submit a request to use his/her PDA with the corporate e-mail system and then have them wait for an official approval (this process could take many days). He was not very responsive to these or any other requests. Not only did this create a lot of work for the IT staff, it was unnecessary and most of the time the IT staff would just give out the POP3 address and send the users a link to the PDA provider's support page. This was done to save the user a lot of time and frustration.
There were many other tedious processes this guy created in order to micro-manage the entire department. I may have forgotten to mention that the CTO was a secondary role for this guy as he was performing project management for the company's line of business (healthcare consulting). The company needed to have a CTO on staff and they picked this guy because he knew the most IT lingo. I should also note that this gentleman works 80+ hours per week (mainly due to the micro-management tasks and telephone calls). In addition to the above, he was often verbally abusive to the IT staff and blamed others for his mistakes. He hardly ever documented anything via e-mail as he liked to verbally give all of his directives and assignments from a cellphone. Later, I suspected he did this to protect himself as he often made mistakes and forgot things he had told to people (the blame was placed elsewhere). When I gave my 2 weeks notice, he begged me to stay. After I refused a couple of counteroffers, he called the HR department and told them that I was a bad employee and he was eager for me to leave. He was doing some "damage control" since he knew I would inform HR of the problems in the department upon my departure (exit interview). Since our HR department was very new, they bought into his lies and deception. Several employees left the company because of this guy and the senior management staff knew why it was happening. They seemed to stick to a "don't ask, don't tell" policy because the guy delivered results.
I am very glad I left and have never looked back.
This article is nothing more than a re-hashing of old nostalgic experiences and personal grudges. Where is the analysis, where is the insight? What can we walk away with except that a bad manager is defined as someone who fires your friends and makes you follow rediculous rules, or is abusive?
A good article provides insight and wisdom, not horror stories and nostalga.
Employee investment is a two way street. You can't expect your employees to invest in you if you are not willing to invest in them. If you are not willing to invest in your employees you are better off sticking to contractors.
A good article, Janet! I've had bad managers, and good managers. I realize that I probably haven't has managers as bad as your ugly managers.
One comment; I think the influences that make for bad managers are hard to define. Yes, I agree that it does involved trust and respect, but I've a feeling that there is more. I've worked for a company in which some developers were offered management positions and they tried it for a while. However, they found that it was a no-win situation for them. They were encouraged to take up more responsibility than they were capable of, and punished because they couldn't complete all of the tasks in timeframe that they were given. Because of this they went back to being developers. I don't really know why things like that happened (it happened to them before I joined the company) but something odd is happening. I only hope that this is either an isolated incident or one that rarely occurs.