Bad Boss? 7 Management Moves to Avoid


Managing people is a difficult job–so difficult, in fact, that some bosses resort to shortcuts and dirty tricks.

Here are seven of the ugliest management tactics in the business world, along with better ways to handle the challenges. Make sure you’re following the better example.

1. The ‘Development Opportunity’

Challenge: You need an employee to take some donkey-work assignment that’s way outside the employee’s job description.

A lousy manager … paints a rosy picture of how impressive the project will look on the employee’s resume. Best-case scenario is that the employee will not only do the grunt work, but actually feel grateful.

Better approach: Make it clear that the crummy assignment is beyond the call of duty, that you appreciate the extra effort, and that it’s not going to be a regular thing.

2. The Sacrificial Victim

Challenge: You want to float a controversial idea to the powers that be, but don’t want to risk getting publicly shot down.

A lousy manager … asks an employee to present at the big meeting, calling it a way for her to “gain some visibility.” The manager then inserts the controversial proposal into the presentation so that it looks like the employee’s idea. If the excrement hits the fan, the employee gets blamed. If not, the manager takes credit.

Better approach: Line up your ducks with the powers that be in one-on-one meetings before bringing the idea to a public forum.

3. The Rock Fetch

Challenge: An employee is pressuring for a decision you’d rather not make.

A lousy manager … avoids the issue by claiming to be on the brink of a decision, but only after the employee has gathered additional information, written a detailed report, gotten buy-in from somebody who’s unavailable, etc.

Better approach: Level with the employee about why you’re reluctant to make the decision, then set a reasonable time limit–and actually decide.

4. Promise the Moon

Challenge: You have a valuable employee you’re afraid of losing, but can’t pay what she’s actually worth.

A lousy manager … makes a series of vague, wonderful-sounding promises that are free of actual commitments, details, and timelines. By holding out illusory carrots, the lousy manager hopes that the valuable employee will stay put and keep quiet.

Better approach: Create an environment where your top people truly enjoy working, even though they might get paid more elsewhere.

5. Trot Out the Bogeyman

Challenge: You want reduce expensive employee turnover.

A lousy manager … tries to keep employees in line through liberal application of fear. He’ll email articles about high unemployment, bring up the possibility of a layoff at staff meetings, or even leave a copy of “The Black Book of Outsourcing” where employees might see it.

Better approach: Improve your hiring practices to find better fits for the jobs you need done. The better the fit, the lower the turnover.

6. ‘My Hands are Tied!’

Challenge: An employee expects a big raise that isn’t really deserved.

A lousy manager … avoids conflict by citing unverifiable conditions or forces (e.g. “salary guidelines,” “our investors”) which prevent him from doing what he’d “really love to do, if it were possible.” Such statements are always vague.

Better approach: Level with the employee about the real reason that the big raise isn’t forthcoming and work on a plan to improve the employee’s performance.

7. ‘You’re a Professional!’

Challenge: You want low-level and mid-level employees to work 60 hours a week–but can only pay for 40.

A lousy manager… will try to convince these employees that they’re “professionals” and are expected to put in the extra hours, even if they’re just doing rote work.

Better approach: Pay people what they’re actually worth, without the veneer of BS. If that’s not possible, then maybe you don’t have a viable business model.

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