Sunday, December 02, 2007

The Roots of Distrust

Gordon Brown
Do They Mean Me?
I while ago I came across an article on ZDNet on ten classifications of bad managers. It was generally meant to be about IT managers, but really could apply in any walk of life. Sadly I couldn't find it back at it's original home, but fortunately found a pretty accurate version of the core classifications reproduced elsewhere, as it does seem to have a particular relevance right at the moment.

I wouldn't actually title these as 'classifications' of bad managers, but more characteristics of them, as anyone who has encountered such creatures will know that the woes they bring tend not to come singly, but usually in a fairly full featured package deal. Actually, I think it is possible to suffer from one or two of the lesser defects and still be a pretty effective manager, once you get to three or four then you're in an organisation that is likely to have some pretty serious headaches.

Anyway, with no more ado:
Type one: The "Anything for the good of the company" Manager / LeaderThis Manager has a distinctive cry that sounds like this: "Look at me! I worked Christmas day and even when I had cholera. I walked to the office for six weeks after my car crash, even though both my legs were broken. Why can't you stay another hour each night without pay? I would."

Type two: The Mean and Nasty Manager / Leader
This manager is of the old school, a right scoundrel. Their idea of being a good manager is to be unapproachable or, in their words, "hard but fair". They are neither. After sacking a member of the team, they might be heard to say: "I had to let them go; they weren’t showing the right level of commitment. They want you to work rather than let you attend your mother's funeral. “What do they think we're running here? A holiday camp?"

Type three: The Non-stick Manager / Leader
This manager has sloping shoulders from which any blame will easily slide. They will not give a straight answer to a straight question, just in case you might quote them at the court martial. Whenever something goes wrong, they will produce documentary evidence that they were somewhere else at the time. They are more of a nuisance and a waste of salary than a danger, unless you happen to be the victim of one of their decisions.

Type four: The Missing link, or "What Manager?"
They seek him here, they seek him there, Those workers seek him everywhere.

Type five: The Flashy Brass
This manager has a sign on their desk or office door, a badge or some similar marking of rank. If they thought they could get away with it, they would wear pips on their shoulders or gold bands around their jacket cuffs. They will take outrageous liberties, like instructing a junior member of staff to wash their car or go out to collect their dry cleaning. When you question this, they will point to this mark of office and say the immortal four words: "THIS says I can."

Type six: The "I don't want to hear it" Manager / Leader
This is probably the manager of a department near you. When the team gives an honest answer to an honest question about the timescale of a project, they will throw up their hands in horror and give the cry that clearly identifies them. In fairness, this manager takes the cares of the world on their shoulders and worries about them. They lie awake at night fretting about delivering the monthly reports on time. They present themselves as a tough, go-getter, but are often covering an inadequacy. Be gentle with these managers, but most of all ignore them. It's easier that way.

Type seven: The Buzzword Manager / Leader
Often found, after a long search, in deep water wearing the latest Ralph Lauren concrete collection, Buzzwordia manages by use of a string of clichés and ideas that they heard at management seminars. Meetings with them are not for the weak-stomached, and it is advisable to keep a bucket handy, just in case. Think about the last person you heard say: "There's no 'I' in team." "Assume makes an ASS out of U and ME." "I can't spell success without U."

Type eight: The Best Mate
This is a well-padded, red-faced manager, given to back-slapping and calling in favours, even before any are owed. They make unreasonable demands in the name of friendship and invite you to their children's birthday parties, even though you can't stand kids unless they have been barbecued. These managers make you want to slit your throat as they ramble on about the fantastic time they had on their last sales seminar or golf tournament.

Type nine: The Two-Minute Manager / Leader
This is the type of manager who asks for an update on what has been done during their absence, then abruptly cuts off the answer after two minutes with a cry of "I don't have time now. I want a report on my desk first thing Monday morning."

Type Ten: The Patronising Manager / Leader
Nobody can do it quite like them. They were there when they landed on the moon. In fact, they designed and built the entire communications system. They also cabled Canary Wharf using only a pair of pliers, a cotton bud, and a cocktail stick. They won the Paris to Dakar rally in a car they built themselves from old beer cans. They caught the biggest fish, had the best golf handicap, and is, of course, a close personal friend of the Managing Director.

So, how would the person in the most important managerial position in the country stand in this light:

Charge One: Guilty. "And he came back from holiday...floods...blah blah...not like Cameron sunning himself in Rwanda....blah blah...nuff said"

Charge Two: Guilty. I think that those that think about it have always suspected that Brown would be a bully in the office. The evidence is seeping out as well highlighted by Thunder Dragon and the original Spectator source. The nice, cerebral Mr Brown is the thinnest of veneers. Expect stories like this to outnumber even the funding fuck-ups in the next few months. We've all met the like of Brown, and as surely as night follows day...

Charge Three: Guilty. Even the most one-eyed commentator must be astonished by Brown's ignorance of anything happening in the inner core of his own party.

Charge Four: Guilty. I can't think of anyone I know who would dispute this characterisation of Macavity Brown, including those I know who actually still like him.

Charge Five: Not Guilty. Let's be honest...this is not Gordon. He couldn't do it if he wanted to. All of his predecessors could, but to pull off the big set pieces was, and continues to be beyond Brown's limited capabilities.

Charge Six: Guilty. To be honest, it's the most fair minded explanation of the Prime Minister's ignorance of what has been happening within his own party. It's still not good.

Charge Seven: Guilty. True it's a challenge to think of a cabinet minister of either colour not guilty of the charge, but in his career as Chancellor it was more obvious than most that big words were being a substitute for for good policy.

Charge Eight: Jury Out. Ok, he tries the big dumb grin, even when being challenged on why our personal details are now in the public domain. Does Brown simply just not care, or is he simply a grinning village idiot. I'll be fair and assume the latter, but frankly we don't know.

Charge Nine: Not Guilty. Yes, Broon's instinct is to demand a 'report' or a 'commission' on everything, but let's be honest, it's for different reasons. His objectives is to buy time to spin up the spin machine. The bullying side is covered under other headings.

Charge Ten: Guilty. Even sensible Labour supporting friends worry about the patronising tone of senior government figures. 'Patronising' faces stiff competition but is likely to be one of the top three defining adjectives of NuLab's time in office.

I've tried hard to be fair, but I've been in organisations where what has floated to he top has not always been the cream. 7 1/2 out of 10 on the unfitness to manage scale is something I only once could have tagged a real world person with the same outlook when I was personally involved in making the choice. I assumed that time that it was a bit of a joke from a recruitment agency that we had more than a few social relationships with, unfortunately Gordon Brown is already Prime Minister.

My flippant comments are based on the public domain Mr Brown. The really worrying thing is that he fits a certain recognisable role so well that I can't help feeling that the real thing is even worse.

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