When Bad Managers Happen to Good Employees

Everyone has experienced working in a negative environment or having to deal with negative managers.  But what do you do when you need your paycheck?  Most of us smile and continue to work as if there is nothing wrong, while others withdraw and limit their interactions with the nutty manager as much as possible.  I will share some interesting behaviors and how to deal with these poor organizational decisions called ‘negative managers’ in this article.

The Honeymoon is Over

Remember your interview and how wonderful the manager appeared to be?  Remember how you left the meeting almost giving the manager a hi-five after it was over? You knew the job was yours.  You start your first day, even your first week and everything is running smooth.  Then the ‘nut’ appears, almost materializing out of nowhere. You stop and wonder if you imagined it, but then it appears again and you realize you are in hell. 

You stop and ask yourself how will you deal with this out-of-the-blue behavior?  Well, the first thing you do is stay calm.  Tell yourself you are better than the behavior you are observing and continue to do your job until something better comes along.  Let’s look at the five types of nutty managers in the section that follows and what to do about them.

Type 1:  Intelligent, but Lacking Emotional Intelligence

It is unfortunate, but this type of manager is over-utilized in organizations.  These managers are extremely intelligent but disrespectful, rude, harsh and belittling.  They lack emotional competence and stability.  You will find behaviors such as loud confrontations, public displays of ignorance, angry outbursts, and consistent forgetfulness, for which they believe you are to blame. You may attempt to communicate with this person, but he or she always leave the conversation with you being the reason for their behavior.  For example, they will scream or yell at you in front of other managers, because they believe they are demonstrating some imaginary power over you when really the other managers in the room also believe they are the problem.

Advice to Employees

These people are cowards.  They would never confront you in a rude or angry manner in a place outside of work.  If you are being managed by people like this find a new position, because it is very likely they will not change.  The organizations for which they work will probably keep them around because they are afraid to admit they made mistakes by promoting or hiring these types of people. 

Advice to Management

Get rid of these people. They are a liability and will cause employee turnover to quickly rise. 

Type 2:  Giver of Advice, but Receiver of None

This type of manager is always ready to dish out advice.  He or she will say things like “you remind me of myself…” or “I would advise you to avoid interacting with that employee…” sounds like someone who is really looking out for you, right?  Wrong.  In most cases, these managers are trying to find things about you, they can pick apart, because they themselves are walking disasters.  They may invite you to meetings under the pretense of sharing your ideas, but they are really looking for additional things about you, they can tear down.

These managers enjoy blaming other people for their own behavior.  Saying things like “I said that because my Director believes you are…” or “I did that because my VP seems to think…” After some time has passed, you learn that nothing they say is true. 

Advice to Employees

If you have managers that are consistently telling you, you are wrong or they are always finding something wrong with your work product, get out now.  You do not need the additional stress. 

Advice to Management

Remove these people from your management team.  They will create more problems than they solve.  Employees who are treated well, perform well. 

Type 3:  The M.i.M = Majoring in the Minor Manager

This is a manager who appears to have nothing better to do than meddle in employees’ lives.  These managers will pick arguments over sticky note color, your style of hair, the color of your shoes, or how much coffee you drank during the day.  They are never appreciative of your work and they will never make positive comments about your performance.  For example, you may have just completed a flawless 50-page report, but this manager wants to question you on a brief introduction you gave in a meeting that occurred eight months prior. 

Advice to Employees

These managers are awful and will be detrimental to your health.  Run as fast as you can from these people.

Advice to Management

Find these managers quickly and either coach them or remove them from your organization.  Your employees deserve better than this behavior.  Hire strong leaders who can play on the strengths of the employees who follow them.  Stop promoting or hiring people who do things that annoy employees and/or do not positively impact employee performance. 

Type 4:  The Pot Stirring Manager

These managers will do anything to increase dissension among team members. They tend to tell employees’ personal business only to generate a reaction from others on the team.  For example, telling the team that an employee is not performing well because he or she is dealing with a cheating spouse.  They may also tell you, that an employee said you are rude and arrogant, only to watch you go to that employee for a confrontation.  They are enjoying the show for which you are putting on display.  Beware of these ‘nutty’ managers.  They are not worth your time. 

Advice to Employees

If you are working with managers who demonstrate this type of behavior, it is best to avoid them as much as possible.  When these managers approach you with gossip or information about team members that is negative, hurtful, or rude, tell them you are busy or that you have an important phone call you need to make in one minute.  Do anything you can to get away from these people.

Advice to Management

Get these people out of your organization.  They are doing more harm, than good.  These individuals will cause you to spend more money on lawsuits and filling positions due to consistent turnover. 

Type 5:  The Paranoid Manager

This manager is one who is constantly on the lookout for employees who are having conversations about them.  They will go so far as to hide around walls, hide out in empty offices or huddle rooms hoping to catch employees talking about them. You will find behavior such as, constant interrogations about the lunch you had with another manager who happens to be your friend.  They will question your need to take notes during a meeting.  In addition, these managers are likely to browse in your email and read your correspondences, if they have access, only to see if you have talked about them. 

Advice to Employees

If you are working for a person like this, it is best to break ties early on.  Walk away from this behavior if the organization for which you work is failing to address the issues.

Advice to Management

Find these people and get them out of your organization.  It is likely they will not change with coaching or development.  Your employees have enough to deal with day-to-day.  Why would you continue to subject them to this type of behavior?  

Wrap Up

I am sure there are several other manager types that can be described in this article, but these are the top five for which I have experienced or observed in my career.  If you have additional manager types for which you work, share them in the comments section. 

Special Note:  If your management style falls into one or all of the categories described in this article, stop now.  You do not want to become a blog post. 

Adrienne Captain, CEO & Founder, HR-OD Analytics. Real Talk from a Real Consultant:  ID, OD, and Change Management.  Visit her company page: www.hrodanalytics.com and sign-up for one of her courses. 


Join me in Houston, Texas on June 3, 2017 for Instructional Design Consulting training, a one-day course development workshop http://www.hrodanalytics.com/enroll/ You will get a detailed learner workbook with group practice scenarios and individual activities.

Comment