5 Reasons Bad Managers Become Your Boss

Everywhere you look on the web, you can find articles about leadership.  Why?  I think that we are fascinated with it because we have so little of it in our lives and the lack of it has a considerable impact on our job satisfaction and happiness in general.  I’ve recently read some blog posts that describe the personal flaws of the managers.  However, I don’t really see that as being the biggest issue.  I would like to see corporate leadership focus on the situations that put the wrong people in management positions.  Here is a list of situations that I’ve seen over the years.

FUMU Principle.  This principle basically states that we promote those who screw up (i.e. screw up, move up).  For example, I remember working with a quality engineer who guided his company to create 40,000 test products for a new customer but built them to the wrong specification.  When they asked him why he built the products to a bad specification, he reply was “they didn’t tell me what they wanted.”  The new customer ran away and never came back.  To punish him and ensure he wouldn’t make another mistake like that, they promoted him to quality manager.

They fit in.  Executives are usually outward facing, meaning that they spent much of their time with people outside the company, such as customers.  Their skill set will be different from those managers who focus their efforts internally.  Henry Mintzberg, McGill University professor of management, identified the ten roles of managerial work, by studying CEOs (1973).  Later on, Pavett and Lau (1982) repeated his study on lower level managers.  They found that the managers that emulated the executives were promoted far more than those who really focused internally.  In short, the executives promoted managers who seemed to operate the way they did.  While this may not be the best for the company (i.e. who is doing the internal managing), it seems to be the way promotions work.  Fitting in with the big guys is very important to your career.

Don’t know how to hire an A-level player.  HR has a tough job.  They often have to hire someone in a profession they know nothing about.  Studies show that even the most reliable assessment techniques of structured interviews and assessment centers have a predictive validity of around 60 percent.  Of course, there’s also the shortage for such talent that you read all over the web.  But if you don’t know what they look like, then you’ll likely experience a shortage.  This dilemma leaves companies with the only choice of allowing their existing managers to hire the next manager.

B-level players hire C-level players.  A-level managers are the kind I like to work with.  You know, people who are not afraid of competition or challenge.  They want to be in the company of the best, if only to compare their abilities against the others.  Great players hire great players.  However, B-level managers aren’t like that.  They actually initiate the decline of the company by hiring C-level managers underneath them.  The real problem is that B and C level players don’t know they aren’t A-level players.  If you want to see how to sort out the difference during hiring, Inc. has some ideas.

Once you get B and C-level managers in place, there hiring mistakes will grow in number.  You’ll begin to see managers hire their friends, the ‘Yes’ man/woman, people who won’t challenge them, and many more excuses.  The reality is that organizations get the performance they hire.  Can you see your company running a NBA Basketball team?  Would they hire the best players? Would the team be competitive?

Before I end this post, I’d like to bring up one other point; that is, Accountability.  For example, one company I worked with had a Research and Development (R&D) Director that led a team who hadn’t developed a new product in five years.  Now, the R&D team should be developing new products for your business, whether to enter new markets or grow existing ones.  How could the executives fail to recognize that no new products were being developed?  Accountability is one of the major reasons bad managers exist.  If you watch college football, you’ll note that colleges have recognized that coaches can help them make lots of money by creating a great team.  Each year you’ll see coaching changes because of lackluster performance.  Why don’t companies do that?

Lastly, if you’re one of those professionals seeking to move up quickly, realize that the game you’ll have to play is not performance-based.  Too much research shows this isn’t the case.  Granted we try to tell ourselves that the game is fair and things like hard work, great credentials and a consistent trail of successes will lead you to great success, when you work for someone else, you have to play by a different set of rules.  Bad managers exist everywhere and college doesn’t prepare you for this.  When you find a good manager, latch on to them and learn as much as you can.  Sometimes you can maneuver your way through the maze, sometimes you have to move on.  Either way, keep thinking positive and moving forward towards your dream.  Don’t ever let them steal your dream!


Over the years, I’ve done quite a few resume reviews and updates. Typically, professionals are just asking to update their resume for the things they’ve recently accomplished. Often, this is a job title or company change. But how often do you add new things to the resume that give your product (i.e. YOU) more functionality? Sure, employers are interested in what you’ve done but they really want to know what you can do for them. There is a simple strategy for turning your resume into a powerful marketing paper for your career. If you’re not updating your marketing materials (e.g. resume) every year, you’re working on becoming obsolete.

At the end of each year, I like to engage in a little marketing strategy planning. I take a look at my resume and compare myself to many profiles I see online, like LinkedIn. I compare my education, skills, products and network with others who have similar backgrounds. Then, I ask myself one simple question, “Do I stand out?” If not, then I try to determine where I need to build my resume.

Education is an easy one. If I want to move up and everyone like me has a master’s degree and I don’t, then I might consider earning one. I like to see what types of degrees other professionals have in my position. Maybe my degree doesn’t provide all of the knowledge I need and another type of degree might make me a little more equipped to compete for the next level. While it’s easy to determine what I need, planning in my busy life is another story. So, I review this every year but may not engage in a degree right away. I may simply search for free classes online (MOOCs) to learn the things my peers already know.

Skills are always in need. What new skills do you need to develop each year? It’s no longer possible to develop a specific set of skills (as through your collegiate program) that will last your whole career. The needs of business change rapidly and companies seek many skills to meet those needs. Years ago I began paying closer attention to changes companies where experiencing and responded by building skills that would make me capable of helping them meet those needs. At one point, I saw the need for writing skills, so I began writing books. At another time, I saw the need for entrepreneurial skills, so I started my own company. By engaging directly in an activity, you can learn a great deal of the skill required to be good at it. It doesn’t mean you’ll be the best at it but you will understand it in greater detail. While it’s difficult to reinvent yourself completely after you’ve invested a lot of time in your primary skills, it is possible to enhance your offering by adding new functionality every year.

Contacts are the lifeblood of your career. While your references might not appear on your resume, they play a huge role in your access to opportunity. When I look at those LinkedIn professionals I’d like to emulate, I focus on their contacts. What titles do they have? What size companies do they work for? What alumni associations do they have? Naturally, we have a tendency to connect with people who are just like us, so we can relate to them more easily. Is it possible that this could be limiting our success? It’s certainly something to consider.

While the holidays are great times to consider the things we want to do next year, you should take some time to reflect on who you are and find a few areas that you can improve. No, I’m not talking about losing weight or whitening your teeth, although appearance is important too. I mean that about some developing some knowledge, skills or abilities that would make your more interesting to your employer or future employers.   Then, after you’ve begun building the newer you, update your profile and resume to reflect your changes.

Your resume (and social profiles) are a reflection of who you are. Let the world know that you are a vibrant, active, growing professional who is bent on continuous improvement. At the very least, you may just find something that will become a lifelong hobby, bringing you joy and happiness that your current job doesn’t offer. That will certainly bring you more balance in life.