Becoming A Terrible Manager – A Practical Guide

3.1 Dictate all processes

You’re the boss, so you need to dictate how people work. It doesn’t matter if you’re an expert or not. And since you’re not the one to execute the work, you simply have much more time to find more efficient ways to control your ressources. The most efficient way to achieve this is to implement (and by this we mean impose) a process that’s absolutely impossible to follow by anyone. Make sure it’s totally inflexible, and that it won’t ever take into account any of your employees’ needs.

And most of all, strengthen your position of authority by educating your servants about how following processes is far more important than delivering any kind of product or service. Otherwise, they could bring value to the organization, which would deeply hurt your control freak manager image.

3.2 Make sure you know everything at all times

There’s a reason we dictate processes. You want to know everything at all times so that you can reprimand people punctually and on the spot. By knowing everything every second, you’ll be able to take credit for everything your team (miraculously) does well. Even before they know it themselves!

You want to know stuff even sooner? Strengthen your position of authority by granting a bonus to one or two snitches who can provide you with all the facts. And when this measure spreads in every department, you can say it was your idea!

3.3 Set your team up to fail

After generously volunteering to unilaterally implement processes for your troops, it will be a piece of cake (and such a pleasure) to set them all up to fail. As processes are optimized for your control and not to facilitate their work, nobody will succeed. They will all fail majestically.

Now’s the time to act! Invest a lot of time in scolding them at will, which is a pretty awesome way to strengthen your position of authority. And to make it even funnier, don’t forget to demand reports and spreadsheets as often as possible, and demolish publicly the poor messenger presenting it.

3.4 Make your team accountable, now that they can only fail

If you want to have interesting stories to tell other decision-makers during the upcoming Meetups, you can DICTATE processes AND make your team accountable! Hilarious! They have to follow YOUR process and it’s THEIR FAULT if they fail! You can even put this as an accomplishment on your LinkedIn profile. Make sure to stay quite passive-aggressive with their performance, and leverage point 2.4 of this guide: remind them that the team is overstaffed.

Strengthen your position of authority by making this as clear as possible: Successes? Thanks to your processes! Failure? They go straight in people’s files for the next annual performance review. And don’t hesitate to publicly  turn down any ideas to improve those processes.

3.5 Initiatives? FINISHiatives!

Employees who undertake initiatives are a threat. First of all, that’s YOUR job, not theirs. They also represent a huge risk. They could aspire to improve their work environment, which represents an affront to your position of authority. In such a case, you need to find a way to turn the situation to your advantage. Two options are possible when an underling draws a target on his own back by undertaking initiatives:

  • If some initiatives are successful, you should have had these ideas. Take credit for these ideas, implement them without including the people who had them. Reprimand them to make an example out of them.
  • If some initiatives fail, it’s because the ideas didn’t come from you. Reprimand the people who had this idea to make an example out of them.

4. Motivation

Money, rewards, bonuses, punishment, promises of promotion, threats of dismissal. AND NOTHING ELSE.

4.1 Swear by Theory X

I don’t really need to get into details on this topic. Since writing this guide means working, I’ll do as less as I can and simply copy what’s on Wikipedia. The difference is that whatever Wikipedia refers to as assumptions, we’ll call them facts.

Facts about Theory X
(source: Wikipedia. I’m not kidding, I didn’t invent anything.)

  • This management style assumes that the typical worker has little ambition, avoids responsibility, and is individual-goal oriented.
  • In general, Theory X style managers believe their employees are less intelligent, lazier, and work solely for a sustainable income.
  • Management believes employees’ work is based on their own self-interest.
  • Managers who believe employees operate in this manner are more likely to use rewards or punishments as motivation.
  • Due to these assumptions, Theory X concludes the typical workforce operates more efficiently under a hands-on approach to management.
  • Theory X managers believe all actions should be traceable to the individual responsible. This allows the individual to receive either a direct reward or a reprimand, depending on the outcome’s positive or negative nature.
  • This managerial style is more effective when used in a workforce that is not essentially motivated to perform.

Strengthen your position of authority by telling your colleagues the plain truth: being threatened so that they work harder is normal and it is their destiny. Forever.

4.2 Get rid of motivated people

In every organization, there is always a couple of bad apples in the bunch that try to contaminate their colleagues with their intrinsic motivation. As we could see in Theory X above, any kind of motivation that isn’t driven by reward or fear is not natural.

Leverage this heresy and strengthen your position of authority by getting rid of these disturbed people who can only be of impure blood. Kick them out of your department by turning their weapons against them. Intrinsic motivation preachers keep suggesting unholy ideas reminiscent of the conspiracy theories about Earth being round. According to them, motivation is a mixture of autonomy, mastery and purpose.

So, simply strike at the heart of the problem by removing autonomy at all levels, refuse any training request, and keep repeating as often as you can that the only purpose of their work is to fill the bank accounts of the company’s owners and investors, and nothing else.

4.3 Make good use of the carrot and the stick

Rewards for all of those who work more than 60 hours, punishment for all of those who are late, take breaks, ask for a day off, have a family.

And if you feel like creating a new movement in the organization, you could strengthen your position of authority by taking this chapter literally. Only reward people with carrots, and beat them with the stick if they work less than the 75 weekly hours that are necessary for you to ever consider a possible and hypothetical annual salary adjustment. Also, remember that a salary adjustment can be on the downward side.

5. Career

I know. One could have thought that we’d be talking about YOUR career since this is what really counts. But no, we’ll be talking about a fairy tale that was born out of mass hysteria: the career of your underlings.

5.1 Hear them out. But, like, that’s it.

You’re a manager, you can’t avoid it. People will insist to waste your precious time with nonsense such as their aspirations, their professional growth, their career development, opportunities for advancement. They’ve got some nerve, right? If they want opportunities for advancement, they should have become managers! So once you’re annual 1-on-1 meeting with them is almost over, whatever happens when your brain comes back online, your first words must be “I hear what you’re saying”. The rest matters not. You heard them, nothing forces you to process the information, or even remember it. Of course, they will probably interrupt your important work a few months later to ask if there is any news about their request. When this happens, say “it’s on the top of the pile”.

Strengthen your position of authority by dragging it out as long as possible. The possibility that you might one day consider imagining the eventuality of promoting them, they should be motivated enough to provide a better performance in the long run.

5.2 Chain your employees to their chair

If your employee starts insisting more and more, and ends up weeping in your office, it might be the time to announce the decision that you took as soon as they were hired. “We considered your request. But you benefit more to the company (and myself) by staying in your current position”. And for a more dramatic effect, don’t hesitate to add “It was a business decision”. Boom!

As if this wasn’t strengthening your position of authority enough, you can even consider taking this chapter literally, and actually chain them to their chair. Chains and adult diapers are an excellent investment in your resources.

5.3 There’s a job opening? Start a reality office game!

Imagine that suddenly, there is a new job opening that’s coveted by two of your current employees. Difficult decision? NOT AT ALL! It’s an opportunity to have fun! Here’s the concept of a reality office game. Meet both candidates separately, and tell them both exactly this: you’ll consider their interest in the position, but you have an especially good feeling about the other candidate and you’ll think about it for a while. And leave things exactly like that for a while. For a month or two. Both employees will willingly take over the work left by the opening, just to show their devotion and interest! The work will get done by itself! You’re a genius! Film them while they are completely overworked, and document this. Give them challenges, problems that are impossible to solve, and witness how they fight like the devil just to be the chosen one.

If the situation can’t go on any longer and the opening needs to be filled at all costs, strengthen your position of authority by hiring someone not from within the company who will become your minion. That should put them back in their place, which is on their chair, where they belong. That’ll teach them to be hopeful.


This is where I announce that I’m done spilling my sarcasm and cynicism. Of course, I greatly exaggerated all the situations in this guide to make it funny. I hope it allowed some of you to have a good laugh (or to let off some steam) following some situations you might have been through. Know that ALL the situations depicted in this guide were inspired by REAL situations that I witnessed directly or indirectly.

In reality, you don’t have to master all the theory of this guide to become a terrible manager. It’s much easier than that, and that’s the danger. You only have to choose 2 or 3 points from this guide, and apply it with a lot of passion.

Did you recognize a former (or current) manager in this absurd guide? Let me know!

Olivier Fortier
Olivier Fortier
OLIVIER Fortier is first and foremost a believer in human beings. Owner of the blog Primos Populi -- which is Latin for People First -- his focus is to find innovative ways to bring back (and keep) people at the core of businesses, and ensure they can thrive. A manager, agilist, servant leader, facilitator, and former Scrum Master, all of these interesting titles and roles represent only the means to achieve what he truly believes in: cultivating people's awesomeness. His favorite things to reflect on are leader-leader relationships, psychological safety and the right to fail, career and personal development, humanity in recruitment, and how to lower the center of gravity of decision-making processes. Considering that businesses wouldn't exist without people, can one imagine how powerful it would be if all employees wholeheartedly wanted to be in their organizations, and wanted to do what they do? This is the work world Olivier wants to live in, and the goal he set for himself.




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