Becoming A Terrible Manager – A Practical Guide

Are you tired of hearing about companies that care for their employees’ well-being? Are you one of those who doesn’t believe in people’s good faith, and you need to satisfy your most basic urges for control? You’re in the right place! This practical guide, comprised of one essential rule and 5 fun categories will show you all the tips and tricks you need to keep in mind. Be ready to become the most controlling, intractable, and maybe even the most bloodthirsty of all the managers in your company. So grab your pen, your notebook, your post-it notes. Your turnover rate had better watch out!

Relevant testimonials

“The Practical guide to becoming a terrible manager is an example of modern documentation for all organizations. I shall make it an official training document in my ministry.”

Dolores Umbridge, Senior Undersecretary, Ministry of Magic

“The capacity to oppress your peers isn’t innate to everyone. But there’s a way to become the top dog! The Practical guide to becoming a terrible manager will definitely help you put some teeth in your career very quickly.”

Ramsay Bolton, Lord of Winterell, amateur tyrant

The fundamental rule

All the decisions you make, all that you say, all that you communicate, express, transpire must contribute to strengthening your position of authority.

Let’s start with the basic rule, shall we? The pillar, the foundation of bad management. All that you do needs to be thought out, planned and prepared to fulfill this rule. If this guide was a Ted Talk, I’d repeat it 182 times to make sure that you’ll remember it. It’s that important. What is this ultimate rule? The foundation? The cornerstone of management? The secret sauce that makes the burger a success? It resides in strengthening your position of authority. All the decisions you make, all that you say, all that you communicate, express, transpire must contribute to strengthening your position of authority. Otherwise, how will work your way up the ranks? How can you expect to betray the CEO or the president of the company and take his place? Brutus had it all figured out.

1. Your management style

Your management style is the equivalent of a sub-pillar, the concrete from which the foundation is made… the slices of pickles that bring out all the taste in the secret burger sauce. Broadly speaking, the reflexes you live by.

1.1 Beat world record of tolerating the intolerable

Something’s definitely wrong? Your employees are complaining about the behavior of one of your minions? People are in psychological distress? The system to optimize harassment and bullying that you put in place isn’t unanimously adopted? The solution is quite simple. Don’t lift a finger. Tolerate this situation as long as possible. Wait for at least one-quarter of your team to resign, then fire those who were complaining, if any of them remain. With this approach, you will strengthen your position of authority by sending a clear message that you’re the boss. You could very well solve these difficult situations, but you elect not to, and this is the proof that you assert control over your employees’ lives and professional aspirations (in this order).

1.2 Divide and rule

A classic! It worked wonderfully for good old Julius Caesar, why wouldn’t it be good for you as well? Even Loki applied this formula in The Avengers. But, well, Loki kind of underestimated The Hulk. If you don’t work with The Hulk, it’ll be easy. You need to strengthen your position of authority by turning people against one another. And since the end justifies the means, all the means are good: promises, manipulation, lies, rumours. You can even use this to leverage the toxicity in your workplace. We’ll talk about this in the next chapter.

1.3 Enforce insurmountable limitations

Here, you want to strengthen your position of authority by imposing a working framework that’s absolutely inflexible. No exceptions. This means that everyone has a title and a job description that was designed specifically for them to be controlled. People are hired to do one thing, and one thing only. Anyone failing to follow this rule must be severely reprimanded. Refreshing, isn’t it? In short, to each their own. We’ll see later how to leverage this rule to prevent people from progressing professionally. I know! Exciting!

1.4 Don’t you dare being adaptable

Adapting to your employees? Do not make this beginner’s mistake. It’s their job to subject themselves to the rules. See that word? Subject? Let’s find out what the dictionary has to say about it:

Subject, noun

One that is placed under authority or control: such as

: a vassal
b (1) one subject to a monarch and governed by the monarch’s law
(2) one who lives in the territory of, enjoys the protection of, and owes allegiance to a sovereign power or state

Merriam-Webster Dictionary

What if there is no rule in particular for one situation? Easy peasy: create a brand new one. Strengthen your position of authority by stating that you treat everyone fairly and equally, but treat them differently by ensuring it serves your own interests. As long as the word subject applies to them in some way.

2. Your work environment

Your work environment is the territory you need to take over. Do this by meticulously, strategically and regularly sprinkling drops of your urine in every possible corner. Unless, of course, you prefer the good old pillory so that everyone can witness the state of your latest victim and understand their place in the hierarchy.

2.1 Objective: zero transparency

Transparency is dangerous. You say something, and not only do people dare listen to you, some will even believe what you say.

Transparency. It has become somewhat fashionable recently.  Another fad we have to get rid of, thanks to millennials. Your time to shine has come, as you need to bring opacity back in all this transparent nonsense. Transparency is dangerous. You say something, and not only do people dare listen to you, some will even believe what you say. No. Transparency gives them way too many opportunities to do their work for good reasons, and they could end up understanding the reality of the organization. And what next? Knowing the necessary information to work properly, or understanding your business domain is not a fundamental right, as far as I know.

Strengthen your position of authority by being as opaque as you can. Keep them in total obscurity, and they will need you to guide them. And we all know that guiding people means controlling people.

2.2 Juggle with organizational values

The most incredible thing about organizational values is that employees are completely satisfied with having a list of words printed on the wall. All you need to do is ensure that corporate values are represented by really vague words that can be interpreted in multiple ways. Require every employee to know those values by heart, and strengthen your position of authority by referring to those values only during your manipulation sessions with them.

Here’s a little trio of values that really works mostly everywhere:

  • Innovation
  • Transparency (lol)
  • Collaboration

A few conditions are required for this trio to become a success: don’t leave any room for initiative, monopolize all the information in your department, and decide with whom, when, how, and why people need to collaborate by coercion.

2.3 Be excited by toxicity

The ultimate pleasure is when a very indispensable employee says and does terrible things.

What’s fun with corporate toxicity is that you don’t need to invest in a hazmat suit in order to survive. You only need to spill your own toxic waste in the work environment. The important is to contribute. As long as you contribute, you’ll be safe and you’ll thrive. Create opportunities to strengthen your position of authority by encouraging competition among colleagues, starting rumours, laughing at sexist jokes, talking behind people’s back. And, of course, meet with other managers regularly to laugh at what employees are going through. The ultimate pleasure is when a very indispensable employee says and does terrible things. Reward him regularly and publicly. This way, people will understand that performance is more important than living together at work or in society.


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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