Management Theory - Bad Bosses and Good Bosses

You know them: greedy know-it-all but know-nothing little psychopaths who think that the best way to motivate their staff is to criticize everything they do, and never to show any appreciation. How do you survive life with these Dickensian fools?

Step 1 is probably to keep your mouth shut whilst you quietly look for a better job! Bad managers are in fact the number one reason why most people quit their jobs. Here is a list of the typical characteristics of bad managers.

Bad managers:

  • have had no management training;
  • do not understand management theory or ‘empowerment’;
  • manage from the top down: they give orders, you obey, even when they’re wrong;
  • think they know everything but most definitely do not;
  • are cunning, greedy, infuriatingly lucky, stupid and have big egos;
  • get rid of anyone who makes it known that they know more than the manager;
  • tend towards paranoia as deep down they know how incompetent they are;
  • pretend to forget everyone’s name (because they are so much more important);
  • punish initiative then complain that everyone is stupid for showing no initiative;
  • prevent people from getting the job done without having to secretly work around their restrictions;
  • change working procedures without reference to how the job needs to be done;
  • make rules that they break themselves;
  • believe their employees are lazy, unambitious and in need of strong supervision;
  • use threat and coercion to enforce their rules;
  • blame everyone but themselves and the systems they’ve devised.

Such managers are known as “Theory X” managers. They believe people must be forced to work, basically. On the other hand, those with training and a suitable temperament are likely to be “Theory Y” managers, as follows.

Good managers:

  • have had management training, experience or at least have read the right books;
  • understand that staff know how to do their jobs and that they prefer to do them well;
  • understand that the manager’s role is to remove obstacles that are hindering the performance of tasks;
  • understand that staff who are given authority, freedom, respect and appreciation can do their jobs much more effectively;
  • consider that employees will be ambitious and self-motivated in the right environment;
  • know that the satisfaction of doing a job well can be the best motivation;
  • foster a climate of trust with the workers;
  • encourage good morality, spontaneity, creativity, tolerance, respect, and a focus on facts not ego;

Theory Y managers essentially believe that work is a natural part of life and people can satisfy their higher needs such as self-esteem and self actualization through achievement at work.

These are the two main theories of managers, and after a few years and a few jobs, most of us will have seen managers of both types. There are other types though, of which the most significant historically is known as Theory Z.

Theory Z comes from Japan, and focuses strongly on generating loyalty to the company by offering in return a job for life and concern for the well-being of the staff, both at work and in their home lives. Jobs for life are, however, beyond the capacity of most companies to offer these days. All workers must develop a thorough understanding of the company’s processes and issues, for example through job rotation and continuous training, so that they can all participate realistically in decision-making processes at all levels.