Better Management Through Incompetence

There’s alot of talk on the internet and even on this blog about how to be a better manager. There’s also alot of talk about how to be a better parent.

In The Blank Slate Pinker makes the case that being a better parent doesn’t really matter much. He cites research showing peers and genes as having a much greater if not total affect on how kids “turn out”. While I’m not sure I buy Pinker’s argument, as a parent it makes me feel both irritated and relieved depending on how the day is going with my kids.

I wonder then If there is not a similar issue with management. I mean maybe It doesn’t really matter at all if the manager is all that good. Maybe Its really just an issue of the strengths of the people on the team and the manager can have little or no effect on productivity. As with parenting, I think I’d like to think this is not true but somedays I’m not so convinced. In fact, lately I have begun to wonder if having truely horrible management can be a benefit in SOME cases.

If your people are pretty good and saddled with incompetent management they might simply quit which would be bad, but another thing that can happen is that they can all gel together tighter than they might otherwise. Not simply as a bunch of water cooler complaining about the boss but a real bonding where they all realize they have been hung out to dry and really have only each other. In some cases this will cause them to actually communicate and support each other better. Which would be the goal of a good manager if they had one.
I’m not saying that being a sucky manager is better than being a good one. I guess what I’m saying is that the most important thing you do as a manager is select the right people. Something thats not (yet) an option for most parents…






One response to “Better Management Through Incompetence”

  1. jonathan peterson Avatar

    I’ve had a couple jobs with crappy managers (in one case a wimpy doofus who would never stand up to unreasonable demands from upper management, and in the other a great immediate manager with a tyrannical, lying assbag for HIS boss).

    In both cases the teams did exactly as you said – pulling together and finishing the project despite the unreasonable demands. And in both cases 80% of the project team was gone from the company within 6 months of project completion and many of us stayed friends and have worked together since.

    FWIW – I’m thinking a lot of Hollywod movies get made this way.

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