The All-Time Worst Managers

Published: Jan 24, 2019
Modified: Mar 24, 2020

In his book The Accidental Manager (AMACOM, 2003), management consultant Gary S. Topchik describes the 10 all-time worst managerial types, along with strategies to avoid turning into any of them. He writes, "At their worst, these managers demoralize their staff and negatively impact the productivity and/or profitability of their departments and organizations."

So watch your step. Topchik maintains that "any manager can wind up on this list."

Here, then, as a public service to employees and managers everywhere, is Topchik's "All-Time Worst Manager List," along with the key symptoms exhibited by each type. If any of these negative managerial archetypes sounds like you, change your behavior by following the directions listed in the corresponding "remedy" section. (Adapted from The Accidental Manager).

1. The Noncommunicator

Symptoms: Unsociable, not interested in exchanging ideas, thoughts, or opinions. Secretive and impossible to read. Has a closed-door policy, avoids holding meetings, and may walk past people as if in a trance. Verbal responses are one or two words delivered with a hurry-up, "get this over fast" attitude.

Remedy: Ask questions, clarify what you've heard, and summarize. Pay close attention not only to the verbal content of your own messages and the messages of others, but to the nonverbal signals as well (e.g., body language and tone of voice).

2. The Management Knocker

Symptoms: Ridicules the management role by saying that anyone can be a manager and that managers' jobs are not important. Puts himself down for being in that role and teases those in higher-level positions by pointing out that they aren't doing "real work." Doesn't hide his feelings about not wanting to be in this new managerial role.

Remedy: Communicate to your team that although managing was not your original career choice, you are going to be the best possible manager. Always speak about your department/organization in constructive terms. When a manager sees the positive impact he has on his staff, he will feel more successful and learn to enjoy his management job.

3. The Task Monger

Symptoms: Rarely smiles or changes his facial expression; looks stern and unhappy. Tends to micromanage—"their way or the highway." Speaks in a monotone, except when a deadline is approaching and he has not gotten what he needs. Then he explodes.

Remedy: Managers need to be supportive by encouraging their team members, getting them involved in decision making that impacts their work, and giving them a lot of recognition when they deserve it. By demonstrating more of these supportive skills, you will get the performance you want much more easily than by being a task monger.

4. The Best Friend

Symptoms: Looks the other way when work is late or procedures are not being followed. Makes excuses for team members; never confronts them. Socializes with his team both at work and outside the office. Is always cheerful and smiling; tries not to take anything too seriously.

Remedy: It is fine to be friends or friendly with the people you manage, but work always comes first. Explain to the staff what you expect from them, what they can expect from you, what their goals are and how you plan on working together with them. Emphasize that the quality, quickness, and quantity (the "3 Qs") of their work should be everyone's primary focus in the workplace.

5. The Limelight Taker

Symptoms: Likes to be the center of attention. Enjoys taking all of the credit for good work. Brags to other departments or upper management about how well the group is doing because of her. Wants everyone in the company to believe that disaster would occur it weren't for her.

Remedy: One of the keys to managerial success is being able to rely on your staff to help you accomplish your department's objectives. Develop staff members by training them and delegating to them. Work with them. Give them the recognition they deserve and share the limelight with them.

6. The Self-Castigator

Symptoms: Has low self-esteem; finds fault with his own work performance, and is very self-critical. When a subordinate makes a mistake or a customer complains, the self-castigator will take the blame.

Remedy: People will respect their manager more if he speaks up, asks for help, and is more concerned with success. Identify specific behavior you would like to change and which alternative behavior should take its place. Seek out one or more trustworthy individuals who can give you honest feedback. Remember, staff members may lose their own self-confidence if their manager isn't confident.

7. The Waffler

Symptoms: Procrastinates in making decisions. Explores every possible option and spends time looking for more data. Asks others for their opinions. Busies himself with other projects or work in order to avoid having to make a decision.

Remedy: Set strict decision-making deadlines for yourself. Make sure others are aware of the deadline so that they will hold you accountable.

8. The Braggart

Symptoms: Will tell anyone who asks (and many who do not) how good he is in anything he does. Will brag at a meeting, to an individual team member, on the phone with a customer, or at the car wash.

Remedy: Let your excellent work performance and high skill level speak for you. There is no need to continually tell others about your accomplishments. Get down to the business of managing and realize that it is your role to develop your team members.

9. The Deceiver

Symptoms: Lies, embellishes the truth, or makes up stories. Deceives others because he does not want to recognize or doesn't know what is really happening or likes to see the strong emotional reactions of others.

Remedy: It is better to tell someone the truth, even if it's unpleasant at first. Eventually team members will find out that a manager has lied, and the relationship will be destroyed. If you have lied, admit it as soon as possible so that the relationship may still be salvaged.

10. The Exaggerator Congratulator

Symptoms: Praises everyone he comes in contact with, using grandiose terminology. Tends to overlook or minimize problems and to laugh things off.

Remedy: Praise must be genuine and sincere as well as specific. Stop the bull and get down to business: set goals and standards, monitor performance, train, delegate, give constructive feedback, and so forth.

Learn more about The Accicental Manager.