Can Anything Be Done About A Bad Manager?

Does any organization take intelligent suggestions by people on the lowest rungs seriously? Or is the modern organization run like a ship where the captain won’t change course to avoid the iceberg because he’s told about it by the guy who pumps the bilges rather than the navigator?


A while ago, a friend of mine mentioned that all the people in his unit were having troubles with their manager. The manager was late or simply never turned up to meetings that they called, rarely remembered what they’d asked people to work on and very short of temper. After this behavior had continued for several months my friend asked what he should do about it as the department’s output was suffering. My advice was to start looking for another job because I was cynical enough to believe that there was little that my friend could do. My friend believed that he had a good relationship with his manager’s superior and that perhaps this superior could do something about it.


I thought that was a mistake. If the superior was doing their job, my friend’s manager wouldn’t have got away with being so flaky for so long.


Unfortunately, my friend had drunk the magical “open door policy” potion and believed that he could “effect change”. After consulting with his colleagues, he headed a delegation to the superior to discuss the issue of the manager. The superior gave them a good hearing and promised that action would be forthcoming.


All that the ensuring mediation achieved was that my friend’s manager fingered him as a troublemaker. The manager was still flaky, still missed meetings and still seemed to have no idea what the people that reported to him were actually working on, but now my friend had a black mark on his record for trying to do something about it.


My thoughts on this type of situation are that few businesses have good processes for dealing with problematic managers. Those that report to the manager can’t really do anything. A problem will only be dealt with if the person that the manager reports to notices that the manager is having trouble managing the team.


My advice is if you find yourself in that sort of situation is to start looking for a new job elsewhere. Once you are safely ensconced in a new position, you can send a few emails to the appropriate higher ups if you feel that it might help your former co-workers. Organizations might have a party line that they are open for constructive feedback, but you’ll likely find that the result of making waves is getting yourself thrown out of the boat.

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