Why is it so great to be a manager? Because finally, after all those years of butt-kissing, pride swallowing, teeth clenching agony, it’s your turn on top. You’re the boss now. What you say goes.

It’s time for people to kiss your butt and fear your wrath. And it’s time for you to get your hands on that expense account and car allowance you’ve heard so much about.

It’s your time.

That’s how it works, right? It must be because that’s what you’ve witnessed over and over: new managers ascend to their roles and start flexing their new authority. Then they manage their teams the way they themselves have always been managed.

If that’s what you think being in charge means, please spare us all and stay right where you are.

For far too long, promotions to management have been handed out as rewards for succeeding at something completely unrelated.

If you’re a strong contributor and you don’t make trouble, and if your boss likes you, you stand a decent chance of becoming a manager.

It makes no difference whether you know anything about managing. Or whether you know how to motivate a team. You don’t need to be empathetic or intuitive. Honestly, you don’t even have to be a very good human being.

The result of this decades-old cycle is legions of managers who believe they are entitled to their roles but have no idea what they’re doing. They have created abusive, unproductive workplaces and – according to Gallup – cost American companies hundreds of billions of dollars in turnover and lost opportunity every year.

The Alternative

To break this cycle, companies must focus on promoting people who have the character traits all good managers have.

Good managers are collaborative. They’re good listeners and good communicators. They aren’t in it for the ego boost, and they don’t flaunt their authority and grind down their people. They use their position to nurture and promote their teams, give them context, make sure everyone is at the same level. Their focus is on the people, the product, and the business.

Bad managers – most managers – believe it’s all about them. They think their teams are there to tend to their needs and respond to their whims. They think they got their jobs because they are somehow exceptional. This makes them dismissive and resistant to input. Their focus is on themselves, protecting their egos, and staying on the boss’s good side.

Deep down, most bad managers know they lack something. Management makes them uncomfortable. They become overly aggressive, or they withdraw or focus exclusively on managing up. And they get insecure and defensive.

Insecure, defensive managers get in their own way. They can’t possibly keep their eyes on the business. So there’s no way they can inspire great work or nurture new leaders or create a safe space for innovation.

But they can turn enthusiastic employees into frustrated clock-punchers. They can chase away top performers who easily find more rewarding work elsewhere. And they can put a real dent in a company’s bottom line.


To learn more about how to be a successful manager, read Don’t Be a Dick Manager: The Down & Dirty Guide to Management. It’s the management training you never got, available on Kindle and in paperback from Amazon.com. The audiobook is available from AmazonAudible and iTunes.

Do you think you might be a dick manager? Take the quiz!

“Cheese!” by ShardsOfBlue is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0