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Good People, Bad Managers
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Good People, Bad Managers

Samuel A. Culbert

How Work Culture Corrupts Good Intentions

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17 mins
7 key ideas
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What's it about?
Management & Leadership
Corporate Culture

Good People, Bad Managers (2017) argues that the culture of the modern American workplace is perpetuating bad management without our being aware of it. The current management culture of self-preservation leads to behavior that actively harms well-being, productivity and motivation. Culbert explores why so many good people are trapped in the cycle of bad management, and makes a case for cultural change in our workplaces.

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Though most managers have good intentions, low-quality management has become the norm in many workplaces.

People around the world admire the work culture in the United States. American businesses are perceived as successful and innovative, so couldn’t you assume that these companies have flexible, kind, talented and effective managers? Sadly, this is not the case.

In reality, bad management is the rule, not the exception.

Annual polling by US research company Gallup finds that four out of five people in management don’t have the talent to manage effectively. While there are many exceptions, particularly in start-ups and small businesses, the prevailing experience of employees in most companies and organizations includes bad management. Interestingly enough, results of an academic study showed that the most useful thing a manager can do to help employees is simply leave them alone when they are working productively, rather than offer misguided help.

Additionally, bad management is so entrenched in our work culture that people expect it, shrug it off or don’t even notice it.

Just consider the actions of Carly Fiorina, one of the 2016 Republican presidential candidates. In 2006, when she was CEO of Hewlett Packard, Fiorina secretly eavesdropped on the IT company’s board of directors. For this, she was fired. Nonetheless, she was invited to join the board of the telecommunications company AT&T, and, when she ran for US Senate in 2010, she won the votes of more than four million Californians. So, despite her poor management, people were able to forgive or ignore her misbehavior in the context of workplace culture.

But bad management must not be ignored; it should come under heavier scrutiny. Think of how much more profitable businesses could be, and how high the level of employee satisfaction could rise, if bad management weren’t so commonplace. To find out why it’s become so common, let’s move on to the next blink.

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