Are you tired of hearing about companies that care for their employees’ well-being? Are you one of those who don’t believe in people’s good faith, and you need to satisfy your most basic urges for control? You’re at the right place!
This practical guide, comprised of one essential rule and 5 fun categories will show you all the tips and tricks you need to keep in mind. Be ready to become the most controlling, intractable, and maybe even the most bloodthirsty of all the managers in your company.
So grab your pen, your notebook, your post-it notes. Your turnover rate had better watch out!
“The Practical guide to becoming a terrible manager is an example of modern documentation for all organizations. I shall make it an official training document in my ministry.”
Dolores Umbridge, Senior Undersecretary, Ministry of Magic
“The capacity to oppress your peers isn’t innate to everyone. But there’s a way to become the top dog! The Practical guide to becoming a terrible manager will definitely help you put some teeth in your career very quickly.”
Ramsay Bolton, Lord of Winterell, amateur tyrant
The fundamental rule
Let’s start with the basic rule, shall we? The pillar, the foundation of bad management. All that you do needs to be thought out, planned and prepared to fulfill this rule. If this guide was a Ted Talk, I’d repeat it 182 times to make sure that you’ll remember it. It’s that important.
What is this ultimate rule? The foundation? The cornerstone of management? The secret sauce that makes the burger a success? It resides in strengthening your position of authority.
All the decisions you make, all that you say, all that you communicate, express, transpire must contribute to strengthening your position of authority. Otherwise, how will work your way up the ranks? How can you expect to betray the CEO or the president of the company and take his place? Brutus had it all figured out.
1. Your management style
Your management style is the equivalent of a sub-pillar, the concrete from which the foundation is made… the slices of pickles that bring out all the taste in the secret burger sauce. Broadly speaking, the reflexes you live by.
1.1 Beat world record of tolerating the intolerable
Something’s definitely wrong? Your employees are complaining about the behavior of one of your minions? People are in psychological distress? The system to optimize harassment and bullying that you put in place isn’t unanimously adopted?
The solution is quite simple. Don’t lift a finger. Tolerate this situation as long as possible. Wait for at least one quarter of your team to resign, then fire those who were complaining, if any of them remain.
With this approach, you will strengthen your position of authority by sending a clear message that you’re the boss. You could very well solve these difficult situations, but you elect not to, and this is the proof that you assert control over your employees’ lives and professional aspirations (in this order).
1.2 Divide and rule
A classic! It worked wonderfully for good old Julius Caesar, why wouldn’t it be good for you as well? Even Loki applied this formula in The Avengers. But, well, Loki kind of underestimated The Hulk.
If you don’t work with The Hulk, it’ll be easy. You need to strengthen your position of authority by turning people against one another. And since the end justifies the means, all the means are good: promises, manipulation, lies, rumours. You can even use this to leverage the toxicity in your workplace. We’ll talk about this in the next chapter.
1.3 Enforce insurmountable limitations
Here, you want to strengthen your position of authority by imposing a working framework that’s absolutely inflexible. No exceptions.
This means that everyone has a title and a job description that were designed specifically for them to be controlled. People are hired to do one thing, and one thing only. Anyone failing to follow this rule must be severely reprimanded. Refreshing, isn’t it?
In short, to each their own. We’ll see later how to leverage this rule to prevent people from progressing professionally. I know! Exciting!
1.4 Don’t you dare being adaptable
Adapting to your employees? Do not make this beginner’s mistake. It’s their job to subject themselves to the rules. See that word? Subject? Let’s find out what the dictionary has to say about it:
One that is placed under authority or control: such as
a : a vassal
b (1) : one subject to a monarch and governed by the monarch’s law
(2) : one who lives in the territory of, enjoys the protection of, and owes allegiance to a sovereign power or state
What if there is no rule in particular for one situation? Easy peasy : create a brand new one. Strengthen your position of authority by stating that you treat everyone fairly and equally, but treat them differently by ensuring it serves your own interests. As long as the word subject applies to them in some way.
2. Your work environment
Your work environment is the territory you need to take over. Do this by meticulously, strategically and regularly sprinkling drops of your urine in every possible corner. Unless, of course, you prefer the good old pillory so that everyone can witness the state of your latest victim and understand their place in the hierarchy.
2.1 Objective: zero transparency
Transparency. It has become somewhat fashionable recently. Another fad we have to get rid of, thanks to millennials. Your time to shine has come, as you need to bring opacity back in all this transparent nonsense.
Transparency is dangerous. You say something, and not only do people dare listen to you, some will even believe what you say. No. Transparency gives them way too many opportunities to do their work for the good reasons, and they could end up understanding the reality of the organization.
And what next? Knowing the necessary information to work properly, or understanding your business domain is not a fundamental right, as far as I know.
Strengthen your position of authority by being as opaque as you can. Keep them in total obscurity, and they will need you to guide them. And we all know that guiding people means controlling people.
2.2 Juggle with organizational values
The most incredible thing about organizational values is that employees are completely satisfied with having a list of words printed on the wall. All you need to do is ensure that corporate values are represented by really vague words that can be interpreted in multiple ways.
Require every employee to know those values by heart, and strengthen your position of authority by referring to those values only during your manipulation sessions with them.
Here’s a little trio of values that really works mostly everywhere:
- Transparency (lol)
A few conditions are required for this trio to become a success: don’t leave any room for initiative, monopolize all the information in your department, and decide with whom, when, how, and why people need to collaborate by coercion.
2.3 Be excited by toxicity
What’s fun with corporate toxicity is that you don’t need to invest in a hazmat suit in order to survive. You only need to spill your own toxic waste in the work environment.
The important is to contribute. As long as you contribute, you’ll be safe and you’ll thrive. Create opportunities to strengthen your position of authority by encouraging competition among colleagues, starting rumours, laughing at sexist jokes, talking behind people’s back. And, of course, meet with other managers regularly to laugh at what employees are going through.
The ultimate pleasure is when a very indispensable employee says and does terrible things. Reward him regularly and publicly. This way, people will understand that performance is more important than living together at work or in society.
2.4 Fear, your greatest ally
Fear will always be your greatest ally. Ensure that contracts are as restricting as possible so that people are afraid to leave. You want to be the one to decide who stays and who leaves, remember?
Treat yourself and strengthen your position of authority by installing a comprehensive set of fear-enabling reflexes: no right to fail, no right to be late, no right to miss work. Go further and help people excel by allowing uncertainty to creep in. Tell them that the department is overstaffed and 2 or 3 people might have to leave. But always repeat that you are a family (who cares if it’s dysfunctional, no one has the right to call the Direction of Youth Protection).
Ever feel mischievous? Let them know that you’re thinking of installing a software that would allow you to access all their private discussions. It’ll be the funniest thing, especially if you already have access to their private discussions.
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3. Teams and processes
I won’t mince words or tolerate political correctness here. Teams and processes are euphemisms for exploited workers and your way to control them.
3.1 Dictate all processes
You’re the boss, so you need to dictate how people work. It doesn’t matter if you’re an expert or not. And since you’re not the one to execute the work, you simply have much more time to find more efficient ways to control your ressources.
The most efficient way to achieve this is to implement (and by this we mean impose) a process that’s absolutely impossible to follow by anyone. Make sure it’s totally inflexible, and that it won’t ever take into account any of your employees’ needs.
And most of all, strengthen your position of authority by educating your servants about how following processes is far more important than delivering any kind of product or service. Otherwise, they could bring value to the organization, which would deeply hurt your control freak manager image.
3.2 Make sure you know everything at all times
There’s a reason we dictate processes. You want to know everything at all times so that you can reprimand people punctually and on the spot. By knowing everything every second, you’ll be able to take credit for everything your team (miraculously) does well. Even before they know it themselves!
You want to know stuff even sooner? Strengthen your position of authority by granting a bonus to one or two snitches who can provide you with all the facts. And when this measure spreads in every department, you can say it was your idea!
3.3 Set your team up to fail
After generously volunteering to unilaterally implement processes for your troops, it will be a piece of cake (and such a pleasure) to set them all up to fail. As processes are optimized for your control and not to facilitate their work, nobody will succeed. They will all fail majestically.
Now’s the time to act! Invest a lot of time in scolding them at will, which is a pretty awesome way to strengthen your position of authority. And to make it even funnier, don’t forget to demand reports and spreadsheets as often as possible, and demolish publicly the poor messenger presenting it.
3.4 Make your team accountable, now that they can only fail
If you want to have interesting stories to tell other decision-makers during the upcoming Meetups, you can DICTATE processes AND make your team accountable! Hilarious! They have to follow YOUR process and it’s THEIR FAULT if they fail! You can even put this as an accomplishment on your LinkedIn profile.
Make sure to stay quite passive-aggressive with their performance, and leverage point 2.4 of this guide: remind them that the team is overstaffed.
Strengthen your position of authority by making this as clear as possible: Successes? Thanks to your processes! Failure? They go straight in people’s files for the next annual performance review. And don’t hesitate to publicly turn down any ideas to improve those processes.
3.5 Initiatives? FINISHiatives!
Employees who undertake initiatives are a threat. First of all, that’s YOUR job, not theirs. They also represent a huge risk. They could aspire to improve their work environment, which represents an affront to your position of authority.
In such a case, you need to find a way to turn the situation to your advantage. Two options are possible when an underling draws a target on his own back by undertaking initiatives:
- If some initiatives are successful, you should have had these ideas. Take credit for these ideas, implement them without including the people who had them. Reprimand them to make an example out of them.
- If some initiatives fail, it’s because the ideas didn’t come from you. Reprimand the people who had this idea to make an example out of them.
Money, rewards, bonuses, punishment, promises of promotion, threats of dismissal. AND NOTHING ELSE.
4.1 Swear by Theory X
I don’t really need to get into details on this topic. Since writing this guide means working, I’ll do as less as I can and simply copy what’s on Wikipedia. The difference is that whatever Wikipedia refers to as assumptions, we’ll call them facts.
Facts about Theory X
(source: Wikipedia. I’m not kidding, I didn’t invent anything.)
- This management style assumes that the typical worker has little ambition, avoids responsibility, and is individual-goal oriented.
- In general, Theory X style managers believe their employees are less intelligent, lazier, and work solely for a sustainable income.
- Management believes employees’ work is based on their own self-interest.
- Managers who believe employees operate in this manner are more likely to use rewards or punishments as motivation.
- Due to these assumptions, Theory X concludes the typical workforce operates more efficiently under a hands-on approach to management.
- Theory X managers believe all actions should be traceable to the individual responsible. This allows the individual to receive either a direct reward or a reprimand, depending on the outcome’s positive or negative nature.
- This managerial style is more effective when used in a workforce that is not essentially motivated to perform.
Strengthen your position of authority by telling your colleagues the plain truth: being threatened so that they work harder is normal and it is their destiny. Forever.
4.2 Get rid of motivated people
In every organization, there is always a couple of bad apples in the bunch that try to contaminate their colleagues with their intrinsic motivation. As we could see in Theory X above, any kind of motivation that isn’t driven by reward or fear is not natural.
Leverage this heresy and strengthen your position of authority by getting rid of these disturbed people who can only be of impure blood. Kick them out of your department by turning their weapons against them. Intrinsic motivation preachers keep suggesting unholy ideas reminiscent of the conspiracy theories about Earth being round. According to them, motivation is a mixture of autonomy, mastery and purpose.
So, simply strike at the heart of the problem by removing autonomy at all levels, refuse any training request, and keep repeating as often as you can that the only purpose of their work is to fill the bank accounts of the company’s owners and investors, and nothing else.
4.3 Make good use of the carrot and the stick
Rewards for all of those who work more than 60 hours, punishment for all of those who are late, take breaks, ask for a day off, have a family.
And if you feel like creating a new movement in the organization, you could strengthen your position of authority by taking this chapter literally. Only reward people with carrots, and beat them with the stick if they work less than the 75 weekly hours that are necessary for you to ever consider a possible and hypothetical annual salary adjustment. Also, remember that a salary adjustment can be on the downward side.
I know. One could have thought that we’d be talking about YOUR career since this is what really counts. But no, we’ll be talking about a fairy tale that was born out of mass hysteria: the career of your underlings.
5.1 Hear them out. But, like, that’s it.
You’re a manager, you can’t avoid it. People will insist to waste your precious time with nonsense such as their aspirations, their professional growth, their career development, opportunities for advancement. They’ve got some nerve, right? If they want opportunities for advancement, they should have become managers!
So once you’re annual 1-on-1 meeting with them is almost over, whatever happens when your brain comes back online, your first words must be “I hear what you’re saying”. The rest matters not. You heard them, nothing forces you to process the information, or even remember it.
Of course, they will probably interrupt your important work a few months later to ask if there is any news about their request. When this happens, say “it’s on the top of the pile”.
Strengthen your position of authority by dragging it out as long as possible. The possibility that you might one day consider imagining the eventuality of promoting them, they should be motivated enough to provide a better performance in the long run.
5.2 Chain your employees to their chair
If your employee starts insisting more and more, and ends up weeping in your office, it might be the time to announce the decision that you took as soon as they were hired.
“We considered your request. But you benefit more to the company (and myself) by staying in your current position”. And for a more dramatic effect, don’t hesitate to add “It was a business decision”. Boom!
As if this wasn’t strengthening your position of authority enough, you can even consider taking this chapter literally, and actually chain them to their chair. Chains and adult diapers are an excellent investment in your resources.
5.3 There’s a job opening? Start a reality office game!
Imagine that suddenly, there is a new job opening that’s coveted by two of your current employees. Difficult decision? NOT AT ALL! It’s an opportunity to have fun!
Here’s the concept of a reality office game. Meet both candidates separately, and tell them both exactly this: you’ll consider their interest in the position, but you have an especially good feeling about the other candidate and you’ll think about it for a while. And leave things exactly like that for a while. For a month or two.
Both employees will willingly take over the work left by the opening, just to show their devotion and interest! The work will get done by itself! You’re a genius! Film them while they are completely overworked, and document this. Give them challenges, problems that are impossible to solve, and witness how they fight like the devil just to be the chosen one.
If the situation can’t go on any longer and the opening needs to be filled at all costs, strengthen your position of authority by hiring someone not from within the company who will become your minion. That should put them back in their place, which is on their chair, where they belong. That’ll teach them to be hopeful.
This is where I announce that I’m done spilling my sarcasm and cynicism. Of course, I greatly exaggerated all the situations in this guide to make it funny. I hope it allowed some of you to have a good laugh (or to let off some steam) following some situations you might have been through.
Know that ALL the situations depicted in this guide were inspired by REAL situations that I witnessed directly or indirectly.
In reality, you don’t have to master all the theory of this guide to become a terrible manager. It’s much easier than that, and that’s the danger. You only have to choose 2 or 3 points from this guide, and apply it with a lot of passion.
Did you recognize a former (or current) manager in this absurd guide? Let me know!
Stay tuned for a book inspired by this guide in 2019
Owner of Primos Populi, partner and coach at Moabi. As a former manager, I prefer to use a “people first, the rest will follow” kind of approach. My favorite topics are organizational culture, safe work environments, and lowering the center of gravity of the decision making process. I cultivate people’s awesomeness.