5 Tips for Failing Miserably as a Manager

There are many articles on tips for succeeding as a manager, but there aren’t any for those managers aspiring to failure. The benefits of failure are many: the chance to move away from a material lifestyle to a more parsimonious one, the free time to pursue the increasingly popular hobby of rummaging through dumpsters, and the opportunity to bond with other like-minded souls at the unemployment office, to name just a few. My research in brain science proves that these following tips are guaranteed to make any manager fail to achieve the results they intended:

Check with Your People Frequently to See If They Need Help.
Not only will this suck up huge amounts of your time, it will distract you from the more value-added strategic work you should be doing. Even better, though, it will drive your people nuts. Given their perspective, they’ll misinterpret it as you checking on them because you don’t trust their competence. They’ll become resentful and passive, ensuring that the performance of your business spirals downward.

Give Direct Feedback on Performance.
Even if you think it’s constructive, they won’t. Because it conflicts with their self-image, they’ll either reject the feedback or reject you. If it comes across even the least bit punitive, they’ll growl at you with aggression and be motivated to do exactly what the feedback tells them they shouldn’t. In other words, if you tell them “You could be better at punctuality” this will ensure that they won’t show up to work at all.

Set Stretch Objectives.
If they’re really a stretch, there’s no way people will be able to achieve them, and they’ll become so frustrated that they’ll stop even trying. Because the objectives come from you, rather than from them, you can bet they won’t be a good fit with the job. Plus, if you insist on managing only by the numbers, without reference to an aspirational vision, you’ll guarantee that people don’t use the emotional part of the brain. It will both sap their energy and bar them from accessing the past learning that allows them to make better decisions. So if you tell them to reach for the stars, they’ll instead reach for a sledgehammer with your name on it.

Focus on Behavior, Not Attitude or Intent.
If you tell people specifically what to do and don’t address the thinking behind the behavior, you can ensure they’ll do it badly. Without that overarching understanding, the behavior won’t fit the specific situation they find themselves in, different behaviors will conflict with one another, and they’ll be executed unwillingly. When AT&T insisted that operators say, “Thank you for calling AT&T,” their snarkiness reached new heights.

Install Tight Control Systems to Ensure the Right Behavior.
Control systems may just be the best tool for a manager that wants to fail. They signal that employees aren’t trusted to do the right thing and so demolish their loyalty. They’re costly and tend to squander resources, like the one that insisted on reports filed for even a fifty-dollar expense when it cost seventy-five dollars to process it. If they’re particularly irksome, employees will waste countless hours figuring out how to subvert them. Best of all, control systems eliminate any need for employees to feel they’re personally responsible for doing the right thing.

With proper attention to these tips, most managers should find themselves free to pursue other career options in a matter of months. There is a danger, however. In direct opposition to what we’re learning from brain science and management research, a number of organizations believe that this is the right way to manage. Should that be the case in your company, you may instead find yourself rapidly promoted up through the ranks in direct proportion to the lack of results you’ll achieve.

You’ll make a boat load of money in the short-term and sink the company in the long-term. The Board of Directors will eventually have to fire you, but you’ll leave with a nice severance package. Hey, everybody in finance has been doing it with proven results so why not you?

You’ll have to forego the camaraderie of the food bank and the carefree life of the homeless. But the mind is a wonderful thing. If you close your eyes and imagine hard enough, imported pate can taste just like the dog food the wiped-out shareholders in your company are forced to eat.

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