How to deal with incompetent project managers

Here are five habits of highly incompetent managers and how to deal with these individuals.

1. Avoids making decisions. There is a time to self-reflect and gather information. There is also a time to fish or cut bait. This individual’s inability to reach a timely conclusion drives you crazy and contributes to organizational malaise. Not unusual for this type of manager to avoid putting anything in writing. Your only solution is to document everything that happens and email it back to them for verification.

2. Treats staff like personal servants. Stuck in a bygone era, these managers have an over inflated sense of importance and a lack of respect for subordinates. Their style would work successfully on pirate ships but is not a motivating influence in modern organizations. Best to disconnect your phone to avoid their midnight phone calls and lock your office door to hide from late Friday assignments due on Monday morning. Better yet…move to another state.

3. Is overly politically sensitive. At the top of this individual’s agenda is pleasing upper management. It comes before everything else including making the right decisions. Often collects facts only to ignore them or refuses to listen to bad news. Also has a difficult time staying on target or saying no to out of scope work. Avoids conflict by saying yes to everything instead of acting as a filter to prevent subordinate burnout. Deal with this manager by regularly presenting a list of your tasks and how many you can accomplish within your resource restraints. Wait for a prioritization or make your own.

4. Hides true project status. The bane of most complex projects, this program manager thinks risk avoidance means to only report the news that superiors want to hear. So, everything is always on schedule and within budget and everyone is happy – until everything and everyone isn’t. Then it is time to blame others. The only cure, other than backbone implant elective surgery, is to carefully document the correct project status and keep on chugging.

5. Is technically proficient but people impaired. Beware technical experts with poor people skills. Rather than admit to a lack of management acumen, these managers accept ever increasing levels of responsibility without the necessary training. Their compensation and stature is inversely related to the number of subordinates who enjoy working for them. Agency and company heads too often look the other way figuring it’s better to have a poor manager than none at all. These managers wallow in the details when they should concentrate on the bigger management issues. This will be a wonderful learning experience about how not to treat your staff when you get promoted.

– Mike Lisagor

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