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Ask Slashdot: How Do You Deal With a Terrible Tech Manager? 140

snydeq writes: From the Know It All to the Overwhelmer, succeeding beneath a bad manager takes strategy and finesse, writes Paul Heltzel in his round-up of bad IT bosses and how to keep them from derailing your career. "While there are truly great leaders in IT, not all inspire confidence. Worse, you can't always choose who will lead your team. But you can always map out new paths in your career. With that in mind, here is a look at some prototypically bad managers you may have already encountered in your engineering departments, with tips on how to deal with each of them." The six "terrible tech managers" mentioned by Heltzel include: "The Know It All," "The Pushover," "The Micromanager," "The Unexpected Boss," "The Fearful Manager," and "The Overwhelmer." Have you ever worked for any of these managers? If so, how did you deal with them?
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Ask Slashdot: How Do You Deal With a Terrible Tech Manager?

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  • Easy (Score:4, Funny)

    by TroII ( 4484479 ) on Monday April 03, 2017 @08:12PM (#54167767)

    I send him a link to Breitbart. Before long he's spending all day tracking down pizza parlors and gay frogs, and staying out of everyone's hair at work.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Interesting. We send ours links to articles about how innocuous things like office air conditioning are examples of racist, sexist, islamophobic, colonialism.. they spend all day tracking the sexism down in the ducts, adding some entertainment to otherwise dull days.

  • by Tough Love ( 215404 ) on Monday April 03, 2017 @08:18PM (#54167785)

    Left out a kind of terrible manager: The Complete Psycho. Unfortunately, too common.

    • *THIS*

      I tried getting out from under one and was retaliated against and ultimately was terminated (with 17 years of good to outstanding reviews behind me) by a railroad job from said psychopathic asshat.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 03, 2017 @08:21PM (#54167799)

    First you bring up the issue with the boss's boss. If nothing is done, then you quit. If you're good at what you do in technology you shouldn't have trouble finding work anyway. If you're useless or burnt out, maybe you can apply to be the next terrible tech manager. Many of them started that way and got "promoted out of the way".

    • by smillie ( 30605 )
      The last company I worked for had us IT guys scattered around the country so we had weekly conference calls with the boss. Every now and then they had a "jump" call where the bosses boss hosted the converence call and the boss wasn't supposed to be there. That way anyone could complain without the boss knowing who said what. My trusting nature was on strike that day so I suggested that one company change that was mentioned meant that I should start looking for a new job.

      Not one minute after the call ends

  • 1. Scram (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Monday April 03, 2017 @08:24PM (#54167807) Journal

    Get out if you can! It's not worth your health and sanity to stay for a bit more money.

    I had a sinister boss during a past slump, and had to wait a while to find another company. Economic slumps suck: choices die faster than summer daisies in Death Valley.

  • He had all of the theory and none of the practice. I eventually quit, but he "decided to leave" a little later.

  • Oh ... my. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by buss_error ( 142273 ) on Monday April 03, 2017 @08:27PM (#54167831) Homepage Journal

    I've had a boss that was all of these. Very frustrating.

    I've often wondered why folks in tech expect 24x7 access to their employees. If you work at Burger King, you don't have to put in 90 or 100 hour weeks - or if you do, it's with overtime pay. But if you're in tech, this seems to be the default expectation and don't you dare ask for overtime or even a bonus. Gosh no. Don't expect profit sharing either.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      They think it makes them look like good, tough managers, squeezing so much time out of employees. In reality, they're increasing the odds those employees leave and the company will have to deal with a constant rotation of employees who have to keep learning the products from scratch and don't have a personal connection to them, so it will be more difficult to track down deeper issues and make major changes. Also, I just don't think it's realistic to expect more than 8 hours of quality work out of an employe

    • Because I can get anybody to flip a burger. The problem with tech is that for many companies IT is 24x7x365 but the IT department still expects to act like they are working 8-5. So reality collides with their notions and reality wins.

    • I do IT support. All my contracts for 10+ years have prohibited me from working more than 40 hours per week. Last year I got an extra month of pay as a Christmas bonus.
    • by edx93 ( 4858619 )
      Think of it this way: Compare a traditional restaurant vs all-you-can eat buffet. In a restaurant, you typically get one meal and perhaps a desert and call it a night. In an all-you-can eat buffet, you stuff yourself until they have to wheel you out. Why? Because in the first case you're limited by price constraints; the more you buy the more you pay. In the latter, since you paid for it might as well take the most advantage out of the situation as possible so you use the product as much as possible for as
  • That should solve everything.
  • by davecb ( 6526 ) <> on Monday April 03, 2017 @08:39PM (#54167893) Homepage Journal
    And have appointments out of the office at odd times. A colleague started that, and promptly got button-holed by the VP Financial (who had been our receiver in a former startup). The VP then started a reference check on the problematic boss...
  • Look for a new job (Score:4, Insightful)

    by redmid17 ( 1217076 ) on Monday April 03, 2017 @08:45PM (#54167921)
    Seriously, you're not going to get anywhere under a terrible manager. Moving to a different team will look petty and personal (even if it is). Moving to a new company lets you start over fresh.
    • by hambone142 ( 2551854 ) on Monday April 03, 2017 @10:47PM (#54168409)

      I was reorged and placed under a kiss ass manager-ette. My solution: I called up my old manager and asked is I could go back to work for him. Viola. Done. I think she was in to some "categorize work tasks in to a flow chart" thing . I couldn't take the situation. I am an adult. I think she may have given head to someone at the top.

      This lady was like a Marissa Mayer on knee pads.

      Got out, kept my sanity, survived well.

      You can't change crappy managers. Best to distance oneself.

      • I was reorged and placed under a kiss ass manager-ette.

        There's no reason to be a misogynist to make your case. There are plenty of epithets that you could use to describe your former manager that don't disparage other women in the process. Kiss-ass is good, as is toady, moron, bosshole, stooge, empty suit, or sycophant.

        By the same token, don't call the woman driver who cuts you off a bitch or a cunt, or the male driver a prick or a faggot. You can call all of them 'assholes,' for example, and convey the proper level of insult without pointlessly insulting ot

  • ... and STFU.
  • A cattle-prod, an old carpet, a shovel, and quicklime: []
  • by CaptainDork ( 3678879 ) on Monday April 03, 2017 @09:12PM (#54168045)

    ... I guarantee you those bastards (or bitches) came to realize that when I was happy, they were, too.

    It's like training Pavlov's dog.

    For one son of a bitch in Reston, Va., I programmed our fax machine to forward to his cell.

    • Every good boss I have had (which is most of them) quickly figured out that I may be their employee, but they report to me :-)
      • Every good boss I have had (which is most of them) quickly figured out that I may be their employee, but they report to me :-)

        There's a lot of truth to this. I've posted on /. before about having managed as many as 600 people in diverse groups. No way I could know all their jobs. The only option? Listen to the people who actually knew how to get the work done, understand the obstacles they faced, and get those obstacles out of the way so they could do what they do best.

        You know what? It worked. I didn't need to pretend I knew it all or run around giving orders. Amazing what people can do if you make sure they have what they need a

  • See: []

    If you get that, you're basically fucked. Document what they've done to you (and your team) and quit (which is what the book tells you to do).

    It's a tough world out there.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Came here to say this. You can't win fighting a psychopath / sociopath.
      The only winning move is to quit - and move to a higher paying job.

      The best revenge is living well.

  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna ( 970587 ) on Monday April 03, 2017 @09:20PM (#54168077) Journal
    You deal terrible IT manager the same way countless people have dealt with their bad managers. Stop pretending bad tech managers are somehow different.
  • Understand your boss (Score:3, Interesting)

    by AHuxley ( 892839 ) on Monday April 03, 2017 @09:21PM (#54168085) Journal
    If your wealthy and smart start you own company.
    If your not wealthy or smart?
    Your stuck with having to understand your boss and have to try and reason with them.
    Try and understand your boss and their origins.
    Overeducated for the role and wanted to be promoted in the past but failed?
    Had some connection with others in management that secured their role but they are not a productive boss?
    Someone who once had good ideas but has less to offer every year?
    They use their own boss as a method of advancement and just keep staff around to fill in the role of been a boss? Their own advancement is the project not anything that needs to be done.
    The boss has issues from university, never went to a good "university" in the traditional way, was too poor to enjoy university, did not fit into any social setting at university. Was smart but did not have the correct level of wealth to fit in? All that can shape the mind and issues a boss projects. Poverty made them have many, many issues decades later.
    Social acceptance issues? Even been a "boss" just does not wash away that feeling of not been accepted by management.
    Lack of ability to learn new skills. The boss is using past success to just stay in place for a few more years. They don't want to lean new methods. They have staff for that.
    They have the wrong education. It was ok years ago and got them the job but they feel different from their better educated peers.
    They had a good memory that as able to fake their way past university exams, the interview and the social skills to become a boss.
    Even average staff know they have a lack of ability needed in their role. So the boss takes steps to hide that issue.
    Most people have traits they bring up from university and as they enter the work force. What was your boss like? Could they even study on their own or did they always need help? Could they work on a project or did they always need a lot of support?
    Once you understand your boss aviod the things that make them unhappy.
    If your wealthy and happy don't remind your boos of their own poverty filled past.
    If your boss is smart, learn from them.
    If your boss is lacking in skills, don't be the person that knows too much about their past.
    Other traits are the boss who has to talk about their new found wealth and what they are doing socially. The charities, social events, music, art, a new car.
    If you are wealthy and enjoyed all that as a given, it becomes almost comical to sit and listen to your boss trying to buy their way into society. Try to be positive and just be happy for your boss. If you boss finally has the wage to enjoy opera or some other social event just smile and ask them all about their experience.
    A normal boss will work hard, bring new ideas, have the educational background to study and keep learning new things, want the best for the company and all staff. They will want to share their own skills and learn.
    If not something is wrong, just take the time to find out what. Poverty, educational issues, a well hidden lack of talent.
    Good interviews and hiring on merit with background investigations will usually detect any of the bad traits. Always interview, hire on merit and look into pasts, then a company can avoid staff issues.
    • No. Quit, and give no hint until the exit interview as to why. Frequently you will not have an exit interview. So call your boss's boss on the way out.

      You don't have any other power. This psychobabble bullshit might work if you already knew it, but it won't help anyone who needs to read it and finds it insightful. Actually quit, and name names.

      • Only if you don't need the reference. It won't change a thing and will ruin the reference. Some shit managers only give bad refs on 'principle', in that case fuck him/her as hard as you can.

        For most companies: Lie, lie, lie on the way out, just like they did to you on the way in. Don't burn that bridge.

        • If you have a terrible manager, you don't want that reference. That reference is not predictable. Do not list it, and explain in your next interview that your manager was an idiot, which is part of the reason you left. Not immediately, but find a subtle way to compliment the chance to work for new management with some sort of understanding of what you do, as opposed to the arsehole you used to work for.

          You're leaving for a reason, and you don't want that reason to be something you enter into day 1. If n

  • by Snotnose ( 212196 ) on Monday April 03, 2017 @09:36PM (#54168157)
    All the others (haven't run into them all, but...) I dealt with just fine. But the person who interrupts me all day long, to the point where I just get into the problem and am pulled out of it for trivia? Never figured out how to deal with them.

    / Typical example, Quit bugging me, send me email,
    // boss sends email
    /// boss pokes head in as I'm reading email, "have you read my email yet?"
    //// should be a stand your ground type law for bosses like this
    • The Push Over / Overwhelmer is equally bad though. Because they will just add stuff to your plate, interrupting you constantly as well.
      Say you're busy with a 2 day task. By noon, you will already need to pull a report for something else because he promised it up the hierarchy or other meeting where he didn't dare say no. He will promise two other high priority tasks that you also have to perform in the mean time and by the end of the 2 days, where you had basically 2 hours of work on the initial project, h
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Look for another job, life is too short to fight this kind of thing and HR will always side with the manager first because usually those rats are good at their game and will already have dirt on you (real or made up, does not matter) in case you talk and spin it to HR in your file the second they smell that you will start complaining. Your career will be stalled completely as long as that manager will be your boss anyway. Move on.

  • by __aaclcg7560 ( 824291 ) on Monday April 03, 2017 @10:18PM (#54168313)

    I had a supervisor who assigned me two separate projects that had a one-month gap between them. I documented that I would take them with the understanding that there will be trouble if the two projects overlapped. The inevitable train wreck came when the first project overlapped the second project, both projects got delayed and later reassigned to other people to straighten out. Supervisor tried to throw me under the bus but I had documentation that he didn't lift a finger to help me. What happened? Supervisor got promoted out of the department and I didn't have a project for 90 days.

    Next supervisor told me not to document any of his activities. Of course, I documented that and everything else. Soon I was being written up for insubordination for... you guess it... documenting his interference with my project. When he gave me the "his way or the highway" speech, I resigned as soon as my current project was done. I was the third out of a dozen senior employees who headed for the exits that year. Supervisor rode the company into bankruptcy.

  • by riverat1 ( 1048260 ) on Monday April 03, 2017 @10:31PM (#54168367)

    I had a terrible manager a long time ago but fortunately he knew nothing about my job (systems and database administrator on a VAX system). He'd come over and talk to me and I'd just bury him with VAX specific jargon. As long as the VAX ran fine (and it always did) I was left alone. Others in the department weren't so lucky because he thought he knew something about PCs and the phone system and he was a micromanger. He lasted less than two years as head of IT but got moved to other departments and had similar problems (a manger can manage anything, right?). Eventually he got fired when he go caught trying to return an expensive camera system that he'd "borrowed" without approval. It was needed for some tests.

    The one time he did get to me (and the others in the department) was when he insisted that all email go through him for approval. This was in the days before ubiquitous internet email so we had two systems, the local VAX email and the corporate system called sysm. That only lasted for about a week. We buried him in emails then complained when he wasn't able to keep up and deliver the messages in a timely manner. At the time I was changing usernames on the VAX to the new corporate standard so I was sending out 20 or 30 messages a day telling users about the new usernames they'd have the following morning. Users were complaining and I told them "Talk to Ted, he was supposed to forward the message on to you".

  • Several years ago I had a manager whom I could not stand and who was not fond of me. I chose to apply for a position in a new department and moved there.

    If the person is a manager, they're adept at playing the game. They're going to beat you at office politics. Unless you have knowledge that they're stealing or otherwise ethically/legally compromised, don't try to fight them. Get out.


  • I'm not sure why but they are missing the Toxic manager in there.
    I used to have a manager that would ensure that whoever he nominates to be the lead on a project would fail to accomplish most, if anything in the project.
    First very unrealistic time tables for the project, which was essentially a rewrite of an existing CMS from scratch. 3 months.
    He booked easily 60% of my time in various meetings. Spent a lot of the rest of the time planning and designing features to "stay ahead of the curve".
    Of course during

    • The organization was simple at the 'sabotage' level of process immaturity. The 'process immaturity model' is a useful lens to look at companies.

  • ...I actually enjoy these managers.

    Hacking management behavior is loads of fun. Give me 6 months with any manager and I can provoke damn near any reaction I want, all the while they think it's their idea.

    ...why yes, I do enjoy my coffee black [], why do you ask?

  • Then have him go in and check it.

    Make sure you unscrew all the lightbulbs in that area.

  • I had a manager who tried to micromanage me. I can play that game. I became incapable of making the simplest of decisions. I kept going to his office every few minutes to ask stupid questions, like what color he wanted a particular header in. I made sure to only ask one question at a time for maximum impact. So every few minutes I'd interrupt him with something stupid. I had actually expected to get fired, not win the battle. Imagine my surprise when he finally just yelled, "just do whatever you want

  • This is something that should receive more emphasis, I think; a lot of managers don't understand that they aren't leaders - and that they are not even supposed to be leaders. Management is something that requires a certain set of skills - you are required to manage people, ie. you tell your staff what tasks they have to do, you evaluate their performance, you communicate with the wider administration, so your team members don't have to bother with the trivia of administration. In many ways, a manager is a s

  • So, I've worked with all flavours of these managers listed, yet none of them are the most frustrating manager I've worked for.

    The most frustrating manager was the guy who read all the books, always knew what to say, tried to be your friend, but never actually let you do the things you wanted to get done. He'd never say no, but make you resubmit your requests 10 times with various tweaks almost like he wanted you to give up.

    Then in staff meeting's he'd complain that no one was being innovative except his fav

  • It depends from company to company, but you must understand that no matter what, the outcome might be that you need to seek employment elsewhere.

    I have had a boss who was a terrible people manager. I went to HR and explained the situation. Somebody else did the same. HR spoke to the manager and I must complement him that he changed and became a better manager. I knew however that it could have ended that I would have had to leave.

    Another manager had no clue as to what the job of our team was. And I mean no

  • I start building a case against said bad manager. Last job we managed to get a VP of Engineering fired.
  • That's one that's not mentioned and really hard to deal with. Found common in startups, the Hurricane Boss is a brutiful combination of all of the above, cranked up to eleven.

    I had one, a precocious Frenchman, who once walked back to my team's area, clapped his hands (in a way only a precocious Frenchman can), and commanded, "I want rounded corners and dropshadows. On everything." And then left. Fifteen nerds stopped dead in their tracks, concentration broken, pulled out of the zone. For rounded corners and

Sigmund Freud is alleged to have said that in the last analysis the entire field of psychology may reduce to biological electrochemistry.