Top ten reasons managers become assholes

In response to angry comments about the large number of mean or incompetent people in management circles, here’s the first in a series of posts about them. (There is also a positive follow up post on the top ten reasons managers become great):

The top ten reasons managers become assholes:

  1. A boss they admired was an asshole. In trying to emulate someone more powerful than themselves, they didn’t separate the good qualities from the bad and copied it all. In their admiration they defend the bad along with the good (note: people do this with their parents too). See The Jobsian Fallacy.
  2. They are insecure in their role. The psychology of opposites goes a long way in understanding human nature. Overly aggressive people are often quite scared, and their aggression is a pre-emptive attack driven by fear: they attack first because they believe an attack from others is inevitable. Management makes many people nervous since it’s defined by having have less direct control, but more broad responsibility. Many managers never get over this, and micromanage: a clear sign of insecurity and confusion over their role and yours.
  3. They prefer intimidation to leadership. If you have a gun, the fastest way to get someone to do something for you is to threaten them with it. But if you take away the gun, you have no power. However if you take the time to convince someone to do something for good reasons, those reasons can last no matter how armed or unarmed you are. A person who has confused intimidation with persuasion, or leadership, behaves poorly all the time. They rely on their guns, not their minds, which prevents the people who work for them from using their minds too.
  4. They are unhappy with their lives. What percentage of people are miserable in the corporate world? I think 20-30% is a safe bet. If you’re miserable, you tend to inflict your misery on those who have less power than you do. If your life is miserable enough you won’t even notice how rude you are to waiters, assistants, and sub-ordinates. It may be nothing personal, or even work related, these people simply have a volcano of negative emotions that must escape somewhere, often in eruptions that they can not control. Just be glad you’re not their spouse or offspring.
  5. They lose their way. Management is disorienting. You are not in the real world in the same way front line workers are. Everything is meta. Decisions become abstractions. People are numbers. Getting lost in middle management is common. Unless they find a guiding light to keep the bearings, and stay low to the ground, good people get lost. It’s smart when taking on a new role to ask someone closer to the ground to be your sanity check. Telling you when the front lines thinks you’re not the same guy anymore.
  6. Promotion chasing. As you get further from front line work, the goals of promotion become clearer than the goals of the projects. Often what’s right for the project, and the people working on it, isn’t lined up with what’s going to get a manager promoted. This creates a moral dilemma, do what’s right for the team, or do what’s best for me. By spending more time with other managers than with front line workers, it’s easy to forget where the high ground is.
  7. Their management chain is toxic. If you are a manager, and your boss is inflicting blame, disorder or pain on you, there are two choices. Either pass the pain on down, or suck it up and shield your team from the pain. Will you pass the blame on to your team, or take all the heat? The latter is much harder to do than the former, and the former will often be taken as being an asshole. Even if no solution is possible, one gutsy thing to say is “I don’t agree with this either, but I was unable to convince my boss, so we’re doing it anyway”. This takes guts as it makes you seem powerless. You must choose between seeming powerless vs. seeming like an asshole, and the latter often wins.
  8. The Peter Principle. A 1968 book described this principle as the fact that in any hierarchy, every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence. It sounds like a joke, but makes total sense. If Bob is a great marketer, he is soon promoted to senior marketer. If he does well, he’s promoted to managing marketers. What happens now? If he’s mediocre as a manager, he can likely stay there forever. He may not like the fact he’s not getting promoted anymore and doesn’t like being mediocre, but is afraid of going back down the ladder, even though he might excel down there. He’s trapped. People who are trapped feel insecure (see above).
  9. They’re not assholes, they’re just insensitive or oblivious. Would a Vulcan make a good manager? Not really. He’d make smart choices, for sure, but empathy is a huge part of what a decent manager offers their team. Managers are often faced with tough decisions that will negatively affect people, and they make the best choice they can. But they forget to empathize with or explain their decisions such that those negatively effected by them understand. Or even better, forget to involve those people in the decision so they become participants and not victims. The failure to do this is a fast way to earn a reputation as an asshole, even if you’re doing what’s best for the team / company / world.
  10. Madly in love with themselves. Perhaps their Mom doted on them too much as children, or they got picked on in high school, whatever the reason, some people become infatuated with their power and fall in love with themselves. They put themselves in the center of everything because, emotionally, they need to be. The hole in their ego is so big, nothing can fill it, despite their pathological attempts to stuff bonuses, rewards, kudos and perks others deserve more into their stash. Megalomania is tragedy. It’s a good sign a person you despise has bigger problems with the world, than you have with them.
  11. They always were assholes. I knew a kid in elementary school who always seemed like a jerk. Even then it wasn’t quite his fault, he just naturally annoyed and bothered people. Why? I don’t know. Anyway, I met him recently, 25 years later, and guess what? He’s still a jerk. Some people have been, and probably always will be, assholes. They have to work somewhere. Better managed companies hire fewer of them.
  12. They took the promotion purely for money and status. In many organizations the only way to get higher status and more income is to become a manager. What if managers didn’t get paid more than the people they managed? Perhaps then more people would take the role simply because they wanted to be in that role, rather than because they primarily wanted more money.


71 Responses to “Top ten reasons managers become assholes”

  1. Robby Slaughter

    Lots of managers feel threatened by people who are smarter than they are, even if those people are their employees and they were hired because they are experts in a particular field.

    One easy way to hide these feelings of inadequacy is to make unreasonable demands. After all, if you are requiring people to work harder, their failure meet death march deadlines so must be their fault too, right?

    1. Swampy Joe

      Never point out their incompetence. You place a permanent target on your back by doing so.

  2. Gustavo Duarte

    Here’s something else I think is a big reason: some managers do not care about employees as people, but only as resources.

    The schedule, the quarter, pleasing their superiors, all of this is infinitely more important than the well being of employees. I think this is a more pernicious type of asshole than the ‘shouting/aggressive’ type, because this type will use whatever tools to manipulate people. I think this is a prevalent mode of assholeness.

    This is related to #9, except it’s on purpose and not due to insensitivity.

    Also, I think the angry commenter was way off base and completely mischaracterized your post.

    Finally, sorry to nitpick, but it should be “negatively affect people” in #9, with an a.

    Cheers and I hope you get past the writing woes, I think your books are great.

  3. Scott

    Gustavo: Thanks for catching the typo in 9. Fixed!

  4. Scott

    Robby: There’s an asshole playbook to be written by someone, and making unreasonable demands would have a whole chapter in that book.

  5. Brad

    These days you can’t mention the Peter Principle without mentioning the Dilbert Principle. It says that assholes get promoted preferentially because, basically, promotion is the easiest and quickest way to get rid of someone.

    1. Val

      So… pass the buck means promote employees with the dark triad personalities. Great job everyone.

  6. Pawel Brodzinski

    Pretty comprehensive list. I’d add a couple tweaks to reasons you’ve given.

    1a. All their bosses so far were assholes and they just don’t know they can play a different game. “Everyone does that” is their motto.

    10a. Everything was given to them with no effort. They treat commitment of their teeams as given too. They don’t have to strive to at work, do they?

    And one more:
    – They just don’t care. And if they don’t care it’s easier to be an asshole than to be a leader.

  7. Mike the Manager

    Great list and all too true. What about ‘the appearance’ of being an asshole, though? Many times, employees don’t want to hear tough messages. In my view, the blind spot is a major reason some (I said SOME) managers get bad raps. I understand the benefits of strength based performance management, but it behooves us to remember there are ‘price of admission’ skills that we sometimes need to shore up. The view that “I’m great at X, so I can ignore Y (or worse, they think it makes Y irrelevant)” is a tough one to manage through successfully.

  8. Steve

    Great list.

    The last sentence of #11: anatomically accurate, but maybe not what you meant to say?

  9. dblowers

    OMG, I work for an Asshole who is 1-5 and 9-11 all in one icky package. So glad you posted this, I’m definitly going to buy the book now so I can understand the situation better. This whole time I just figured he was a General or Major in the Asshole Army!

  10. retrogaming

    But you forgot one very important rule: “Be sure you are not an asshole yourself”

  11. Robert

    #12: Having to supervise idiots.

  12. Jo Emry

    I wish I had your advice when I was working for my last boss and his overly paid stooge. However, a clear head and common sense got me through. I will forward your advice to my son who works for the federal government. If you think the average workplace has assholes, you should see the feds! But of course, you already know this. Thanks

    1. Pat

      Lol! So true. If the average taxpayer saw went goes down daily in the government there would be a violent overthrow.

  13. John

    OMG I have a passive-aggresasive boss who sits on his ass all day while telling everyone else what to do. He does less than two hours of real work on any given day, but he loves to walk around the workplace micromanaging everyone and telling us what needs to be done, even though we’ve all been doing it for years and do our jobs well. Whenever he’s around life feels like one big punch in the gut. After he checks up on all of us (because the paranoid little prick thinks we’re slacking like he always does), he goes back to sitting on his lazy ass and getting paid half again as those of us who do all the work. We don’t like him, but his bosses think he can do no wrong. Never mind that he has been known to “borrow” things from work.

    1. Emma

      Blimey! Do you have the same boss as me? Spooky. Mine too just sits on his ***e then comes down to the shop floor, has a go at people for not doing anything (when they are), goes and sits in the café drinking free coffee (which we are not allowed as it is ‘stealing’) then buggers off again to do nothing.

      This is the man they tried to get rid of three times for sexual harassment. We don’t call him ‘Teflon D***’ for nothing!

  14. CaptainReality

    You missed reason number one: spinelessness.

    Many senior managers are ruthless. They amplify pressure down in the hope of increasing short-term productivity, to hell with the long-term consequences or effects on people.

    Most middle managers are spineless jellyfish. I’ve observed in the tech industry that in general, anyone who has a spine and a sense of self worth usually (but not always) doesn’t get promoted to management. The companies where these people do get promoted tend to be long-term success stories with ethical upper management. Unfortunately, most companies aren’t like this.

  15. Ron

    One of the things I found in the tech industry was that even competent people who became managers lost touch with the technical end of things because they weren’t working with it. In time, they end up managing people who know more than they do which leads many into #2.

  16. Jack Silver

    I am a medical practice management consultant and do get calls by employers (mostly physicians) to resolve issues their practices face. I’d love to provide every employer with the above 11 reasons as the starting point of assessing any systemic company/personal problems.
    For instance, I worked with a solo practitioner (physician) in Tomball, Texas whose office consisted of 4 employees. Within 12 months, this physician had hired and fired about 24 individuals. When I asked the physician what he thought the problem was regarding high staff turnover. He said “there are no competent employees in the area”. For those who are not familiar with Tomball, it is about 15 miles from Houston. I stopped by the hospital the physician practiced medicine and met with the medical affairs officer. As soon as I dropped the physicians name the medical affairs lady gave me a sad look and said the doctor is rated as the worst mannered physician in the hospital. This comment confirmed my suspicion that this physician is an asshole. I tried to communicate to the physician that he needed to improve his behavior toward others, but it didn’t work. Sometimes, it is hard to teach an old dog new tricks.

  17. Mr. B

    Very insightful! I’ve been in management within food service all my life…a tough line of work, and the pay really is crap.
    I am nealry retired now, so I took a job as a prep cook 3 days a week, just to keep busy. This asshole cook who had been there forever was very insecure, and I think my experience in the biz was a threat to I really wanted his throne of hamburgers and western sandwiches.He perpetually bitches, yells at servers, and yells at me. The other day he spit in a burger
    that was ordered for the boss’s wife. I tried to reason with him, and was told to forget I saw it. So, I went to the dining room and took the burger right from under the boss…he asked why obviously…when I told him, he initially flipped. Arriving to work the next day, boss called me a liar and fired me on the spot, stating that this cook would never do that, and how dare I say such a lie. This asshole convinced the boss he was an angel one more time…and everyone but the boss hates him. That’s the pinnacle of an over-bearing, insecure and bitter asshole.

  18. Asha Fotos

    Ever read Martha Stout’s “The Sociopath Next Door”? I’ve had the pleasure to encounter the reign under TWO of these individuals at once and have seen the havoc they wreak. The reasons you describe under 7-11 mirror sociopathic traits and that personality type generally seeks out positions of power. Dr. Stout rationalizes that there may be a ratio as high as one in twenty-five, in American society, afflicted with this pathos that can neither be reasoned with nor cured. The term “Asshole” is counterproductive and an understatement for this very real and dangerous menace.

  19. Carol Cartwright

    My sense is that #11 covers the vast majority of cases. ;D

  20. Angry Nerd

    I’d like to offer another suggestion for why managers often turn to assholes:

    Being a manager means not being needed for 2/3rds of the time.

    I found this website while covering for my manager while he’s on vacation. Things were going well, my team of developers was working, sometimes there was some chatting as people exchanged ideas, and then they returned to their desks to try new things. It was a productive day. And I was utterly useless. I answered a single question during the entire morning.

    It was, to me, a good day. But I can imagine sitting around reading Scotts blog is not, in the long run, the path towards a successful career in management.

    So what is the average manager to do? Unless things are seriously broken, there isn’t going to be too much management to do. And unless he works for “the next big thing” (it was microsoft until it was google until it was facebook), there probably isn’t all that much money he can request for special projects to keep himself busy. If he does nothing, he’ll likely be replaced because the board wants someone more “hands on”. Or he will have his budget cut because the departments with constant emergencies need more funding.

    What any manager with any sense of self preservation will do in these cases is MAKE something happend. It might not even be to get promoted or flex their power. They just need to do something to show that their salaries are not a complete waste to the company. But micro management, reorganizations and starting a few fires does tend to come naturally to managers who need something to give their existance meaning.

  21. Karl Asshole

    To be a good manager, you have to be a good person ( You also must be a good leader. Leadership can neither faked nor learned – you’re born with the Zeus juice or you’re a pretender. If you have said juice, you won’t lie to, blame, shout at, threaten, intimidate or corn hole your people. You’ll treat your people like work is NOT the most important thing in the universe, which it isn’t. Non-assholes typically organize their priorities something like: 1 – God, 2 – Spouse, 3- Children, 4 – Friends, 5 – Work. The majority of employees are people who like their work and want to do superior quality work. Assuming they have the basic qualifications for the position, if they aren’t working to at least an acceptable level of quality, it’s your fault as their manager anyway. Non-assholes don’t believe everyone and everything they do must be excellent. Consider it for a millisecond or two; an essential quality of excellence is “exceptionalness” and the more excellent a thing is, the more exceptional it is also. Lastly, if you haven’t paid each and every one of your people a compliment on their work in more than a couple of weeks, you are a brown, seething, puckered, 3,000 degree Celsius flaming asshole and everyone who works for you knows it. I’d like for such assholes to reply to this and let us all know what the satisfaction is that you derive from being that way.

  22. Walter Mahler

    I am writing poetry on punctuation, physics, math and management. One of the poems is on HiPPO management. I would like to have a reference to the origin of the term so that I may give proper credit.

    The HIghest Paid Person’s Opinion is sacrosanct
    In the HiPPO style of management
    Those who beg to differ soon face banishment
    And enjoy an early retirement.

    Walter Mahler

  23. ekjkghejejeoijeoij

    They also become arseholes because they have more power which then makes them power-hungry which then eats them up inside. They also start to care less of living organisms and start only caring about money, turning them into evil, arrogant (because of they’re insecurity as arrogance is an insecure evil social stereotype) people.

  24. peter costello

    You left out Just plain STUPID !!!!

  25. SELINA

    what to do when your boss treat u difftery then the other worker

  26. Random Hourly Employee

    If only there was an easy solution for the dilemma when everyone in your job is an asshole. The manager spends all his money on drugs and therefore can’t be called because he didn’t pay his phone bill? Normally, you’d complain to his boss. However, she’s an idiot and very tyrannical so any suggestions are met with demerits. The person over her? Views every employee as human capital through which he can wring labor out of them until they quit. When the only option is quitting, every other job in town will use this model because they know you’re desperate for the rent money. So I guess reason 13 is that they just have no reason to be a good manager at all since you can get wage slaves in minutes simply by posting the job online.

    tl;dr all hotel managers are vessels for archaic demons.

  27. Wrathchylde

    #12. “than the people”…not “that the people”. Sorry but if you’re going to bag on assholes run the spell checker first. Just sayin.

      1. Wage Slave

        Ditto on “medicore” -> mediocre

  28. Moraine

    One reason: It’s REWARDED. In my company it is DEFINITELY rewarded. Considered to be a rite of passage to manage someone out, get someone fired or harass someone enough to cause a stroke. Nice people just are not going to get those positions, period,

    1. Scott Berkun

      This makes me sad. At least you see it for what it is. I hope you’re able to find a healthier place to work.

  29. Taylor

    Oh my god. I work for an investment firm associated with a major bank. It’s a very entrepreneurial environment and everything is bottom line oriented.

    Lately I’ve had to interact with the retail banking side and I’ve encountered managers that are like every single one of your points and it’s absolutely infuriating.

    All we want to do is talk to client facing bankers who may encounter clients who are dealing with our competitors, so we can try to bring the business to our bank. We arent going after money held within our affiliated bank, only with investment firms affiliated with competing banks.

    I’ve encountered branch managers who flip out because we want to talk to their advisors. They escalate it to their district vice presidents, who then flip out and escalate it to the regional vice president. The district vice presidents demand that if we want to speak to anyone under them it has to go through them. (Um, do you really want to be my secretary?) The regional vice president escalates it to our regional managing director demanding we cease and desist talking to anyone but their referral facilitator.

    Ironically, we meet with the referral facilitator who says we really should talk to the client facing advisor in the branch. While we’re in the branch we see other advisors from our very office sitting there meeting the advisors. But we so much as send an e-mail to a branch manager and next thing you know these bungling fools are going all the way up to head office demanding we “cease and desist” talking to anyone at all.

    I mean come on. The branch manager of a bank branch is perfectly capable of talking to someone from a wholly owned affiliated subsidiary of the same bank. If our message was off base, they would know. Why everything would have to get funnelled though a regional vice president responsible for 400 branches makes no sense. Why hire branch managers in the first place if this idiot wants to micromanage everything.

    Making matters worse, these fools are way off side on policy. We took all our materials right off the bank’s own intranet site so we could ensure we were on-message to avoid this very problem. In our handouts and packages we include the banks own forms and verbage.

    What we’ve bumped up against is a wall of useless, dumb bureaucracy for it’s own sake. Honestly these people should all be fired. We’re trying to bring in new money and revenue for the bank, that’s held at other competing banks, and the only thing stopping us is them.

    It defies logic.

  30. Steve W

    I’ve been in sales for 20 years and most of the managers I’ve had were royal pricks. Most of these pricks – and the companies they work for – are completely clueless. They talk down to their reps as if they were 8th graders and lecture them with a “my way or the highway” mentality. As a sales rep, what are you going to do? Talk back to them? Not if you need the paycheck. So there’s this dysfunctional game that’s played where you tell them what they want to hear – or just let them prattle on for 20 minutes without saying a word. But what it really comes down to is that you’re on your own with no help from the dumb ass wind bag who thinks he knows everything but hasn’t sold anything in years (if he ever sold anything at all). If you don’t have anything constructive that will help me, then keep your childish rants to yourself and good or bad, let’s talk strictly numbers because after all, isn’t that what my job is about? If my numbers aren’t where they need to be, I’m a big boy and can deal with the consequences whether that’s being put on a PIP or fired, but the last thing I need is your big fat mouth running me into the ground. What a manager needs to say to a new or a struggling rep is as follows; “We – you and I – never really know how a new hire / new sales job will work out. So I don’t know if this job is right for you – maybe it is maybe it isn’t. But you owe it first and foremost to yourself, then to me and then to the company to do that absolute best you can do. If you do the best you can do consistently and it doesn’t work out, we’ll part as friends and you’ll walk out of here with your head held high knowing this job wasn’t for you anyway and that there’s something out there waiting that’s a better fit for you. If you don’t give 100%, then you’ll always have that nagging, lingering doubt in your mind wondering how different things could have been if you had done your best”.

  31. Afghan Whig

    Hard to believe an adult wrote this article. It’s full of insulting assumptions and barely approaches logical. I’m not sure how you define asshole, but I suppose being blunt, efficient, and unable to cater to every employee’s wants (not needs) goes a long way. I go out of my way to reward my best employees, give them the resources they need, approve their time off outside of work, etc. I take a pedagogical approach to my role, passing knowledge to my employees that will help them advance their careers (and make my job easier). Yet, I’m still the asshole.

    Here are some reasons I’m an asshole manager:

    1. I’m responsible for making a diverse group of people with varying job roles work together. Try coming up with one rule or guideline that makes everyone happy.

    2. Some employees only work as hard as they have to. And they hate it when you ask them to do more.

    3. Some employees (often the ones who only do the bare minimum) expect to be promoted just for showing up. You can print them a crystal clear roadmap to success within your company, and they’ll still paddle along, doing nothing to distinguish themselves, then ask to be supervisor.

    4. Ingratitude is the status quo. Once, everyone in the department got tiny raises (three figures). The reason they were tiny is because we shifted our fiscal year; there was a tiny pool for compensation increases. Because someone had left, I was able to get every one of my employees a raise larger than the 1.5% average everyone in the company had to adhere to. I know it’s not a lot, but I put in a lot of effort to make their tiny raises a little less tiny. The fact they got more than the average was clearly explained to them. The response: the raises “were a slap in the face.” Fine. Next time, we’ll spend the money on a clever fucking food truck half of you won’t like.

    5. As a manager, much of your employee’s well-being (compensation, promotion, career growth) depends on you. At the same time, this isn’t a day care center; it’s a business, and my job is to get my employees to do their jobs. That’s a hell of burden, and it makes me less likely to be everyone’s buddy when instead I have to be fair and compassionate, but also directive and efficient.

    6. In the same vein, employees know how much power you have over things like compensation, so they’re never, ever totally honest with you. Personality problems I constantly hear about third-hand magically disappear when I’m leading from the floor. Also, employees will admit to making small mistakes, which upon five seconds of investigation, turn out to be related to much larger mistakes they say nothing about.

    7. Paranoia is the status quo. I can’t explain to employee #1 why I wrote employee #2 up. That would be unprofessional, and would betray the disciplined employee’s trust. Yet if it appears on the surface that I’m being unfair, then the conspiracy theorists kick in and all of a sudden I’m playing favorites. Example: Two employees don’t show up to work. One is written up. The first employee has a documented record of excessively calling in sick, and misses work yet again, without notice. The other, who has an exemplary attendance record, has a family emergency and calls into work in advance. The former would get written up before the latter every time. Employees aren’t privy to these details, so they form their own conclusions baked in resentment. And God help you if the employee who incorrectly thinks they’re being treated unfairly is a woman or a minority.

    8. You can’t listen to music with the N-word in it. You can’t describe the hot girl you met. You can’t tell off-color jokes, listen to Howard Stern, or share clips of that R-rated stand-up comedian. I’m going to write you up for breaking those rules. You may even get fired. The alternative is me losing my job because I tolerated a hostile work environment. So yes, we’re a friendly, down-to-earth, casual company…until tone-deaf legal standards force us to behave otherwise.

    9. Millennials, calling into work because you’re stressed isn’t a good excuse. Especially if it happens exclusively on Fridays and Mondays. I’m going to call you out on it.

    10. When HR makes a decision to fire you, I’m the one who breaks the news. When finance says we can’t afford that tool to make your job easier, I’m the one who communicates the message. Part of my job is to be the face of the company to you. Your bridge to the massive bureaucracy. Of course I’m going to sound like an asshole to you. And no, I don’t have time to make you feel better about it. So put my picture on the dartboard. Slander me if it makes you feel better about things. As long as you’re doing your job and I’m doing my best to treat you fairly and humanely, the rest is your problem.

    1. Famine

      Hey afghan dude, the blog was intended as an informative artilce describing bad qualities that BAD managers display. You don’t have to provide a defense for managers everywhere simply because you sympathize with sociopath losers “a.k.a” assholes. Nice list you made but that belongs on a cover letter or on a resume and not on here, re-read #10 and reflect on it.

    2. Mark

      The fact that you replied so defensively, tells me you’re definitely an asshole. You even had to come up with your own list just to defend your own shortcomings; while justifying your demoralizing actions at the expense of the people you’re supposed to lead. You also had to do this with a typical whiny “millennials scapegoat” comment.

      As a worker who’s on the floor I can definitely say that rank has more to do with a person’s work ethic than age. Just today, I was sent all over the place doing everything (but my actual job). I work in retail, and instead of making sure the shelves were full for the customers; I spent my time worrying about some displays on floor. I’ve never seen a customer walk out because a display wasn’t on a table (which seemed to be an important issue for our useless management team). But, I’ve seen them get pissy over not having the items they’re looking for plenty of times. But, getting rid of a display because it on a table was top priority and as a result I was behind on my primary task and couldn’t finish it.

      Our store manager is a product of the modern corporate culture. This isn’t a mistake. Managers are molded into being arrogant, paranoid, tyrants who ultimately develop a persecution complex. They can’t understand why people on the floor don’t like them after firing or writing up a large portion of their coworkers over trivial things. You can say that we just don’t understand when you write someone up because you can’t explain your side of the story. But, when a large percentage of your workforce has been written up or demoted, it’s you. Judging from your comment; you seem to have at least some of these traits listed.

  32. mike

    A corollary to this is that Wally was (and is) made, not born.

    Idiot managers and the systems they work in will always create Wally’s out of Dilbert’s. Eventually, Dilbert gives up and becomes a Wally, because the pay is the same.

  33. JohnnyWest

    This list would also probably be well-suited to directors of organizations. I work with one organization who had a wonderful director whom everyone in the org loved. I was a contract vendor on the outside, but the man treated me like family anyway. It was not unusual for him to call me just to chat every other week or so. We had lunch often. I worked with this organization for 17 years, so I must have been doing my job right. Then, sadly, that director retired.

    In steps the new, 38 year-old manager. Complete silence back to my offers of meeting, going to lunch, whatever. Zero responses for 6 months… Finally a meeting happened. First meeting the little prick brushed off my reaching out to shake his hand and walked by me to sit down as far as possible from his manager and I at the other end of the table. Nothing but negative energy, down-in-the-mouth comments, everything is a problem. Now I’m waiting to hear if they are going to renew their agreement with me and, so far, it’s not looking good. To be honest, I’m not sure I really want to work with him, anyway.

    I can live without the income, so it’s not that big of a deal. But what is sad for me is to see a great humanitarian/social services organization (who normally have very warm, giving people at the helm) take on this “corporate culture” atmosphere from some asshole who will probably only be there long enough to jump to something else. I know of two long-term employees who are already looking to leave. In the end, the board made a bad decision and the organization will suffer for it. I only hope they rethink it and get someone else before too much damage is done.

  34. Dina

    I had very few good managers in my life. Most of them are horrible people. The good ones are family people that need that job/position and understand that people working around have their families too and and so they will do their job honestly. These guys are a gem to find….BECAUSE most of managers I met in my life are rude and unfair. My recent managers is a jerk, sly, manipulative and stupid the pretends to be nice and smart….but what she does not understand is : everybody noticed her behavior but the main manager pretends he does not see because is convenient to have that horrible person working there because nobody wants her position !!!

  35. The Truth Is

    They were born to be scumbags.

    1. Dina

      I agree with you. With a short and simple sentence you told the truth.

  36. Jake

    In all of these comments one glaring reason is missed. A boss may have started out with empathy and saw their directs as people but over time may have been taken advantage of by their staff who exploited the managers kindness. Now the manager has seen that empathy does not necessarily guarantee an employees best effort and has realize that threats or “being an asshole” is more affective. If there are kind managers left it’s a matter of time before they change due to the nature of people; this may explain why most tenured managers are “assholes” they’ve been around the block long enough to know what works best.

    1. Scott Berkun

      > may have been taken advantage of by their
      > staff who exploited the managers kindness.

      There are ways to be a good manager without being taken advantage of. Employees who take advantage can be penalized without impacting the majority of ones who don’t. Additionally the boss can fire people who abuse their privileges and work to hire ones who appreciate them.

      > may have been taken advantage of by their staff who
      > exploited the managers kindness.

      I’ve seen little evidence anywhere that this works best. It may work for a time, but if teamwork and collaboration are part of the work being done, eventually the whole organization will suffer from the mistrust created.

  37. Dina

    I worked with this pest during one year. In my first day of work I had a bad impression when I looked at her. She looked at me with a fake smile and a little bit sadistic. And she immediately associated me with her sister-in-law. Yes. She looked at me and found I am similar to a relative she does not get along well. She told that . Everything began at this point. She is disrespectful and horrible person. She lies.She manipulates people against people. I could to stay the whole day talking about her negative behavior as a boss. Who did watch “Devil wears Prada”? Miranda Priestly is a flower if compared with my ex-manager. I want to work for Miranda with that girl on front desk. They are decent.

  38. Dina

    Let me do the right thing: I just came here for the first time to express my feeling about bad managers. I love the USA and I know how many people with families are being humiliated at their jobs by assholes. This is unacceptable. I prefer to spread the word because everybody has the right to have a job to keep their families or because they live without a family and need money to survive. NOBODY could to have the right to abuse a worker.

    I loved this article because we can talk about this problem here. I will try to compare the article with my experience with Mrs. T (her first name starts with the letter T)
    1- They become assholes because the boss they admired – Maybe I agree but I believe she is an asshole herself. She does not need to get inspiration in someone else.

    2 – She is insecure in her role. I agree. She is very insecure. She is afraid someone will take her job or discover she is not able to do her duties (she had my position before and I just came because she was promoted to be a manager . The manager that worked there before quit and someone told Mrs. T manipulated situations to get that position without having great experience before).

    3- She prefers intimidation..? I do not think so. Sometimes she used intimidation to another lady that works there. In my case she prefers MANIPULATION.

    4 – She is unhappy with her personal life. I do not think so. She always says she has a happy life. She likes to travel and stays in nice hotels. She shows her children pictures all the time. She wants everybody know she is a happy person but I believe this is a kind of extreme behavior. I do not know if she is really happy or not. If she pretends to be happy or not. She seems to be pretty happy.

    5 -She loses her way? All the time.

    6- Promotion chasing. Yes. When I arrived to work there she already got what she wanted. She was promoted. She was in heaven and become an asshole.I think she never was a manager before and she was feeling like a queen that was going to sit in a throne. She kicked the prior manager out.

    7 – Her manager is toxic ? No. The big manager is the best manager I ever saw. He only has more important departments to watch for. He does not care about what she is doing so much. He just needs someone there. This is the problem.

    8 – Peter Principle . Not the case. She got the higher position she could there. She is trying new jobs in other companies but nobody wants to hire her.

    9 – No way.She is an asshole. Total.

    10 – Megalomania. Yes. Very narcissist person. Very worried about appearance.

    11. Yes.

    12 – She got the position for money and status. The department I was working is the lower in status. Under that department (sorry to say that but….) only the housekeeping. So..she was the manager for 3 people only. And she treated us like she was the Queen of the managers. And we were he subjects. A queen in a micro-tiny-universe inside a macro-universe.

  39. Taylor

    I had a bad experience with an asshole foreman today. Rodbusting is hard enough work and I was only on my second day.

    This jerk had me hauling 45 lb 21 foot long rods by myself. At first, I was carrying one at a time, because I was walking over laid rebar and with the length the weight was awkward. Common sense told me that this was best done as a two person job. He then berated me for not carrying more than one at a time, so I carried two… but that adds up to 90 lbs and at a 21 ft length with totally uneven ground I had to be very careful not to hit anyone and also to ensure I didn’t trip.

    The jerk was then berating me for not walking fast enough and telling me to pick up the pace. After an hour of this I was obviously getting tired, I don’t care if you’re He-Man carrying 21 foot 100 lb loads for an hour over totally uneven ground it will still start to tire you out.

    Then the guy wanted me to move 14 foot lengths of rebar that were thicker and weighed about the same per bar. Same story, I couldn’t walk fast enough for this guy, I couldn’t hold and carry enough of it, he even was giving me crap because I wasn’t putting them down exactly north and south – even though I was putting them in a pile and they were going to be moved again anyway – and even wanted me to bring extra and put them in a pile.

    Like the guy was singling me out for the hardest work and refused to let me have a helper, he was bitching the whole time talking out loud about obviously me. He was standing around smoking and on his phone the whole 4 hours, only stopping to berate me when his phone calls ended. He didn’t allow us to do this work in pairs until another guy said we should work in pairs and not be a hero and bust our backs trying to carry it alone (which is what I thought we should have been doing in the first place).

    The guy made a big stink at one point and carried 6 bars to show how “light” it was and then promptly went back to being on the phone smoking. Like sure its one thing to move 6×45 lbs one time and spend the rest of the time resting, but doing it for 4 hours straight your going to get f-ing tired. Walking over uneven rebar with tripping hazards everywhere makes the load that much harder to handle.

    Well long story short they wanted to get that slab ready and wanted me to do overtime. I was like F that grabbed my crap and left at the end of my 8 hour day because I had just spent 4 hours getting berated by this guy, told the boss that this guy was up my a** half the day and I didn’t feel like doing overtime. I’m pretty thick skinned but I was almost ready to walk off the job anyway after putting up with this BS for four hours.

    I would have rather done the OT, I’m getting paid $20 an hour so OT at time and a half would mean $30 an hour, and the boss would rather have all hands on deck to get the job done. Turning down work at $30 an hour is somewhat of a statement in and of itself, hopefully the boss realized this foreman was making people POed.

    A large group of us left right at the 8 hour mark so hopefully the jerk foreman had to actually get off his phone and start working. I mean come on if it’s that much of a rush get off your bloody phone, pick up an end or grab 2 bars yourself and work in the trenches with your guys; your not being paid to stand around on the phone and smoke cigarettes while the guys are breaking their backs carrying loads around 100 lbs for hours getting interrupted periodically by your yelling at them.

    Honestly if I get another day like this at this job I’m just going to quit and walk off the job. It’s hard work, it’s dangerous work, and if I feel like I can only safely move one bar at a time then go F yourself buddy I have a job offer a day coming my way and I don’t need to put up with your crap. The boss was desperate for people so bad he was posting on facebook and I have never worked in the field or for this guy so the fact he friended me because I have mutual friends who have worked in the field shows me he needs bodies badly.

    If I quit this jackwagon will probably get disciplined, not because I am invaluable but rather because training, hiring, and missing a body will cost him time and money. It already did because I refused OT (along with another few guys) and they wanted to get the job done.

    Word to the wise: if someone is having trouble meeting your expectations, ask them why. If they are new, let them work up to your standards. If they are getting tired, rotate job duties. Always treat people with respect and understand that the human body has it’s limitations. Finally, don’t complain that the job isn’t getting done fast enough while you are standing around – get in the trenches and show you are going to throw in your hands to get the job done.

  40. whydoyoucarewhatmynameis?

    This is the universal truth. All managers and leaders exhibit psycho qualities. They have bloated ego like when you have severe stomach flu. Ego is the anesthetic that deadens the pain of stupidity. What on earth have these ego maniacs achieved? Earned lot of money and egotism all their life. Money beyond certain limit is only a burden. Every work place I go, I have been taken for a ride by these ego maniacs. At one workplace, the AH doesn’t like things that I initiate. He wants to command me. He assigned me completely new tasks that were not aligned with what the department is supposed to be doing, just because I was very positive and enthusiastic about my initiatives. In fact, he was the one who suggested to me in the very first place that I take up. I also feel that there are some obligations that any new hire must perform in any software company. My theory is that you need to do some oral service to them. (I bet you know what I mean). The gratification they get is what drives these managers to do their jobs. This may sound hilarious, but I suspect this is what is needed that I missed all my 15 yrs in software career.

  41. Tonald Drump

    Great article, but please fix the title. The title states ten, however the article lists twelve reasons. We must never give asshole bosses any opportunity to dismiss their assholistic behavior.

  42. Fred

    The bit about The Peter Principle is a nugget of wisdom but not the point of the book (which seemingly no one has actually read). The premise of the book is that we confuse followership for leadership and promote the wrong people…who then promote more of the wrong people. A good leader is usually a PITA to superiors BECAUSE they are leaders and are advocating for their teams. In most organizations this is not a path to promotion.

  43. Mike

    You forgot “because they manage assholes”. People are quick to blame the manager, when in many cases the fault lies with themselves. I started off the ultimate nice guy. I got walked all over for years by multiple employees who were assholes and took advantage of me. Eventually, I had to start treating them like an asshole. That’s the only way it works. Thing is, they didn’t even realize they were assholes – they thought they were good guys. Next time you feel like your boss is treating you like an asshole, maybe try looking in the mirror first.





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