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How to Spot an Incompetent Manager

How to Spot an Incompetent ManagerWorking on an incompetently managed team can be infuriating, and deadly for career advancement. Nor is it good for your organization if it turns out a manager you hired is not up to the demands of the job. Of course, the incompetent among us do not go around wearing handy, easy-to-read signs that identify them as such. So what early warning signs can you look out for to intercept the incompetent before they do you and your company a whole lot of harm?

Recently, Margaret Heffernan pointed out ten warning signs that a manager is incompetent for Fast Company's Talent & Careers Center. Among them:

  1. Bias against action:There are always plenty of reasons not to take a decision, reasons to wait for more information, more options, more opinions. But real leaders display a consistent bias for action.
  2. Secrecy: "We can't tell the staff," is something I hear managers say repeatedly. They defend this position with the argument that staff will be distracted, confused or simply unable to comprehend what is happening in the business. If you treat employees like children, they will behave that way -- which means trouble.
  3. Preference for weak candidates: We interviewed three job candidates for a new position. One was clearly too junior, the other rubbed everyone up the wrong way and the third stood head and shoulders above the rest. Who did our manager want to hire? The junior. She felt threatened by the super-competent manager.
  4. Addiction to consultants: A common -- but expensive -- way to put off making decisions is to hire consultants who can recommend several alternatives. While they're figuring these out, managers don't have to do anything.
  5. Long hours: In my experience, bad managers work very long hours. They think this is a brand of heroism but it is probably the single biggest hallmark of incompetence. To work effectively, you must prioritize and you must pace yourself. The manager who boasts of late nights, early mornings and no time off cannot manage himself so you'd better not let him manage anyone else.
If you spot an incompetent manager in your midst and need guidance on how to proceed, check out BNET's feature package on learning to say 'you're fired.'
(Image of FUTAB by badjonni, CC 2.0)
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