The 25 golden rules of rubbish management

by | 12 Dec 2014 | Business & Leadership


I have been observing managers, and was for a long time managed by managers, for more years than I care to recall.

I am using the term ‘managers’ advisedly, because, believe me, there is no sense in which these managers were, or are, ‘leaders’.

History as progress

We like to imagine that things get better; that we learn from our previous mistakes; that we become more and more enlightened as time goes by.

It would be nice to think that twenty-first century managers were better than their twentieth-century predecessors, for example. Or even than their nineteenth-century predecessors. Surely we can manage that?

Sadly, it seems not.

I don’t know about you, but I keep seeing the same old depressing, small-minded, nit-picking, bullying, schoolmarm-ish (from both sexes), unsupportive, risk averse, unhelpful, pettifogging, status-obsessed kind of so-called management behaviour that I have been seeing since I first went to work in a certain decade of the last century and which I no longer have to worry about because I have worked for myself for the last decade or so.

Based on my undisclosed number of decades’ of experience, I have listed below 25 rubbish things that rubbish managers do.

Eager to start doing rubbish management

Amazingly, these are not bad habits that rubbish managers slip into over a period of time.

Rubbish managers start doing these rubbish these things with alacrity, the moment that they are elevated to the ranks of management.

They are really keen to do these rubbish things.

They have in fact, only been prevented from doing these rubbish things because their remarkable managerial talents were not recognised sooner, while they languished in the sorry state of being ‘not-manager’.

But as soon as their great talents were recognised and they were elevated to their deserved state of management-hood, they got stuck into doing the rubbish things that they had always wanted to do.

And then they keep on doing them, despite a rapidly accumulating body of evidence that these rubbish habits of rubbish management were not, in fact, working.

But that’s for a different post.

Ok. Here’s the scenario. You have been promoted (at last!) to that long-deserved management role.

To secure your legacy as a rubbish manager, here are the golden rules that you should follow.

The 25 golden rules of rubbish management for new managers

  1. You are now more important than everyone else, and they have to look up to you. Excitingly, they now have to ask you for permission before they do anything. Make sure that they do.
  2. At last, you get to make sure that everyone follows the rules. You also get to write some of the rules. How cool is that?
  3. Because you are now more important than everybody else, you have also become more knowledgeable. About everything. How long it should take to get from one place to another, for example, regardless of traffic conditions or the state of public transport on that day. What people should wear. How they should organise their work. Everything.
  4. As you have become more knowledgeable, everyone else has also become more childlike. When you are with the team, its best to imagine that you are a schoolteacher preparing to take the class on an outing.
  5. You now have a direct line to senior management and the rest of them don’t; you know what’s going on and they have to find out from you. Ha ha.
  6. On that point. Tell them only what they need to know. It’s also OK to lie sometimes.
  7. The most important thing is not to let the team try anything different. When the team say they have a good idea, just say no. Play safe.
  8. The next most important thing is not to spend any money. When the team ask if they can have something that would increase their productivity, always say no. No-one ever got fired for not spending money.
  9. By the way, when someone asks for some minor indulgence that would make their life easier or more pleasant, even on just one occasion, don’t weaken. It’s the thin end of the wedge. Stick with ‘no’.
  10. Still on that subject, when someone has a personal problem – sick child; mother dying; that kind of stuff – don’t give them any special treatment. You’re not a charity.
  11. When one of the team asks if you can approach senior management about something – don’t. Senior management expect you to say no on their behalf.
  12. Stop being nice to people. Being nice is a sign of weakness.
  13. Make sure you know who are the winners and losers in your team, and make sure that they know that you know who they are.
  14. When people ask for your advice, make sure to give them the company line. You’re not meant to be some kind of agony aunt.
  15. People will always let you down; make sure they know what will happen when they do.
  16. Look a bit cross all of the time. it makes people nervous and keeps them on their toes. Keep an emotional distance between you and the team. You are now different from them.
  17. You are incredibly busy. When a team member wants to talk to you, make it clear that they are eating into your valuable time. Encourage them to make an appointment. Stick to fifteen-minute appointments; it focusses their minds.
  18. You don’t have to have a clipboard in your hands all of the time, but it helps if you do. If you can’t, imagine that you have a virtual clipboard in your hands at all times. That way people know you are checking up on them.
  19. Everyone has a guilty secret. Keep asking questions until you find something they haven’t done or have done wrong. Ignore the good stuff that they say they have done – focus on the bad stuff.
  20. If one of your team fouls up, don’t support them – let them get it in the neck. Otherwise you might get dragged down with them, and it wasn’t your fault, was it?
  21. Never forget that the annual appraisal is the perfect time to tell people what they are doing wrong.
  22. If someone asks for a rise in the course of the appraisal, remind them that it’s not your decision. It not like you’re their boss or something. But remind them that they need your good report, otherwise they’re stuffed.
  23. Suck up to your superiors with great vigour. Only bring them good news. Tell them what they want to hear. Never question them.
  24. Under-promise and over-perform, but come in just over budget. Doing too well is just making a rod for your own back next year.
  25. When you do get promoted, pull the ladder up after you. Your old team doesn’t have the right stuff to be on the management team.


If you have any more golden rules to add to the list, please do leave a comment.

If you agree that we need to change the organisation, you might like to read Dr Mark Powell and Jonathan Gifford’s new book My Steam Engine is Broken

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