Researchers at the London School of Economics have for many years been tracking the performance of managers, as rated by the people they manage. And the results are poor, particularly for managers in the UK, France and Australia.
Perhaps this is why bad management is such a comedic goldmine. An entire genre of television and films celebrates managerial incompetence and ineptitude, providing a rich context for cringe comedy. The best known exemplar of this is The Office, the British comedy starring Ricky Gervais as David Brent, a dim-witted yet ingratiating supervisor. The formula was successfully remade in the US starring Steve Carell and indeed has been further extended to France, Germany, Quebec, Israel and Sweden. The lead character at heart of The Office seems familiar globally.
Managers are a diverse group, but they tend to share one trait – ambition. The fact that ambition, competence and interpersonal skills are not well correlated tells us much about why so many managers struggle in their roles.
Appointment to a managerial role is a challenging career transition for many. For some, the title creates a sense of superiority that negatively impacts longstanding professional and personal relationships. Problematically, the focus for many relationships moves upwards and outwards of the organisation and dissent is often seen as a personal and professional affront.
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The outcomes of such behaviours are entirely predictable – social and personal isolation emerges that can weigh heavily on the manager. The burden is especially great for those who return to normal duties after a limited managerial tenure – for those people the pleasures of management were fleeting, but the consequences can be long-lasting and profoundly negative.