The First Book of Management

Chapter 4 - Dr. Evil

This one is about how NOT to do it.

I had a boss, Stan, who used to get his kicks from giving his people a hard time. This had to be his motivation since he had already made millions from selling shares in his company, but he carried on as Managing Director and was thoroughly nasty to everyone all the time. Why would a normal person want to do that?  

Stan would roll in at about ten o’clock and look for someone to shout at. If he didn’t spot something wrong he would pick on a person and investigate their area until he found something he didn’t like. You just had to hope it wasn’t your turn that day.

Some managers used to defend themselves by pointing Stan in the direction of someone else’s patch by telling him about cock-ups that had happened over there. Off he would go, like an angry rhino. Looking back, we should have stuck together more, but self-preservation is a strong instinct and we were forbidden to have meetings without Stan’s permission. He claimed they were a waste of money, but really he was frightened that we might gang up on him. Once we had a secret meeting, with someone keeping lookout down the corridor. We were like a bunch of naughty children. It was a climate of fear - not conducive to creativity or quality.  

Quite naturally we used to hide our mistakes from Stan.

Stan knew we hid mistakes from him, and used to get very upset if he found one that we had hidden. We would claim that he hadn’t been around to tell, and that we’d been too busy putting the mistake right, and had forgotten to tell him. So he brought in the Mistakes Book. Every mistake had to be written in the book with an estimate of the cost and whose fault it was. Failure to put a mistake in the Book would mean instant dismissal.  

The only loophole was that mistakes costing less than £300 didn’t have to go into the book, so a £500 clanger could be divided into two separate mistakes and therefore not declared…

Sometimes Stan would summon you to his office. Then you knew it was going to be really bad. I can laugh about it now, but when your house and family is at stake you worry about whether he’s really going to sack you this time.

Once he accused me of not being loyal, because I wasn’t working long enough hours. I discovered that he had been keeping a book of all the managers’ hours, added up from the clock cards. (We all had to clock in, “to show equality”). If you did less than 45 hours a week you got a summons from Stan. Even though we were officially paid to do 37 hours a week. But I was sure I was doing more than 45 hours a week, so I did some investigating. I discovered that an hour was taken off for lunch even if you worked through it as I usually did, and if you were away on a sales trip you were automatically clocked off at 5 p.m. even though you were traveling home late into the evening.

But surely he’s got a right to monitor what’s going on? Well yes, but the problem is that he is not monitoring results but activity, and he’s monitoring in a criticising rather than a constructive way. (Even monitoring in a controlling way means you don’t trust the person, and they know that you don’t trust them. Are you a controller type? How about trying to overcome your own insecurity and trust them a little?)

My response was to make sure I got my hour off for lunch, sometimes sitting in the car in the car park reading a paper or listening to the radio - an activity I had always regarded as disloyal and rather sad (though not as sad as the aeronautical designers at Westlands who used to sleep at their desks at lunch time, and when the two o’clock restart bell rang they would instantly wake up and carry on designing helicopters. Scary!).

I also made sure I came back to clock out after a sales trip. It was worth the 20 minute drive into the office in the late evening to get a few hours on my card. I even made a spreadsheet that would add up all my hours and tell me when I could go home on the last Friday of the month. (Quite a clever one actually. Took me ages). Stan never got more than 45 hours a week from me from that point on. I had ceased to care.  

Here was a senior manager totally demoralised, reading the paper in his car at lunch time, and driving out of his way in the evenings just to clock out. What a waste!

So I learned from Stan:  

Message number 4: if you treat them like children they behave like children.

It wasn’t just the managers who were treated like children, of course. The labourers who cleaned the floors and reloaded the machines were known as “Chimps” by Stan and, because it became the culture, by the other managers. People would say things like “Get a couple of chimps in at the weekend to tidy that area up” and “Don’t ask questions, you wouldn’t understand, you’re only a chimp”.  

I was telling this story to a group of managers on a training course a few years later and one of the delegates told us how he had worked as a “Chimp” at Stan’s House of Horrors (it’s actually a sizeable company - you see their lorries on the motorway all the time) and how he remembered that name. He was studying for his degree at the time, and it was his holiday job. He had no idea who his boss was, but “blokes in suits would come and shout at us from time to time”. He told me “Our machine used to catch fire all the time, and they’d come and replace the wires but never fixed the leak that was causing the fires”.

Of course the labourers knew everything that went on, every problem, and probably every answer. But nobody ever asked them, or gave them the credit to be worth involving in decisions. What a waste!  

Is there someone working with you who might be capable of more than you think?

Next Page
Chapter 1   - The Captain Of The Ship
Chapter 2   - Wandering About
Chapter 3   – Difficult Jack
Chapter 4   - Dr. Evil
Chapter 5   - Knowledge is Power
Chapter 6   - Destruction
Chapter 7   - A real friend
Chapter 8   - Teams from Hell
Chapter 9   - Dangerous Roy
Chapter 10 - Bob vs. Bob
Chapter 11 - Own Goals