Managing up


macrumors 65816
Original poster
Jan 31, 2010
Midlife, Midwest
A guy I've known for many years recently got a small promotion, one in which he will be supervising other people. (The back story is that he's been telling his current employer he's got "twenty years management experience", which is, IMHO, such a wild exaggeration as to qualify as an outright lie.)

The problem is that he is an absolutely terrible manager. He panics under the slightest pressure; is terribly impatient; is dreadfully disorganized; has a total lack of empathy; is bad tempered; boasts constantly; and more than a little insecure. And thats me speaking as his friend.

Several of the people he oversees have come to me for advice. Which puts me in something of a dilemma. On the one hand, I don't want to see my acquaintance fail in his new job. On the other, I don't want the people working with him to endure months (if not years) of his micromanaging nonsense.

I've pondered long and hard as to the best way to handle the situation. I can't really go to upper management and tell them they've made an awful choice (they didn't consult me before making the promotion.) So far the best idea I've come up with is to give this guy a small business book on effective people-management (Zapp! The Lightning of Empowerment) that I got very early in my business career.

The concerns I have are that a) this guy will say he's "too busy" to read a 110 page book; b) that he will feel that I am not-so-subtly criticizing his management style; and c) is unlikely to change his ways under any circumstances.

Any other ideas as to how to approach this situation?


macrumors 601
Aug 14, 2008
Dallas, Texas
You describe him as a friend, but also as an acquaintance. :confused:

Are you guys friends or do you just know him and occasionally interact? Do you have the kind of relationship where you can sit down and have a hard talk where your honesty and desire to see him succeed will be accepted and appreciated?

Is it really any of your business or are you crossing a boundary if you get involved?

There's not really enough information to know exactly how to advise you on this one. The one thing I do know for sure is that you have to put a stop to people who work under him complaining to you. If they have legitimate concerns then they need to address them to the apporpriate people. If they are just venting and you are truly his friend then you don't need to allow yourself to be put in that position.


macrumors 6502a
Jun 19, 2011
The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. Go to his manager and have a conversation. If he's a crap manager, you all will suffer, especially if your department comes under scrutiny. In the words of the Godfather, it's not personal, it's business.


macrumors 68000
Aug 26, 2006
Atlanta, GA
I've been in a similar situation, and it never got resolved.

I had been working for the company for about 4 years at this point. This was doing touring family arena shows. Our department included a head and five assistants. The head, who was good, was leaving to go to another show. So they had to promote one of the assistants up into the head position.

The choice came down to myself and one other guy. My qualifications were that I could fix any piece of equipment we owned, could program the control consoles, and had detailed system of records for everything. His qualifications were that he had been there longer than me, and he was friendly with management. He could do some basic repairs and kind of knew how to run the show on the controls. He really wasn't that good at anything.

He got the promotion. Why, I'll never know. I can only assume it's because he was a better schmoozer. Immediately, things went downhill. It didn't matter what issue popped up, he just sat at his workbox playing on his computer and watching porn (yes, really). I dealt with everything. Something not working 15 minutes before showtime, and I was busy on another project? He'd sit there and tell me to go fix the other thing afterwards. The rest of the crew couldn't stand him, either. But, it was what it was. Luckily, the rest of us banded together to make sure the work got done that needed to get done.

What's even funnier, I worked with someone a couple of years ago, and found out he had worked for the same company with this same guy about 15 years earlier. He then went off into a tirade of expletives remembering him. So it wasn't just me! :D

But yeah, seeing the wrong person getting into a managerial position really sucks. And it sucks even more if you are on the team under his watch. As far as advice, it's hard to say...saying something could create some really bad blood in the place, or it could fix everything. Who knows?