November 30th, 2006


"Management screwed up"?

I have heard plenty of stories from friends or acquaintances about working at places that could have been stellar, but everything went to hell because people in management were a bunch of wankers.

I've never heard any stories of things being the other way around: management was great, and they almost did some spectacular things, but all they had to work with were a bunch of incompetent slacker jerkoffs, so nothing good ever came of it.

I'm wondering why that is.

There are a number of possibilities:
  • Sampling bias -- both situations are equally common, but I don't know the right people to hear the stories about good management, lousy workers.
  • Observation bias -- people blame bad management when things go to hell because it's visible, even though the root causes are often something difference
  • It's accurate, in which case there are a number of different possible reasons:

    • It happens for structural reasons -- hierarchy magnifies the effects of any individual manager's failings, while minimizing the individual weaknesses of the rank-and-file.
    • It's an intertial effect -- the higher up someone is, the harder it is to replace them if they do badly.
    • It's rooted in corporate culture -- people who are good at their jobs get promoted until they're not good at them, and the upward path generally leads to management.
    • It's a personality thing -- wankers are attracted to positions in management.
    • Other reasons.

  • Confirmation bias -- complaining about your supervisor is socially approved; complaining about underlings is not.
  • Something else entirely.
  • Several or all of the above.

What's your experience? I'm curious to know what people think.