back to article Rubbish UK management crushing creativity

Meddling middle managers are crushing the UK's creative instincts. Today's report from the department of the bleedin' obvious Chartered Management Institute found that overbearing and dogmatic managers are the most common in the UK. Topping the poll are bureaucratic managers with 40 per cent, reactive managers are next with …


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  1. Alan Paice


    Now get back to work you lazy dogs and stop thinking for your self!


    An over bearing Manager

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    There's one management type missing ...

    "Topping the poll are bureaucratic managers with 40 per cent, reactive managers are next with 37 per cent, and 30 per cent describe their manager as "authoritarian"."

    No category for 'bloody useless' then, or is that the default choice for extraneous middle management?

  3. Anonymous Coward

    So why isn't Dilbert a Brit?

    Let me guess. We lose all our creativity before we reach the level of insight to produce a Dilbert.

  4. Martin Usher

    Old news.....

    This article could be 30,40,50 or even more years old. Its endemic to British culture, anywhere where 'management' is seen as a separate function to 'engineering'.

    The history of English industry is full of examples of brilliant work being done on the side, great ideas and sometimes great products, but this success rarely lasts beyond a product generation because the product gets absorbed into the organizational culture and stifled.

    Its more or less the same in the US. I've seen more than one startup stumble at the second round of financing where the founders are required to bring in professional management. This brings in the organizational culture (and, as a side effect, greatly increases the run rate (overhead)). The result is as predictable as if it were scripted.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The Peter Principle....

    .... still rules in the UK. We have possibly the worst middle management in the world. Ever.

  6. amanfromMars Silver badge

    The Dance of the Gay Gordons/Line Managers

    Now get back to work you lazy dogs and stop thinking for your self!


    Mr Bean

    An over bearing Prime Minister

    [And I blame Alan Paice for that flaming storm...... :-)]

  7. Big_Boomer

    Too many managers, not enough leaders

    Most companies these days have too many "managers".

    Anyone who has 2 people reporting to them is a manager.

    What is needed are leaders. People who will inspire their staff and command respect.

    What we get are indicisive, spineless weaklings who are terrified of making ANY decision as they may make the WRONG ONE!

    Another thing that bugs me is this culture of mediocrity. Companies seem to hire people based on their "replacability" these days.

    God forbid that they should hire someone who actually uses their brain as they would be difficult to replace.

    Cynical? Me? I'm about to go through my 4th redundancy in 10 years so I'm entitled.

  8. David Evans

    Who's responding to the survey?

    While my instinct is that this is true, could it be that British workers are just more inclined to moan and not do anything about it? I've worked for Brit, German, French and American bosses and in their own way they're all just as good/bad as each other. There are also loads of external (to management) factors that affect Management style - like whether you work for a listed company or not, whether the CEO is a finance guy or an entrepeneurial type etc. And I have to say, techies are the biggest moaners of the lot; bitch every day about the same company they've worked for for five years; where sales or marketing guys would vote with their feet far earlier.

  9. Scott Broukell

    Team leaders

    Whilst I was managerially responsible for a goup of five peeps, I referred to myself as Team Leader, not Manager. In this manner I felt I was expressing the importance of inclusion and ownership for the whole team. We needed to pull together and help eachother out and therefore perform as a team. I was lucky to have people in the team who responded well to the whole idea and support throughout was mutual. It's a great feeling.

    I learnt this from the best manager I ever worked for, a woman.

  10. Spleen

    Interesting fact

    I just got off the phone with my clone from a parallel universe. Apparently over there the Bizarro El Reg had an article about how the majority of managers put the blame on their engineers who haven't had a genuinely creative thought since they created an interesting new variant on the game Snake during their second wasted year at university. The comments thread was full of insightful stories from middle managers about how they spend their entire workday trying to nurture ideas among their engineers, but there aren't any because they spend their entire workday bitching on the Internet about how either they're either being stifled by their managers or being undercut by inferior products from India. The alternate reality thread also contained the usual joker asking where the Ann Widdecombe angle was.

    If you're wondering how I managed to receive a phone call from an alternate reality, it's because whereas our iPhones can't even connect to a 3G network, theirs can connect across the infinite non-existant spaces between dimensions.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    @Scott Broukell

    So Scott, it begs the question I'm going to ask....did you give her one, then? Oooh, suits you, sir!

  12. This post has been deleted by its author

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A pedant writes

    "So Scott, it begs the question I'm going to ask....did you give her one, then? Oooh, suits you, sir!"

    The phrase is "suit you, sir", not "suits you, sir".

  14. Pete

    Best manager I ever worked for worked his way up

    Fairly rapidly admittedly seeing as "daddy" owned the company, but he was made to do every job in the shop before he was allowed control. it was a steel fab shop so he had done everything from sweeping the floor to welding to writing computer systems to run the office.

    He sat his desk right in the middle of the drawing office, open to all, and genuinely seemed to know pretty much everything that was going on.

    Every other job I've had, managers have been either too ignorant of the actual job, or promoted because they were good programmers/techies etc. but suddenly, in power they discovered they had no man management skills.

  15. Anonymous Coward

    The "whatever" attitude needs to be routed

    Is the UK the only country where managers will flap in the breeze over an employee turning up for work 2 minutes late yet not bat an eyelid when people waste half the day on random tea and fag breaks?

    The amount of firms I've worked at where people lose literally hours each day chain smoking outside and the manager will walk straight by but get a bee in their bonet over timekeeping... I always assumed it was down to weak management who largely get by with bluster and focus on timekeeping because they don't know what else to do or how else to asses whether an employee is an asset or not.

    There's a lot to be said for Carry On at Your Own Convenience.

  16. Anonymous Coward

    The "British Disease"

    I'm sad to say that this problem can't be overstated enough. My experience is that inept, unimaginative management is strangling the life out of everything it touches and nowhere seems to be free of its malaise. It's rather worrying that things show no signs of changing, as we as a country still seem obsessed with rewarding failure, and the solution to any problem seems to be to throw more managers at it--even though it's becoming increasingly unclear what it is they actually do, other than attempt to justify their own existence.

    My own experience has been that, when working free of management interference, productivity and morale goes up and the department has a sense of direction and works efficiently; once a manager (and his or her subsequent team of hangers-on) is introduced, the department is quickly crippled, which is surely the opposite of what should be happening. The most astonishing thing is that nobody seems to notice, or if they do notice, they don't care.

    I'd love to end on a positive note, but having seen the world-class sociopathic halfwits that management training colleges are pumping out, I can't.

  17. Кевин
    Paris Hilton


    I once worked for a multi-national company, in the UK marketing team they had a total of 10 people. 8 of them were managers, recently before fleeing this place (as nothing ever got done, too many cheifs and not enough indians) the higher management types realised what a joke it had become and trimmed the fat a bit.

    Now there are 7 managers and one non-manager. Problem solved!

  18. cubic archon

    Managers vs big monkeys

    It's amazing how many managers don't quite realise the what they are meant to be doing in a team - i.e. keeping tabs on what everyone else is doing so those people don't have to, co-ordinating everyone's efforts, and dealing with clients and other people in the organisation who are not directly involved. That is a useful if not essential role.

    The typical interpretation of a management position in British industry, however, is "I am monkey above you in tree! You monkeys do what I say, even stupid things, or no bananas! I order you to do stupid things to show how big monkey I am! I cower in front of bigger monkey though - I not stupid, I get _my_ bananas."

  19. Solomon Grundy
    Thumb Up

    @Who's responding to the survey?

    Great observation. Techies are the biggest whiners in business.

    The same personalities and mentalities that have lead them to the tech sector are the same that have them sitting alone in their rooms and wondering what a girl feels like.

  20. Anonymous Coward

    What makes anyone,

    think that good managers are any more common than good employees. They are both by their very nature rare people, managing is a skill it can to some extent be taught, but if you have no talent for it you'll never be good at it. The problem is of course a crap manager destroys more than crap employee, the executives do even worse. I have worked for plenty of bad managers and bad management groups led by higher level people who were themselves shit on a stick might as well be self employed it makes more sense. I can't imagine it's a UK thing we have many millions of this crap wrapped in human skin here the US they stink up the place just as much.

  21. yeah, right.

    Best managers

    The all-time best manager I've ever had died of a heart attack several years ago. Probably brought on by utterly incompetent senior management. I've lost touch with the second best manager.

    Both were Canadian, and were exemplary at motivating people as individuals, and not trying to get everyone to fit into a one-size-fits-all mold.

    The worst manager I ever had was... British. Big brutish authoritarian man who loved to yell at his employees and never had a word of praise for anyone. Left there in a hurry!

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Scott Broukell

    I'm far from being a regular flamer, but I've got to say, that's exactly the sort of verbal white noise that comes out of the most obnoxiously beige managers I've ever worked for...

    'Peeps' ... 'Team leader' ... bah!

  23. Luther Blissett

    Managers and/or leaders

    One of the existential problems for people who inhabit the intermediate layers of a company hierarchy - those parts which are neither productive nor decision making - is whether they are managers or leaders. Their problem is not helped by conflicting and incompatible theories of management, such as exercising command and control at the same time as empowering the people under them. (Nor for that matter by scholars who have been banging on for decades about management failings without offering constructive proposals). As noted above, the existential affliction has reached government.

    1. Thatcher was the last political leader the UK had. (Arguably she was not a brilliant manager, but she is never remembered for managerial defects, on account of her leadership).

    2. Major was a manager who had to be a leader. (Not now remembered as a leader).

    3. Blair could have been a leader but decided he would rather be a manager. (And we all rue what might have been).

    4. Brown wishes he were a leader (even now as PM!), but it seems may yet not make a manager either.

    The difference is this. You can impose a manager on people - because you decide. You cannot impose a leader on people - because the people decide.

    The next time you appoint a manager, have a look at who the people to be managed are treating as a leader.

  24. Anonymous Coward

    @Bit Fiddler

    if you haven't noticed, smokers corner outside in the rain is a place managers do not inhabit, this is where I actually get to think problems through without the constant Teflon shouldered crap that managers and other thoroughly redundant permies feel the need to dump on my contractor whore hide. A finer reason to start smoking is hard to find.

  25. Vic

    you can only take a tea break if you smoke....

    "Is the UK the only country where managers will flap in the breeze over an employee turning up for work 2 minutes late yet not bat an eyelid when people waste half the day on random tea and fag breaks?"

    Nope, South Africa is like that. My last company was a prime example. They are the major reason I now work for myself. Stifling is too nice a word.

    Oh, wait - it was run by Brits. Damn, defeated my own point there.

    I shouldn't bitch, I am one but hell....I can bitch then, we're good at it.

  26. Tony Barnett

    Douglas Adams was right

    Golgafrincham B-Ark time.

  27. PT

    The problem with promoting techies..

    .. is that the only ones who get promoted to management are the ones who can be SPARED. When a vacancy comes up and two people apply for it internally, the weaker one usually gets the job - and the raise - because the stronger one is more valuable where he is. The loser could be consoled with a matching raise, but this never happens because it would upset the differentials, so he quits. It takes at least three months to replace him and the new guy comes in at a substantially higher salary than it would have taken to retain the old one. After seeing this happen once or twice, nobody takes a chance on internal promotions - they bring in an outsider, who is probably on the market because he's f*ing useless. Being anxious to shine, he will immediately set himself a visible goal that's easily measured, like making sure none of his people are two minutes late.

  28. Brett


    I used to supervise 40 people. I wasn’t a manager as the company was too cheap to pay me as a manager.

    My job was to make sure people could to their jobs (It was manual labouring). The job was five fold. Training, team composition, delegation, discipline and problem solving. That was it. I knew I was doing my job well when I got board so started helping out the general labours. I didn't think I did a brilliant job but have since been told by people below and above me that I did.

    I learnt everything from word of mouth from good managers. I had some semi retired people working for me so they were great sources of info. I did some management at university but it all appeared to be counter intuitive. I see a lot of mistakes from people that are taught by academics who have never managed anything in their life.

    Management is fairly common sense. You treat people how you would like to be treated. Also when it comes to discipline you must be fair and consistent. Warn people then follow through. People don't mind discipline if they know why they are being disciplined and the person next to them who did the same get the same punishment.

    I said team composition. I had the luxury of choosing teams on a daily basis. Most days I let people go where they wanted as they knew who they worked well with. I knew who were the better trainers and they got new staff. Who were the better leaders and so they got the bigger teams. Who were the most experienced and they got the complicated stuff.


  29. Brett


    I have a saying "Don't be irreplaceable as you can't get promoted."

  30. Bruce

    internal memo

    Management knows there is a communication problem, but we're not going to talk about it!

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The best managers are also promoted, not hired:

    So are the worst. Just because you're good at your job doesn't mean you'll be any good at managing the people who continue to do your job.

  32. BossHog

    I hear you're having some trouble...

    .. with your TPS reports. Didn't you get the memo?

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A missing category perhaps?

    Preening, self-congratulatory flat-earthers with a lingering and inappropriate odour of testosterone. Or does it go without saying that this applies across the board?

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    it beggars belief

    I used to be on flexi and so was my "line manager". My actual manager was in the states. My line manager used to arrive at the same time as I did in the morning and park quite close to where I parked. We would both walk past the canteen on the way to our office.

    I started going in and getting a roll every morning. If I was even one minute late to my desk then my line manager would give me a bollocking.

    ...then he would go back to the canteen and get a roll himself, wasting 20 minutes of the working day.

    It was just sheer hypocracy - I would start work 20 minutes before him and yet *I* would be the one getting a bollocking for bad timekeeping.

    After I told my real manager why I she had recieved a complaint she confided that the most of the managers in other countries basically just ignored all accusations of poor timekeeping made by UK managers. Their reason? Half the UK employees were doing unpaid overtime...

    Since then I've experienced similar behaviour from managers in just about every UK-owned company I have worked in!

  35. Acidbass

    @Boss Hog

    I'm gonna have to ask you to go ahead and come in on sunday.

  36. Rich


    "run rate" usually means net new business, not overhead.

  37. Rich

    Other countries

    US managers are often ignorant empire builders.

    NZ managers are in many cases small business owners and treat every dollar as coming out of their own pocket.

    Japanese managers are so old before they are allowed to make a decision that they lack a clue about anything.

    I'm not sure where they have good managers - although in Italy they order cool offices and furniture, so that might be the top place.

  38. Mike Smith

    Oh, how true

    Having worked in manufacturing (before they shut all t'factories), I think the problem's far worse in IT, in that it's easier to bullshit your way through by hiding behind jargon.

    Now, you can't do that with techies - I defy any Reg reader to be unable to spot the fundamental truths behind the BOFH - but if you're a wet-behind-the-ears MBA graduate with oodles of over-confidence and attitude then it's just a case of using more techie jargon than the rest of your management peer group and making prettier reports and slides. There aren't that many manager types who will admit they don't know what they're talking about. Those few that do often command more respect from their techies, as they'll admit they don't know and will try to understand.

    The professional manager - someone who knows all about management and fuck all about the organisation's products - is the biggest blight on the Western world. Come the revolution, comrades, there will be a lamp post for each one. But until then, things will continue to get done in spite of, rather than because of, our inglorious "leaders" [sic].

    Note to management - the next time you're moaning at your team for going off into a huddle or not telling you every detail of their lives, be aware that more often than not they're sorting things out, solving problems and planning the work - doing your job, in other words.

  39. Mark

    Timekeeping comments

    Worked for to many places that expect you to stay behind to finish the job yet bitch about about being a minute late.

    One company the manager used to actually pack their stuff and leave at 5 while you were stuck fixing a problem till 7. Then if you turned up a minute late demand you worked till 5:01 at the next avaialable oppurtunity, there only skill really was watching the clock, certainly it wasnt people or leadership.

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