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10 steps to becoming a horrible IT boss

Bob Lewis | March 17, 2017
Good-bye, programming peers; hello, power to abuse at your whim.

Introduce you to whom? To people who won’t care if you’re their friend, but are delighted to experience your talents at knowing who to kiss, when, and where.

That’s all metaphorical, of course, and if not, please don’t tell me.


Step 6: Be decisive

Tired of analysis paralysis? Excited by book titles like “Fail Fast” and “Blink!” that extoll the virtues of action over the tiresome detail of extensive research and careful thinking?

The next time an important decision floats into view, just make it, and having made it, don’t allow those reporting to you to second-guess the direction you’ve set.

Why not? Re-read Steps 1 and 4.

But “just make it” is a bit of an oversimplification. You want to talk it over (briefly) with your new circle of friends, maybe involve one or two of them in the endeavor.

That’s important because when you fail fast and learn that failing fast is something the company’s executives say when they support a losing idea—it doesn’t extend to those who toil in the trenches a few layers down—when you fail, whether quickly or at a more leisurely pace, you’ll want to have a scapegoat primed and ready for deployment.


Step 7: Subordinates

They used to be your peers. They used to be your friends. You used to eat pizza with them (see above), drink the occasional beer with them, and gripe about lousy management with them.

Now they report to you. They’re your subordinates, as in “sub,” which means “under,” and ”ordinate,” which means “the vertical value in a pair of coordinates.”

When someone is your subordinate, they are by definition beneath you.

You don’t have to be pompous and overtly arrogant about it, but you need to make it clear to everyone in that position what your relative positions are.

But be nice about it. It’s OK to call your subordinates terms like ”rank and file,” “the troops,” “the great unwashed,” or “cannon fodder,” but only to your new circle of friends.

For the men and women who report to you, “subordinate” sums up your expectations quite nicely without being offensive—well, not too offensive.


Step 8: Remember that management is a lot like parenting

Children need parents: people who keep an eye on them, make sure they don’t head in the wrong direction, don’t make the wrong friends, don’t succumb to peer pressure, or otherwise commit any of the mistakes their parents did and learned from.

Subordinates are like that too. If you keep a close eye on them to ensure they make no mistakes, they’ll commit fewer mistakes, which means you won’t have to explain to your manager how one of your subordinates goofed up.


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