After a long hiatus, I've figured that I've met just about every specimen out there that personifies dark management diseases. Until lately, there's a new species making its rounds; I was talking to the wife while she was lamenting about a particular department manager that seems to "not know" a lot of things. Then I realized that I've seem them before as well; yikes!

Hence the name "Sciotitis"

The Latin word for "knowing" is Scio, and thus I decree, Sciotitis as the affliction of not knowing.
Now what are the symptoms you may ask.
  1. The individual tends to order people around; almost immediately after a meeting concludes. Usually picking on folks who seem to know.  
  2. The individual also orders people to assume responsibilities that rightfully should be under their purview. Claiming that the other team possess information that they do not have.
  3. When asked to perform any task in return. The individual will usually just say; 
    • I do not know how.
    • I have not done it before.
    • You know best, I'll let you do it. 
    • I do not have the information that you have. 
    • I only know "my job " hence you cannot expect me to do XXX. because.... I do not know how

See if you can spot folks with Sciotitis and let me know.

Typically, mid-management (can't go up any higher cause the other managers are quite cheesed off with the behaviour so not much support from peers). So far we've concluded that they are more female than males; because men have this ego thing going on that stops them saying "I don't know".

The Sentence Completors

Before I start, there's this compelling urge to spew inane observations like how sleepless nights are like bad relationships... because (complete the sentence)

"...yes yes"
" when you wanna sleep but can't"
"because... (whatever else comes to mind)"

Sentence completors (apologies, can't seem to find the verb form) are managers who either reverberate the final points of the discussion ad verbum, or acknowledges with a "yes" or "exactly" even though you're pretty sure they don't understand what you're talking about.

If you ever had to hire a sentence completor for anything technical, please for heaven's sake, reconsider. You may make the mistake of leaning towards Theory Y and thinking that hey, I have a great manager who really knows stuff.

Only to discover later that the Dark Manager knows DICK...!

Just like how a husband knows the back of his wife's... (complete the sentence)

How Management has evolved

In the old days, it was just God and you.

There were rules, you make a mistake and you either die or get urself kicked out of the promised land with some curses thrown in.

Then came the lovey dovey stuff where you'll be forgiven, provided that you ask for it.

Then came the age of looking at the bright side, yes; you did something wrong, but at least you're good at other things, so let's celebrate what we've achieved.

Perhaps what's missing, is a prophet to go along with this, or maybe there's just too many prophets already. Folks who say "Don't sweat the small stuff", go work on your "StrengthFinder 2.0"...

Now I see the age of denial upon us.
The rules are unseen but felt...
The actions are unclear but expected...
The decisions are required but not obligatory...
And only one commandment sums it all:-

"Thou shall not bring tidings of ill for thou shall only bring gladness and resolution"

... and so here we are today, wearing invisible robes with peons singing songs of praise. Oh how wonderful it is to be the CEO today, for my consultant brings forth my wonderful new robe!

Tower of Truth vs Pyramid of Pain

The problem with dark management managed organizations is the want of truth when information propagates upward to the CEO.

“It’ll take 18 months, and at least 20 new recruits and there’s at least 3 major infrastructural projects that needs to move first to support this initiative” said the analyst

“My boys need 20 months and a further 10 recruits and we need some upgrades”, the team lead assessed, knowing that it’s going to be hard to get that many new hires anyway.

“The section will require 12 months to complete the job and more hires will be necessary”, line manager reports in the weekly update. It’s a ripe enough target to meet this year’s bonus, and 20 months is just way too long. Heck, the infrastructural issues is not his problem.

“We can do it in 9 months! And I’ll stake my reputation on it“, the departmental manager held his head high, believing that there’s nothing like a stretched target to inject some ‘creative tension’. And when challenged by the General Manager about the extra weight it’ll put on the existing corporate platform, he nonchalantly claims that the existing upgrades is only 8 months old, so it’ll hold.

“The project seems simple enough, I think the team can complete it in 6 months, and we may even be able to run the project concurrently with the other core projects”, finally as the General manager wraps up the quarterly report to the CEO.

“One more thing, we’ll split the department into two due to the concurrent running projects”, and before the GM could conclude, the CEO butts in.

“From today onwards, they’ll be a freeze in recruitment, we’re too bottom heavy, I’ve just got a report from the consultants that companies our size runs with 30% less people”.


From analysis inception to the final board report, probably 3-6 months would have passed; that’s if you’re lucky. But “management” needs to meet a magical dateline that’s pegged to yearly bonuses or some other arbitrary political interest like owing his buddy the vendor quarterly targets from the server acquisition that the project will incur.
So all this shit storm comes crashing down on the grunt; management yells go go go, and the whirlwind of excitement actually makes the CEO feel good.

“Yeah, I run an awesome performing company!”

So what’s this Tower of Truth? Well; that’s assuming that such organization actually exists and that there’s no lost in information as it flows. Gradually, the CEO gets smart after several failures and turns the flow into the “Trapezoid of Tyranny” through micromanagement.

The Gap

Geoffrey more calls it “Crossing the Chasm” when discussing the elements required for new innovation to bridge the gap between tech-heads and conservative stalwart consumers. Within Management, I’ve noticed this “gap” that exists between top management and line managers as illustrated below.

So what interests me is the stark difference in behaviour, particularly how positive they can be. So the excuses provided by dark managers are that, top management; in lieu of their sky high salary and perks as well as lack of grounding and distanced from the stresses of the middle management can afford to be “virile” and “visionary” in all its pomp and glory.

However, this notion can be challenged as the layer down, the line managers, exhibit all the passion and desire to do the right thing. So it begets the question, what happened?

Do line managers go through some sort of metamorphosis as they age?

What kind of dribble have they consumed to chrysalis themselves with their own sputum and emerge as a Dark Manager?

Try it out and look around, most large companies will have this ‘gap’; it’s scary when you can see it.

Turning Guessing into an Art Form

Just when I though I've seen it all, here comes another organization with its variant of Dark Managers.

Now, where I come from, when there's doubt, you remove it through inquiry, enquiring and face to face meeting with facts on the table. On the other hand, you have the "maybes, perhaps, could've would've assumptions" answer to any uncertainty. Used by a dark manager, it really means avoiding ever leaving your cozy seat to find out WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG!!!

Apologies, I fluster.

But seriously, here's what I experience on a daily basis dealing with the budget for one of the largest banks in South East Asia.

Mgr A: How come CAPEX from IT differs from CAPEX in business?
Me: Would somebody just go to the business and find out why?
Mgr B: Maybe they've included head counts in it?
Me: Would somebody just go to the business and find out why?
Mgr C: No wait; maybe they turned their CAPEX / OPEX formula around?
Mgr B: Cannot be... that's too dumb
Me: Not any dumber than a bunch of clowns "guessing" what's wrong with the numbers.
Mgr D: I know! It's because they didn't include software licenses..
Mgr A and B and C: Ahhh.. that's it.. that's it. Let's move on.
Me: Huh...? You mean that's it!? nobody even bothers to go through the numbers and cross reference it with someone from business?

As far as South East Asia is concerned, I am pretty sure that the Japanese concept of "Genchi Genbutsu" is as alien as physically getting your asses up from your desk other than going to the loo or for lunch.

Quotations on Teamwork

"Teamwork is knowing your responsibilities so that you can help one another"

"Teamwork is knowing your responsibilities so that you know who to pass the bucket to"
- Dark Manager

"Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results"
- Andrew Carnegie

"Teamwork is the ability to work separately toward a common lie. The ability to misdirect individual accomplishments toward your own objectives. It is the fuel that allows dark managers to attain the perception of uncommon results from common effort"
- Dark Manager

"The best job goes to the person who can get it done without passing the buck or coming back with excuses."
- Napolean Hill

"Why does he even want the job?"
- Dark Manager