My best manager did this...
September 2, 2016 7:46 AM   Subscribe

I am taking up a new management position this month and I have been enjoying asking these two questions of my friends to help me prepare mentally. Can the Green help too?

In preparation for a new management position I am taking this month, I have been asking my friends these two questions and getting some really interesting and unexpected responses! I wanted to get more from the Green.

Please finish these two sentences:
1. My best manager did ______.
2. My worst manager did ______.

For me, it was "My best manager let me really dig in and do my job without interference. My worst manager micromanaged me." I've gotten answers though that talk about meetings and reference Star Trek - and I'm surprised by the variation of responses.

How would you finish those two sentences?
posted by Toddles to Work & Money (81 answers total) 145 users marked this as a favorite
My best managers saw their reports as their constituents. My worst managers saw their bosses as their constituents.
posted by enn at 7:52 AM on September 2, 2016 [48 favorites]

My best manager was always thinking about ways to balance the needs of management with the needs of employees. My worst manager was a coward who only tried to keep his own job by making sure that we weren't allowed to make any waves.

Don't be that guy! Good luck being a good manager!
posted by clone boulevard at 7:58 AM on September 2, 2016 [2 favorites]

1. My best manager made sure to praise and credit the work of their reports to their bosses.

2. My worst manager presented the work as their own.

1. My best manager put their reports in front of their bosses to showcase their skills and work.

2. My worst manager would not allow their reports access to their bosses.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 7:58 AM on September 2, 2016 [7 favorites]

My best manager gave employees the benefit of the doubt. My worst manager did not treat all employees fairly.
posted by pintapicasso at 7:59 AM on September 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

My best manager basically said "What do you need from me to help you be awesome at your job?" My worst manager rolled out new changes late on Fridays, was conflict avoidant and took credit for the hard work I did.
posted by jessamyn at 8:03 AM on September 2, 2016 [13 favorites]

My best manager makes sure his reports have what they need to get the job done and then gets out of the way.

My worst manager hoarded information and then publically blamed her reports for being uninformed.
posted by mcduff at 8:03 AM on September 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

My worst managers were arrogant, sexist(and ageist and ableist) and favored their buddies.

My best managers were smart and listened.
posted by theora55 at 8:05 AM on September 2, 2016 [3 favorites]

My best manager never took credit for a single thing ever and passed it down to his subordinates by name to his bosses.

My worst manager never told me what I was supposed to do until after I'd done something else.
posted by Etrigan at 8:06 AM on September 2, 2016 [4 favorites]

My best manager took the effort to thoughtfully and carefully manage "up"/"sideways" when necessary, so that her team's time and effort were spent wisely.

My worst manager just acted as a go-between/mouthpiece between the higher levels and myself, wasting everyone's time and careers.
posted by aperturescientist at 8:07 AM on September 2, 2016 [4 favorites]

My best manager(s) made sure that we had direction and tools to do our jobs, and kept as much of the administrative overheads off us as possible.

My worst managers were hard to get hold of, non-responsive to questions and would not make decisions. They also actively hid critical information to give them power over their employees.
posted by bonehead at 8:09 AM on September 2, 2016 [2 favorites]

My best manager asked me to do things, and said thank you.

My worst manager demanded things, and not only never said thank you, but criticised or questioned my methods.
posted by greenish at 8:09 AM on September 2, 2016 [3 favorites]

My best manager had monthly one-on-ones with everyone on the team and encouraged transparency by being non-judgmental and discreet.

My worst manager was constantly at odds with her own manager and would regularly drag the team into their fights.
posted by neushoorn at 8:10 AM on September 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

1. My best managers always said "thanks"* for even the most routine work.

2. My worst managers never said "please" or "thank you."

* Seriously - this is a thing that costs someone literally nothing to do WHY WOULD YOU NOT.

1. My best managers treated one-on-one and team meeting time as sacred and only rescheduled under extraordinary and understandable circumstances.

2. My worst managers treated meeting time with direct reports and their team as an afterthought, and would reschedule or cancel it on a rolling basis.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 8:14 AM on September 2, 2016 [8 favorites]

My best manager was always available to listen, and took an active role in problem solving, even if it meant she had to crawl under desks to fix computer hardware issues.

My worst manager actively avoided being in the office as much as humanly possible, went out of his way to trick us (ie calling a random office phone that nobody had ever been instructed to answer and then got mad that nobody picked up) and regularly sent emails threatening to fire the whole department.
posted by janepanic at 8:17 AM on September 2, 2016 [3 favorites]

My best manager trusted me to do important work but made sure I had the resources I needed to do it.

My worst manager thought that all his employees wanted a career similar to his own.
posted by Tomorrowful at 8:18 AM on September 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

My best manager went to bat, often and hard, to defend/shield her staff from (unfair and incorrect accusations from faculty, poor upper-management decision making that didn't take reality into account, a variety of other things that would have distracted and demoralized us.)

My worst manager wanted me to work independently and not bother him, which would have been great, except that at the exact same he wanted to micromanage and second-guess all my choices during the one half-hour a week he did meet with me, so that I ended up responsible for everything at the exact same time I was given no actual authority, training, or empowerment to do the things I was responsible for.
posted by Stacey at 8:19 AM on September 2, 2016 [8 favorites]

My best manager told me he didn't care about the details, as long as I got my work done.

My worst manager overheard part of a conversation, assumed I'd done something wrong, talked to everyone but me about it, built a case that I had done something wrong, then presented me that case in front of everyone else while having missed key facts that contradicted her assumptions. Shorter: if you have a question about something, don't assume you understand what happened and fill in facts to support a hypothesis. Just ask the person involved directly and non-judgmentally.
posted by *s at 8:23 AM on September 2, 2016 [3 favorites]

This comes from teaching so I don't know how much this applies, but, my best manager(s):

* gave CLEAR and CONCISE feedback
* had time to help dissect an issue
* gave staff course ideas for advancement and skill-building
* made a point to mention something specific you'd been doing well
* understood we are all professionals with advanced degrees and knew our jobs - no micromanagement

My worst manager(s):
* forced us to demonstrate accountability by endless data gathering and report making that took us from our work with the kids and creating lessons
* clearly had favorites who you'd find hanging in their office while the rest of us idiots were working
* gave philosophical and generally unclear responses to any questions
* gave zero feedback

But really, the worst managers are the ones who have Peter Principled their way into a managerial position, who don't know what they're doing and don't actually understand the scope of their position as they try to fake it unsuccessfully. For some reason these are always former PE teachers.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 8:36 AM on September 2, 2016 [21 favorites]

My best manager listened to what I had to say, and even if he disagreed, I left his office understanding the bigger picture, and being confident in the direction we were going.
My worst manager agreed with me in person on everything, then did the opposite, sometimes screwing me over.
posted by Valancy Rachel at 8:47 AM on September 2, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best manager:
-Responded to mundane requests (for leave etc) promptly
-Was open as a point of escalation to our 'customers'
-Said please and thank you

Worst manager:
-Consistently asked women to do minute taking, drinks orders, party organising etc (unconsciously, I think)
-Took days to respond to minor emails
-Sent confrontational emails just before leaving the office for the day
-Would 'grammar check' work and either make errors or change things for his stylistic preferences rather than actual errors.
posted by threetwentytwo at 8:53 AM on September 2, 2016 [3 favorites]

My worst manager talked in an encoded way so you always had to wonder what the conversation was really about-- or if it really was THE conversation about whatever it was. He'd say, "We need to talk about so-and-so at some point" and then a few minutes later I'd realize, "Oh, this is that conversation now and I haven't had a chance to think or prepare and he's trying to get something by me." Sometimes it may just have been poor focus but other times I think it was really manipulative like that.
posted by BibiRose at 8:54 AM on September 2, 2016 [2 favorites]

My best manager was secure enough to entertain and implement suggestions on how to improve our workplace procedures and environment.
My worst manager literally had no understanding of what I did all day, or what I needed in order to do it, and then would criticize my performance.
My best manager never gave the impression that he was above getting in there and helping when circumstances demanded it.
My worst manager had poor organizational and time management skills and would routinely assign tasks at the last minute, creating unnecessary stress.
posted by bookmammal at 8:54 AM on September 2, 2016 [2 favorites]

My best manager asked questions – never jumped to conclusions.

My worst managers always assumed the worst. Of everyone. And were convinced they were right in assuming the worst. I now make a point of asking managers what they think of their teams: red flag answer is "I have so many people trying to manipulate me! I never know who to trust!"

My best manager listened, and when he'd made a decision, he gave everyone an objective summary (it could be very short, but he always did) of how he'd reached it. In spite of any disagreements, pretty much everyone respected his decisions and followed them.

My worst managers pretended to listen, then made decisions that included practically none of the feedback anyone had given. If they did, they took credit for it in front of their managers. If someone asked for an explanation, no matter how neutrally nor how well-phrased their request was, the manager escalated with remarks such as "you're not showing respect for my decisions" and "I don't like your attitude." Then they would put that in performance evaluations. Turnover was record under them.

Outcomes, btw:
- Best manager has been continually promoted and has a reputation for excellence shared by his teams. Good and great people want to work with him and/or are proud to have worked with him.
- Worst managers – I've had three who did the same things – have been fired with cause (two) and demoted (one) to no longer managing people.

posted by fraula at 8:55 AM on September 2, 2016 [4 favorites]

My best managers defended the team from scope creep - internally and from clients - and treated work tasks as 4-dimensional things that took up time.

My worst managers were basically doing two jobs - being a senior team member plus managing, and so not really managing. I've been that manager myself.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:08 AM on September 2, 2016 [6 favorites]

My best manager built a personal relationship with me so they knew if I there were challenges in my personal life they gave me some slack knowing I would be giving 200% percent at other times (also known as the opposite of "yes you worked late by an hour every night for the last month but you were late by five minutes today through no fault of your own so I am going to scream at you")

Worst manger was super clear on expectations and what resources I had available to meet those expectations ... right after they freaked out on me for missing those un-communicated expectations. Repeatedly.
posted by saucysault at 9:17 AM on September 2, 2016 [2 favorites]

My worst managers treated me as a subordinate. My best managers treated me as a collaborator.

My worst managers assumed I was only as smart as my pay grade. My best managers looked beyond my role.

My worst managers were preoccupied with my surface: whether I dressed "for success," when I could take breaks, if I ate or did personal stuff at my desk. My best managers paid no attention to the surface and cared about what was underneath: what motivated me, what my strengths were, how I preferred to work.
posted by Metroid Baby at 9:32 AM on September 2, 2016 [15 favorites]

My best manager believed and supported me when I confided in him about my chronic, recurring health problem.
posted by theraflu at 9:32 AM on September 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

My best manager made me feel like it was safe to ask questions, and gave the answers without being condescending.

My worst manager acts like asking questions is a burden, and the answers are obvious.
posted by marginaliana at 9:35 AM on September 2, 2016 [4 favorites]

My best manager gave me latitude to do my job as I saw fit, with regular in-depth check-ins to make sure things were on schedule (and there were no misunderstandings). If something was wrong, she assumed it was a communication problem, not a competence problem.

My worst manager assumed transparency meant telling all her direct reports EVERYTHING, including high-level drama/gossip, and holding us accountable for not remembering all the details. (If we forgot something that was categorically not our job to keep track of, it was our fault anyway.)
posted by stoneandstar at 9:38 AM on September 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

My best manager got out of the way.
posted by radicalawyer at 9:38 AM on September 2, 2016 [2 favorites]

My best manager was always giving me new and interesting projects that challenged me, and gave me a lot of autonomy.

My worst manager micromanaged me and made me feel guilty about taking any time off, to the point that I once woke up at 3am on Christmas to work remotely.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 9:40 AM on September 2, 2016 [2 favorites]

My best managers believed that people grew and changed, that they needed to be trained and looped-in in order to function at their jobs, and that "managing" people meant helping them learn. Honest mistakes on your part prompted education on theirs.

My worst manager believed that people were "fixed" and "had it" or "didn't have it". Honest mistakes on your part meant that you were just not cut out for the job and never would be.

My worst manager--and other bad managers--got their subordinates sucked into managing the manager's anxieties rather than managing the task.

My worst manager also repeatedly changed deadlines on me at 4:30 pm on a Friday ("Yeah, I see you're on track to get these envelopes stuffed and mailed by Monday like we agreed but I actually want them to all go out before you leave tonight the post office is open til midnight kthxbye"). And that manager also called me into a meeting once, stared at me, and then said "You know, there are a lot of people here who don't like you", then refused to say more about who they were, what I had done, or how I could repair relationships with them. So yeah don't do those things.
posted by Hypatia at 9:52 AM on September 2, 2016 [11 favorites]

1. My best manager kept meetings on task and clearly outlined what they wanted from everyone on the team.
2. My worst manager never knew what they wanted from me, and was increasingly frustrated when I failed to guess.

(All my best managers have gone on to much higher paying jobs, the others have sort of dispersed into the ether)
posted by lepus at 10:01 AM on September 2, 2016

My best manager acknowledged that there were problems, was interested in finding solutions, and laid out a plan to get them implemented.

My worst manager acknowledged that there were problems, that they'd known about them for years, and actively refused to solve them.
posted by okayokayigive at 10:03 AM on September 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

Oh god, yes. My worst manager acted like a talent scout instead of a manager, and withheld good-faith instruction to people who didn't automatically have the (niche) skillset we needed for our job. One of my coworkers had strong skills in an area none of the rest of us had (copyediting), but instead of seeing the value added and guiding her other novice skills, she basically started a campaign of psychological terror toward her until she was forced out of the position. Ridiculous, cruel and counterproductive. (We didn't have a copyeditor anymore!)
posted by stoneandstar at 10:22 AM on September 2, 2016

My best managers were very free with the non-tangible perks they were able to offer, such as leniency when it comes to needing time off for sick kids or school events or generosity with days off. There is a lot of stress as a working parent and having a manager be understanding of that and helping relieve guilt and stress when possible was really immeasurable and went a long way towards building my morale and goodwill towards the company.

My worst manager was very controlling and micromanaging and did not have any sympathy for parent-related missed hours at work. At a time when lay offs were rampant, wages were frozen, and there had been no raises or bonuses, she was stingy with a request to shift my hours by 30 minutes 3 days a week in order to pick up my infant son from daycare in time, which seemed so petty. I harbored a lot of lingering resentment about that.
posted by LKWorking at 10:29 AM on September 2, 2016 [6 favorites]

My best manager was all about empowering people by giving them skills and room to get better. A lot of people say they believe in that, but to accomplish it involves reading people accurately and I believe it's a gift.
posted by BibiRose at 10:42 AM on September 2, 2016 [2 favorites]

My best manager shared information freely and encouraged my department into doing the same, so we were all informed and cooperative. (Only appropriate information obvs, client-centered and not employee gossip or discipline.)

My worst manager assumed the worst out of every employee, and let us know it by being rude, confrontational, or condescending, no matter how long you'd been with the company. He also shared political opinions loudly and expected you to agree.
posted by possibilityleft at 10:43 AM on September 2, 2016

best manager: understood that different people work differently - some like constant contact and feedback and some work best left alone to complete the job; was always supportive of his staff's innovations in the face of criticism from the old stodgy higher-ups; and was always very open about how much hard work his staff was doing in the background to complete projects in a seemingly effortless manner.

worst manager: highly aggressive micromanaging; always firmly believed that her own approach to various projects was the only correct one; regularly and openly took credit for others' work; regularly assigned blame for mistakes to her staff when the errors were her own; her most basic assumption about coworkers was that anyone underneath her in the organizational hierarchy was also beneath her intellectually and social-class-wise.

tbh even with all the awful things the worst manager was doing, the actual worst thing she did was constantly come in late to a 100-message email thread between 6 people, which she was copied on as an FYI only, and start demanding answers about things that had been resolved hours ago to everyone's satisfaction. like sometimes it was 3 fucking days later and she'd be like I CAN'T BELIEVE I WASN'T CONSULTED. god, im mad all over again.
posted by poffin boffin at 11:11 AM on September 2, 2016 [3 favorites]

He also shared political opinions loudly and expected you to agree.

Oh, god... Many of my "not worst, but definitely ones I don't want to work for again" managers were ones who talked to me about non-work stuff even after I'd made it clear that I didn't want to do that (usually on specific topics, with them in particular). So, be careful about that.
posted by Etrigan at 11:13 AM on September 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

My best manager told me when I was good at my job, and if I did something wrong or made a mistake she let me know without having to rub my nose in it; even though we had different positions, she treated me like a whole person who could understand my job and the overall mission (not everyone seems to see that).

My worst manager expected employees to perform specialized tasks they weren't qualified or prepared to do, with a wildly unrealistic expectation of what the actual cost would be in terms of money and labor. Then he was furious when the results weren't what he was imagining, and when costs were 10x what he thought they'd be.
posted by teponaztli at 11:14 AM on September 2, 2016

1. My best manager let me work independently, with little interruption.
2. My worst manager used an accusatory tone every time an issue came up she wanted me to look into, like she was already expecting it to be something that I did incorrectly.
posted by Sara_NOT_Sarah at 12:03 PM on September 2, 2016

My best manager told me what needed to get done and gave me the space to get it done. Didn't matter if I asked someone else to do it right in front of him, he saw the part where I was making sure the task got done.

My worst manager would abuse the loyalty/hard working nature of good employees. Always asking us to stay late, come in on weekends, that sort of thing. Would always spring that decision on us at the last minute and act like we shouldn't have a life outside of work when we showed any sign of not wanting to do it.

Don't get me started on that guy, I could write a book.
posted by theichibun at 2:13 PM on September 2, 2016

My best manager defended his team and clearly communicated expectations. My worst manager micromanaged everything I did, regardless of my productivity (demanding tedious daily data reports, insisting that I organise computer files exactly as she did, counting how minutes under or over I was in every month).
posted by exquisite_deluxe at 2:41 PM on September 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

My best manager used their words to issue clear requests to specific team members, with deadlines, and adjusted resource allocations as necessary when something new was involved.

My worst manager said things like "wouldn't it be interesting if we...?" and then got ticked off when nobody read their mind. (One day, someone lost it in a management meeting and said "wouldn't it be interesting if we all went to outer space tomorrow? Sure it would be, but we don't have the mandate, time, or personnel to do that so it's not really interesting to talk about it.")
posted by rpfields at 3:57 PM on September 2, 2016 [2 favorites]

My best manager saw mistakes as opportunities to teach, and always made sure to encourage people when they got better at hard tasks, took time to get to know things about our lives, could be critical while also knowing that having good quality of work life made people more loyal, cared about accessibility, had a SENSE OF HUMOR, ultimately saw that in the end our job wasn't a huge deal in the scheme of life, and training as what it was, which was learning how to do the job, gave a ton of flexibility during the day and trusted us to be self-directed

My worst manager saw mistakes as opportunities to fire 13 people in one month, micromanaged to the point that even one-line emails were checked before they were sent out, had employees spy on other employees in case they couldn't micromanage ENOUGH, constantly moved goalposts so the office was in a state of perpetual the-world-is-burning-down crisis, saw training as a crucible only the perfect were meant to survive, made everyone do hours and hours of "optional" unpaid overtime
posted by ariadne's threadspinner at 4:38 PM on September 2, 2016

My best manager used the term "We did . . . " to discuss the work accomplished, listened carefully and trusted his staff to do the right thing.

My worst manager presented everything that was done with "I did . . .", played favorites and would suddenly micromanage employees who had been doing their job for years. He would never make a decision that might make someone unhappy but instead would go months without making any decision in hopes that upper management would forget.** He would talk more than listen in meetings. We used to time* how long he would talk without allowing input and his average was 60% of meeting time. Staff felt like their work and opinions didn't matter to him.

We were a classic example of how a group of go-getters can hate their boss but still get a lot of great things done. (I just had this conversation yesterday with an ex-employee, she said, "One of the things that led to our staff unity was hating management but being strong enough people to get stuff done in spite of management's bullshit.")

I now run a project where I do 85% of the work. But when I talk about what my project can offer and has done, I always use "we" both to show respect for my consultants and also to show that we are part of the larger organization.

* If you hire behaviorists, they are going to do that kind of thing. We would set over/under bets before meetings on how many minutes at a time he would stand up and talk without let anyone else talk.

** A co-worker once described that boss by saying, "The son-of-a-bitch has never in his entire life been in a fist fight or opened a bottle of whisky and threw the cap away." An indelicate metaphor perhaps, but a Montana one.
posted by ITravelMontana at 5:10 PM on September 2, 2016 [6 favorites]

I just had to add to add this to my reply to a new manager:

1. Annual reviews: Ask if you can get/do a 360 reviews. That means that your annual review (and that of all employees) is not just the supervisor reviewing an employee, but that the supervisor and employees get reviews from their supervisor, coworkers, support staff, and customers (if possible.)

It always drove me nuts that I would be reviewed from somone above who saw me only in the office and saw none of my field work with customers or got feedback from support staff.

2. Read Theodore Caplow's book, "How To Manage An Organization." It is short and has great tips, especially for how a new manager follows a previous manager and his/her style.
posted by ITravelMontana at 5:31 PM on September 2, 2016 [2 favorites]

Ahahahha I was sad earlier today because I found out my horror show of ex-manager has been badmouthing / aggressively lying about me to a prospective employer who contacted her without my knowledge, but I'm feeling a lot better reading everyone else's "worst manager" stories man there are some crazy people out there.

My best manager set expectations clearly and accurately, gave me room to breathe, supported me unequivocally when I came to him with issues, and, today, years after I worked for him, immediately agreed to provide a good reference when I told him about the above situation. No questions and tons of support, let me take two weeks off to go back to Taiwan and take care of things when a family member passed away while I was working for him.

My worst manager was micromanaging (did not let me send emails or call anyone without checking with her first or letting her read them), excessively controlling, did not clearly communicate expectations or how to achieve them, frequently undermined me to others, tried to use me in a bizarre plot to fire a member of my team she had a weird grudge against, and is still continuing to try to control me / have power over me by doing things like tell lies about me to prospective employers even though I haven't worked for her for more than half a year. Oh, and while i was working for her, I got in a car accident, and she was the ONLY person I worked with who didn't say anything like "that sucks" or "are you ok" she literally just stared at me blankly when I told her I hadn't gotten to her email immediately the night before because I was in a car accident. Knowing how weird and suspicious she was she probably thought I was lying to her.
posted by raw sugar at 7:33 PM on September 2, 2016

My best manager spent a lot of time grooming me for their job. My worst manager acted all the time as if I was out to take her job.
posted by AugustWest at 9:17 PM on September 2, 2016 [6 favorites]

My best managers trusted us to do our jobs, treated us respectfully as professionals and people, and prioritized our professional development as much (or more) than our value in our current roles.

My worst manager was territorial about my work (refused to let me work for other departments, even though I had time and was interested in expanding my skills), micromanaged me (even after saying repeatedly that I rarely made mistakes and that my work never really needed edits), and continually pushed me to do work that I was bad at (rather than, as I said, letting me transition to work I was interested in).
posted by lazuli at 9:56 PM on September 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

My worst recent manager bragged about his personal life and pretended to listen to my production concerns. Even so, I was his favorite underling—my colleagues were treated like furniture or shit, depending on how they had failed him.

A recent meh manager flattered me to get my buy-in on something that was never going to fly. But he was forthright and clear about my role in the proposed project, which I appreciated.

Another recent meh manager pooh-poohed my concerns and said "I don't really care what we do about that client." So I took that client to my next job and doubled the monthly take from them while lowering production costs. But he understood my concerns and told me clearly and truthfully that he didn't see a straightforward career path for me where I was, which I appreciated.

My best manager asked me really hard questions about my career path and where I saw myself in the next few years—and didn't suggest answers. That's brave, to be the head cheerleader of a company and admit you don't have answers. Figuring out those answers by way of creating new business processes for the company is now my job.
posted by infinitewindow at 12:54 AM on September 3, 2016 [2 favorites]

My best manager didn't force status meetings. I had a huge white board with all my tasks on it. He quietly came in when my door was open and looked what was checked off.
My best managers apologized to me when I was given shit work to do, especially when all it was for was to prove to a customer that we were right.
My worst manager actively pissed off our customers during phone meetings by micromanaging them.
My worst manager was teflon. If you came to him with problems. He would nod and maybe say, "I know" but didn't do anything to remove or mitigate problems.
My worst manager actively tried to fire one of his more competent employees by soliciting input from his friends in the group. When that didn't work, he kept loading him up with shit tasks until he left out of frustration.
My best manager grabbed unused tickets from sales to take his entire team to a skybox to watch a baseball game just because.
posted by plinth at 4:27 AM on September 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

My best manager trusted me, respected my skills and experience and let me do my job. He had amazing emotional control under stress and always treated his team with courtesy and respect. My worst manager was a narcissistic sociopath and spectacularly charismatic liar who surrounded himself with sycophants and scapegoated me for his mistakes. He took out his frustrations on his subordinates. He replaced my best manager and I left as quickly as I could shortly afterwards.
posted by t0astie at 5:09 AM on September 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

My best manager heaped appropriate, well-informed praise on those who were doing a good job, and dealt privately with those who weren't.

My worst manager was a paranoid bully who always had one favourite (usually male) and one target (always a competent woman). She managed to scare away two of our best employees before leaving herself.
posted by Frenchy67 at 6:04 AM on September 3, 2016

My best manager had an open door policy that wasn't just lip service. He was always willing and able to discuss anything and everything. He trusted me to do my work and come to him when I needed him. He apologized for decisions that his higher-ups made that had a bad impact on me. He acknowledged the problems in the organization without throwing anyone under the bus.

My worst manager (same job, before the best manager arrived) was a terrible communicator. Never gave clear directions and then was upset when I didn't do exactly what she wanted me to do. Was unwilling or unable to provide me with the tools and information that I needed to do my job, so I was always destined to fail.
posted by anotheraccount at 8:48 AM on September 3, 2016

My best manager scooped up vomit in front of me, and explained that he was never going to tell someone to do something he wouldn't do himself. It was my first day on the job, and I appreciated it.

My worst manager used every bit of leverage she had over employees to get us to do what she wanted. She had a lot of leverage (due to visa issues) and she crossed the line too often. You don't want your employees to have a running calculation of "and if I say no and get fired..." but we all had that in our minds.
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 2:13 PM on September 3, 2016 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you everyone! Consider each answer a "best answer"!

Many of these stories actually reminded me of much worse (and even better!) managers, I've had - so it was a good reminder of things to look out for.

And if you have more, feel free to keep adding :D
posted by Toddles at 8:09 PM on September 3, 2016

My best manager walked the walk on work/family balance and actively encouraged/rewarded others for doing so as well.

My worst manager refused to train me properly, got mad if I asked questions, and forbade coworkers from helping me. No surprise, I didn't last long at that job.
posted by eleanna at 6:38 PM on September 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

My best manager made sure that all of her employees were well trained, understood their jobs, and had faith that we would go and do our jobs to the best of our abilities without undermining us.

My worst manager held grudges, was angry that, although he was a full generation older than all of us working under him, we didn't invite him out with us for a beer after work on Friday. He would use any small infraction of any number of arbitrary rules to pull employees into his office to berate them. He would start out by being critical about work performance, but would quickly segue into personal attacks. These meetings would last from 15 minutes to half an hour, where the employee would have to just sit there while he went through a litany of things he just didn't like about them.

In a tie for worst, though, I did once have a manager who left a sign out in plain view of all of us, saying: Remember, be friendly with your employees, not friends. She managed to fail that on all accounts.
posted by Ghidorah at 9:15 PM on September 5, 2016

More best manager practices:

Never held a meeting if an email could relay the same information.
During meetings, had "parking lot" for digressions so we could stay on topic.
When staff had family emergencies or health issues, were not only incredibly gracious about taking ALL the time you needed to get things sorted but asked how they could help.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 2:55 AM on September 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

My best manager treated me as a human being first and an employee second.

My worst manager bad-mouthed me to other people, wouldn't delegate then constantly criticised me for not taking responsibility, constantly changed her mind, gave impossible deadlines then decided she didn't want the product when I'd worked my arse off to deliver in time, performance-reviewed me on the basis of total fabrications, completely shattered my confidence and left me with something that my psych friends say resembled PTSD. So yeah, don't do that.
posted by girlgenius at 3:32 AM on September 6, 2016 [2 favorites]

1. My best manager was clear on her and our priorities, gave me ownership of my projects, and allowed me to present them to boards and committees myself.

2. My worst (recent) manager kept meticulous records of my comings and goings, considered being deskbound a measure of productivity, could not make decisions, and wouldn't shut up in meetings, leaving everybody else wondering why they were there.
posted by turbid dahlia at 4:51 AM on September 6, 2016

My best manager made sure I had the tools I needed to do my job, and then trusted me to be competent enough to do it without him micromanaging me. He also genuinely listened when any of us had suggestions or concerns and would do what he could to change things for the better -- or be honest enough with us to let us know if he couldn't change things. He treated us as equals, not subordinates. Our team did our best for this manager because we knew he respected us and had our backs.

My worst manager (also my current manager) micromanages everything, is accusatory and condescending, takes credit for her subordinates' ideas, withholds information from management, is incredibly resistant to change, and holds grudges. She's also developed this lovely new habit when we're speaking of waiting until a couple of minutes after I've said something helpful, then saying, "I have an idea ..." and parroting my idea back to me as if it was her own. Half the time, she doesn't even bother to rephrase it. This manager will be 80% of the reason I give for leaving when I give my notice at this company.
posted by aine42 at 7:41 AM on September 6, 2016

1) My best managers addressed performance issues in private.
2) My worst managers conducted tense team meetings meant to publicly single out their target, often by asking questions like "I need someone to explain to me why X didn't happen on schedule," then when the person in charge of X ventured an answer, they'd pounce on them and use it as an excuse to deliver a pre-planned tirade/lecture. It was embarrassing for the rest of us to listen to, and we had nothing to contribute and no reason to be in these meetings.

1) My best managers used their time off and did not begrudge us for using ours. They were available after hours for emergencies only.
2) My worst managers displayed workaholic traits and constantly emailed and "checked in" while on vacation, or would routinely cancel their vacation plans to work. They sent emails at 8 PM, 11 PM, 4 AM, Sunday evening, and then acted confused when their reports began adopting similar habits.

1) My best managers offered positive feedback or fun incentives when warranted.
2) My worst managers were stingy with positive feedback and had the attitude of "we shouldn't compliment/reward them for just doing their jobs, that's what the paycheck is for."
posted by castlebravo at 9:47 AM on September 6, 2016

My previous job had lots of specialized knowledge that was of little use outside that team. New bosses would come in and be expected to learn the info in a short amount of time. The good ones realized that they would never learn it all and learned the big picture first and got progressively more detailed as they had time and the need arose. They also got a good idea of who on our knew what so that they could ask the right person specific questions or send the asker directly to them.

The bad ones didn't even seem to understand that they needed to know the big picture and that we would handle the tiny details if we were kept in the loop about outside changes. You don't care what shade of yellow they are painting the pencils? Fine, but if it is changing, the pencil person on your team needs to know so they can ask about the exact shade.
posted by soelo at 10:40 AM on September 6, 2016

I don't think I've ever had a "best" manager. My most recent manager didn't realize that she was a sucker with the worst job in the shop. Instead thought she was the best at all the things and didn't know how to get out of the way of senior staff who were, in fact, keeping the place productive despite all the staffing changes.

My worst manager told me I was a good artist but HE was going to "make me great." I quit. No, he wasn't an artist and did not have even a base understanding of what I did on a technical level.

Also, good luck. Being a manager sucks.
posted by palindromeisnotapalindrome at 2:55 PM on September 6, 2016

My worst manager ( who was the owner of the business):
* kept my in the dark about the direction of the company despite it being small and I was supposed to be his right hand. Was the company growing or being sold? Were we hiring or not? Did we have a good cash flow or were we going bankrupt?

* did a poor job at hiring/retaining people so people - good and bad - quit every month or so

* was very suspicious of staff, including his family members and me

* could not acknowledge his own mistakes - e.g. displacing money - so instead staff was wrongly blamed for serious crimes

* would often misunderstand discussions because he would not / could not properly listen so you had to take a defensive approach, explain the same thing multiple times, etc

* lied about raises to "motivate" employees

* micro managed design work down to the pixel. ugh ugh ugh

* would constantly complain how feed up he was about the business, that he should sell it, etc. Other days he would promise to be more engaged, announce big positive changes, etc. Towards the end I avoided engaging with him if possible.

* overall manipulative and therefore impossible to trust.

I myself was probably a bad senior employee/manager who didn't:
* make sure people had proper training

* make an effort to really get to know new colleagues after a while. It became hard to care when you knew they wouldn't last many weeks / months.

* continue to defend people when they were unjustly accused of something or incorrectly portrayed. In the end it wouldn't matter because the boss had already made up his mind and questioning his judgement meant trouble.

* do lots of others things that I am unaware of or just didn't care anymore :(

Reasons why I think I was a bad manager:
* didn't have the best role model to learn from or any training

* when everyone else had been fired expect me and another guy, I sorta became responsible for some things. My responsibilities were very unclear so I had no idea what I should do wrt to employees.

* it felt like my title had less to do with my responsibilities and more about being a tool used against me ("Foci, you are the Shop Manager so why haven't you done anything about this problem that we haven't discussed?")

* when people quit after a few weeks/months it is hard to invest emotionally in them

* stressed. all the time. constantly. even when not at work.

* boss would suddenly change major business decisions that all of us had agreed upon so being consistent was difficult.

* the overall company culture was poisoned with suspicion and blame so regardless if you took responsibility for something or not, outcomes could be used against you. This in a small business with 4-6 people in total :(

I'm not sure I should be in a position where I manage other people but if I am, I would very much like to treat people like the good managers in this askme do.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 3:51 PM on September 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

1. My best manager trusted employees to do their jobs properly like the adults we were, and knew how to speak (respectfully, but firmly) with them when they didn't.
2. My worst manager constantly micromanaged and second-guessed everything everyone did and treated all of us like we were stupid, misbehaving children.
posted by The Card Cheat at 4:08 PM on September 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

My best managers understood that their strength was in their team, and developed and encouraged us, helped us grow and be better at our jobs. Always gave credit when credit was due, and acted as a barrier between hostile upper management and staff, when required.

My worst managers were lazy, expected us to manage ourselves, took credit for our work, passed management level jobs to her underlings and lied about why they'd been delegated.
posted by Jilder at 5:55 PM on September 6, 2016

Worst manager:
-Never, ever had reviews. Dismissed them as "bullshit".
-Alternated between super-friendly and weeks-long silent treatment.
-Responded to questions by doing the work himself, no time for explanations; then when I had to ask again on a different project, screamed "you should know this by now"
Second-worst manager:
-Changed methods for every job - but only AFTER I'd done it the old way. Repeatedly.
-Micromanaged but classified me as a contractor.
-Sprung a non-compete on me, to be signed or "we're done here"
-Provided substandard tools, then when I made those tools work, screamed that we shouldn't be using that shit and threw a level at my head.
Best manager:
-Regards time off as sacred.
-Says "thank you" for even the littlest, mundane things.
-Talks up all his reports to upper management.
-Defends us from untoward criticism.
-Asks rather than demands.
posted by notsnot at 7:34 AM on September 7, 2016

Oh! also the worst manager
-Was there from before 5am to after 6pm, but complained about it regularly.
-Had me (the engineer) print out and type his emails for him the first year I was there.
-Refused to listen when i showed him how to change his inbox sort order from "by from:" to "by date:" (he would click on the heading accidentally and it would re-sort) and then screamed that I fucked up his computer again. This happened 17 times in a two-year period. (Well, 17 times that I counted. Probably double that before I started counting.)
posted by notsnot at 7:41 AM on September 7, 2016

Best manager:
- Told me explicitly that he believed I was capable of challenging assignments. I know it should have been obvious (why would he ask me to do it if he didn't think I could?) but it wasn't, and I needed to hear it.
- Protected me from organizational drama that didn't affect me
- Told me about organizational drama that might affect me in the near future so I wasn't broadsided when it did

Worst manager:
- Made a practice of giving lukewarm or critical feedback even to strong performers to "motivate them to do better", presumably because that's what he himself responds to
- Used metrics in silly ways to pit employees against each other
- Refused to proactively step in to help team members figure out who was in charge on a project, leading to power vacuums in some cases and power struggles in others

Bonus entry: I had a meeting with a manager of a team I was considering switching to. I barely know this guy, but I like the work he does and think it might be a good fit for my interests. However, due to my current family situation I wasn't sure it was a good time to switch. I told him this. He listened and basically said, yeah, I agree that you sound too overwhelmed by your personal life to do this right now, and this team will be here for a while and although we could really use another pair of hands right this minute, I expect to have space available and I've love to have you anytime. And by the way, he said: I just picked my family over my job duties because I too am going through a personal, challenging time. He told me the details. He showed me pictures of his kid. He confided in me about how hard things are at home right now.

At this point, I would do a LOT to eventually join this guy's team. He showed up as human to me in a few minutes of conversation in a way that some of my managers haven't done after multiple years working together on the same projects. You aren't just a manager. You're a person. Your direct reports want to connect to you as a person, not just a cog in the machine. I have gotten on so much better with managers who wanted me to understand who they were and where they came from. I miss that so much when it's gone.

That said, I suspect this is cultural. You need a lot of emotional intelligence to be a manager. I would walk to the ends of the earth for a manager who approached me as one human to another rather than as one corporate automaton to another, but I do think some people think that's not professional.
posted by the marble index at 3:23 PM on September 7, 2016 [3 favorites]

My best manager backed me up when I was in a difficult situation and trusted that what I had to say was truthful.
My worst manager talked down to me and would interfere with my ability to perform my job.
posted by Fizz at 3:52 PM on September 8, 2016

Best manager kept me informed as to the rationale for decisions. He also introduced me to some analytical techniques for problem solving.

Worst manager did essentially nothing except yell at me when my 'guesstimates' didn't meet expectations.
posted by knewsom at 9:47 AM on September 12, 2016

Worst manager: Thought they worked at a consulting company still and tried to manage my tiny two-person department as if it were a large Harvard-MBA-style consulting group. They also gave me a performance review in which they interviewed my coworkers about me, reported back anything even slightly negative and then docked me points on the review -- a) but literally nobody else in the company was reviewed that way; b) the negatives were all so vague as to be indefensible; c) now all my coworkers thought I was in trouble (why else would they be interviewed?); d) I had no way of knowing who said what (it was things like "you weren't very nice when you said 'no' once to one of their ideas"); e) it was the first I'd heard of nearly all the negatives -- they had never come up in our weekly meetings (classic bad manager behavior: the springing of negatives at review time).

Best manager: Gave me goals, deadlines, and resources, and left me the hell alone.
posted by Mo Nickels at 4:47 PM on September 12, 2016

My best managers trusted me.
posted by Lyme Drop at 6:17 PM on September 19, 2016

As a young manager, I wanted to treat my employees as humans. Meaning: care about them, ask them how I could help further their career (even if not with my employer), gave them space, surprised them with "why don't you check out and go home after lunch" and tried my best to be a real person not just a repeater of policy.
posted by zerobyproxy at 6:46 AM on September 22, 2016

My worst manager was a sea captain.
He promised us sea boots before we went out; but never gave them to us.
Within a week days of 20-36 hour days wading in fishguts and saltwater, our toenails were falling out.
My best manager treated us all as well as himself, unless times were hard... then he'd borrow my money without asking, and pay it back with nickels and dimes so that I was always broke; that was my last job. I quit it and started a business counseling medical marijuana growers on "increasing their yield."
Before growing pot was legal, I was a slave.
posted by Mike Hunt at 7:27 AM on October 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

My worst manager confronted me about issues in front of customers at the register. (Now that I think about it, so did the second manager).

My best manager empowered me to implement programming I came up with myself, giving me the tools and support to do so. Asked for ideas instead of telling.
posted by rubster at 5:53 PM on November 27, 2016

My best manager was my safety net when I took chances.

My worst manager made me her safety net when she took chances.
posted by ZaphodB at 7:11 PM on November 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

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