Seven Deadly Sins of Managing People


Levels of delegated authority are not clear or are not treated seriously. There is a high degree of concentration of decision making at the top. People feel unable to make decisions. People either pass all decisions upwards or hide information from their superior.

Productivity is low as inevitable delays occur communicating backwards and forwards to get decisions made or find the information upon which a decision can be made. Low quality decisions are taken.

Note: Command and control organisations such as the military are not authoritarian as defined here. They have a strict chain of command with clear, enforced lines of authority.


All decisions are group decisions. On the altar of inclusiveness, group thinking is the norm. Delegation of authority is lost amongst shared accountability, which means that no-one is accountable. Expert opinions are not sought or are discarded, contingency plans are not made and information is selectively used. Poor decisions are rationalised and the group believes they are always right.

Decision making is slow, poor and almost impossible to turn around until it is too late. Independent thinkers leave or are ostracised.


There is an “I” in team. Managers have to have the last word. Managers present the good news whilst subordinates report the bad news. Difference of perspective is discouraged in favour of the leader’s perspective. Clones of the glorious leader emerge to take positions of power.

Problem identification and solution finding is shallow. People have low morale because there is only the one way of thinking and their successes are not celebrated sincerely.


Delegations of authority are strictly enforced but are shallow. Decisions may be made but must be ratified by unaccountable groups who do not have the data required or the skill required to make the decision. Requisitions for the most unimportant and low cost items need to be signed by superiors. Control is exercised almost exclusively by leading processes rather than audit. Risk aversion is endemic.

Decision making is slow. Implementation is slower and fragmented. Productivity is low. Morale is low. People do not enjoy their job, except for the control freaks.


Business buzzwords are the norm. Almost everything is strategic. Death by PowerPoint is rife. It feels, to people who like to get into the detail and get things done, that there is little or no direction beyond the presentations and words like “best practice” or “moving forward” or “living our vision”. They see little practical pragmatic hep to achieve the vision. Departmental managers appear to have different ideas on what the vision statement means. Strategy is developed at the sub-optimal level of departments and divisions rather than at organisational level.

Decision making is rapid but unconnected. Risks are superficially analysed and risk treatment plans are not implemented. Processes are disconnected and overlaps and gaps appear in responsibilities and accountabilities. Results are poor.


Corporate values are trumpeted in presentations and are displayed on plaques on the wall. The values are unoriginal and, therefore, not differentiating. For example, “integrity” is an oft quoted value. Is there an organisation that would have “deceit” as a value? The published values are rarely followed, even by the leaders. Organisations with published values such as “honesty” and “transparency” wait until the last moment to tell a hundred workers they will be laid off. People are not employed based on the values and yet people are told to live the values which may be different to their personal values. Promises are not kept.

Productivity is low as silo mentality rules and people and departments fend for themselves. Cynicism is high and important initiatives founder on a bed of disbelief. Turnover is high.


When managing people, concern for the person outweighs any concern for task completion on time to an acceptable standard. Poor performance is not subject to counselling. Poor behaviour is not confronted. Honesty between people is discarded in preference to not having disagreements and tension. The twenty percent of people who want it and do perform very well feel they are treated no differently from the ten percent who don’t care as long as they are paid at the end of the week. The seventy percent in the middle see the life of the ten percent as being easier with no difference in rewards.

Good people leave. Poor people stay. Productivity is low. Customer service is poor.

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