On Business
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On Business

Managers & Bureaucrats

And how to recognize them

Managers and Individual Contributors

Management and Incremental Impact


  • Managers energise their reports. They find ways of making them better, in exciting and sometimes ingenious ways. I had the good fortune of having some fantastic managers at Facebook, and I remember leaving almost all of my one-on-one meetings with them with a new feeling of possibility and motivation. Bureaucrats suck the energy out of you. Just as you are not happy to meet them, they are not happy to meet you. Your encounters with them feel like a waste of time. Or merely, “a chore of the system”.
  • Managers always give you credit for your work. Especially in public. Bureaucrats don’t. They might praise you in private, but in public, they tell everyone that it was their work. They claim your impact to be their “incremental” impact.
  • When a Manager joins a team, it gets better. When a Bureaucrat joins a team, it gets worse. A particularly vicious type of Bureaucrat is one who jumps teams so that their weaknesses are not discovered. Often, they would join a successful team, take credit for the success (which should be due to the team, and, possibly, the previous manager), and then jump ship before it sinks. Usually, the next manager of that team takes the blame for the Bureaucrat’s mismanagement.
  • People typically join teams and even companies because of good Managers. Conversely, they leave teams and companies because of Bureaucrats. Often, if no one wants to work on a team, it’s because a Bureaucrat manages it.
Credit: Scott Adams



Articles on Business, Organisations, Startups and Management by Nuwan I. Senaratna

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Nuwan I. Senaratna

I am a Computer Scientist and Musician by training. A writer with interests in Philosophy, Economics, Technology, Politics, Business, the Arts and Fiction.