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September 10, 2013


Samuel Conner

It might not be a structural problem of management itself alone; it may be something about the kind of people who aspire to have the power that managers have, and the purposes for which they want that kind of power. Martha Stout ("the Sociopath Next Door") has written that about 4% of the population is afflicted (if it's an affliction; maybe it's an adaptation) with deficiencies of empathy and conscience. They use other people for their own benefit without regard for the well-being of those used. Stupid sociopaths become common criminals; smart ones become powerful (but still harmful) in respectable ways. It may be that this phenotype of humanity is over-represented in the higher reaches of management of every kind of organization.

Simple Simon

I couldn't agree more with the above comment.

Having spent several decades working in retail and distribution I have struck time and time again by the similarity in personality type of middle and senior management, wherever and for whomever I have found myself labouring. Its almost as if these buggers came rolling off a production line somewhere in Asia.

I think work in this area is greatly under researched by the Left in particular, which has a tendency to adopt a mechanistic Marxist explanation for all things economic. An acknowledgement that individuals, or rather individual pathologies have a profound impact on the workplace would at the very least make Left political/economic analysis and prescriptions rather more meaningful and attractive to the working classes than has been the case to date.


Sure the BBC payoffs seem ott but the money sums seem pretty trivial - but good ammunition for the BBC-haters. As for
private-sector payoffs - none of our business - except that the effect trickles down to the public sector. If you have a daft system you would be a mug not to exploit it - aka MP's expenses.

But what do top managers actually do? The conventional answer is setting strategy, steering the great corporate tanker freed from the trivia of day-to-day decisions - great thoughts from great men (usually). Not really a 24/7 job, more a 1/1 job
leaving plenty of time for game-playing, corporate infotainments, mischiefmaking and fighting off rivals and enemies. In
effect the live of a medieval prince.

As with the prince so it is with the top manager - frauds, mountebanks, conjurors, projectors and alchemists - or these days - special advisors, consultants and corporate programme-managers all beat a path to one's door offering the certainty of converting corporate dross into purest gold. A tough life to be sure.

Richard Gadsden

This may explain why non-merit-based mechanisms for choosing leaders (e.g. heredity, randomness) are not spectacularly worse than merit-based systems (e.g. appointment, election, examination). You'd anticipate that a merit-based system would have a huge advantage, but it's actually quite hard to measure.

The suggestion is that by choosing leaders from amongst only those who want to be leader, you're inclining your system towards the sociopath as leader.

Churm Rincewind

I don't quite understand the point here. If managers contribute little to the organisations they manage, then what does it matter whether they're any good or not?

Certainly there's a case to be made that their customary rewards are inappropriate (and often offensively so), but if in the end of the day their decisions don't really matter then why should we care (outside of the perspectives of fairness and social cohesion)?


Churm - simple - if a managers decisions don't really matter then you can dump them and save the money they cost and trouble they cause.

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