This article is dedicated to all the silent people who have been made redundant by their boss. 

The decline in the quality of ethical management, the extent of incompetence and mismanagement is evident everyday. Cases of underpayment of wages, slave labour, abuse and usery, are growing. Many occur in the employment of people on working and student visas coming from overseas who have little awareness of our laws and who are often powerless. 

The behaviours are not confined to small businesses as major well known companies are fined and exposed. However I am focusing in this article on the accepted rule that the company's interests are paramount above those of employees. The proposition that they should suffer the incompetence, stupidity and moral turpitude of owners and managers. Invariably the managers deflect the penalties for these incompetencies and poor decisions.

The problem many organisations are suffering from is a recognition problem – they can’t seem to recognise good leaders from bad ones.

We may try and evaluate if there is a discernible pattern and a way of working out if a company's management are competent over the long term. This is complicated if the company is large and complex or it may be a subsidiary of an international company. Transparency is usually not a dictum of their operations.

We also have the cultural aspects of management style and beliefs to take into account. American senior management seem to have a varied perception of what is right or achievable overseas compared what they can do in America. What they can get away with in America does not necessarily fly here in Australia. Market forces, or skilled labour shortages, can stymie their desire to standardise on their experiences and modus operandi.

Longevity of employment career and loyalty seems to have little relevance in decision making particularly by the multinationals. The "club hierarchy" is more relevant in who survives the chop. 

Economic downturn, and globalisation, is generally the excuse for significant loss of jobs and the justification for firing people. It is rarely accepted that poor governance and corporate decision making and a host of other factors are causing major pain to employees.  

Sometimes it is the most simple of identifiers - errors of decision making. I have seen this and there are published examples that the acquisition of another business to fulfil the mandate for growth and sales budget ratcheting has been the fundamental cause.

There is little acknowledgement of how hard it is for employees to labour under the yoke of incompetence at the top.

I am basing much of this article on observation of failure in significant enterprise, my own experiences, observations and extensive work over the years in organisations that gradually morph into incompetence.

Talent moves on, corporate memory fades away, the glue that made the company dries up and erodes, persons who showed competency in their lower level jobs are promoted to the top beyond their capacity, new owners and new brooms come in culling out the management of the acquired entity.  


Regardless, it is now common in Australia to cut employees, and close operational facilities, when incumbent senior management, have made very bad decisions, misjudgements and have ostensibly failed.  Those left behind may sigh with relief having survived even as the letter comes advising the remaining employees there will be no bonuses, or performance reviews, because the enterprise did not achieve its budgets. The reasons why are rarely analysed deeply because that would be embarrassing to the CEO.

I note that in many cases the CEO has (wth or without Board concurrence) gone on an adventure of acquisition and have made a costly mistake.  They have paid themselves higher salaries for added work duties We see it in retail and in service industries and in industries involved in selling technology. It is irrelevant how long the enterprise has been in operation. The CEO does not understand how to work in a world of ambiguity where the rules of historical experience, engagement and outcomes no longer apply. Their models are broken they have no experience of the kind of disruption we are seeing across the Australian and world landscapes. They concentrate on the finance, the controllable simple and quick solutions. Fire people, cut costs.

The manager, under siege, will always build the walls, and manufacture excuses, to hide their poor judgement and  commercial ineptitude and stupidity but as losses mount they have to close facilities and sack staff. They rarely if ever resign as a sign of their own culpability.

These are the “dime a dozen” mediocrity in the corporate world. The process manager who on the surface ticks the boxes in the executive job description.

They are, to my mind, rarely honest and up front. Slippery is more their style and they are often sarcastic and funny men. My experience is that women  rarely engage in the same management style as the culling male. Women are longer term strategists and more collegiate. They can, though not always, tend to nurture and motivate success,

The incompetent CEO infests some of Australia’s largest corporations and can also be found in our small to medium businesses. They are adept at hiding and shedding responsibility.

I have dealt with, even been employed by, quite a number of these types of people. I have experienced their narcissistic egos and use of power.

They take away people’s livelihoods with callous impunity based on commercial concocted justifications without a blink or shred of regret.  They are the impost on employment prospects and success and they cost society a lot.

They drain employees demanding performance whilst they are apparently exempt from the same judgement by the peers above them. They permeate every industry. They are always taking out rarely depositing. A dead hand on the performance, success and good operation of the enterprise and its people.  

Yegor Lovenov poses some factors and traits that may help us identity the common denominator in his article "Seven Signs of Incompetent Managers: Managers’ behaviors that adversely affect the company", in Excellence Essentials in

1. Taking Presuppositions as Facts 

In busy communication environments, today’s managers, when they negotiate with a more skilful or less responsible party, hear not what they are being told but what they want to hear. Details are left out, and then the mosaic is completed with presuppositions with lack of analysis due to time constraints or because the manager believes that: “I'm always right, I assume that my expectations and intuition are correct.”

2. Taken Hostage By Your Own Staff 

In the age of technology and due to the lack of qualified managers top managers often demonstrate extreme reliance on chosen (selective) subordinates with narrow yet significant areas of expertise. This dependence destroys positive teamwork and mutual respect between the manager and his or her direct reports.

3. Failure to Provide Colleagues with a Full Picture of the Situation 

Any thinking person would probably agree with the statement: “The more information, the fewer mistakes”. If so, why should this not be extended to subordinates? Any manager who assigns a job to his or her subordinates is probably the one most interested in its effective implementation. And if so, then as a true mentor, he or she should describe the job at hand in a way that he or she would have wished to have him- or herself, were they in their subordinate’s place. Then, as the task is being performed, the manager should immediately advise the employee should new information regarding the job bypass him or her.

4. Deleting Tasks With No Warning 

Every manager sometimes finds him- or herself working on tasks that are not followed through to some practical (direct) outcome. This happens to business directions that are never materialized, work on transactions that are never completed, introducing internal projects that with time lose their significance, etc. We call these “wastebasket projects”.

5. Problems with Managing Down 

Under time pressure, many active managers when they come into direct contact with junior staff tend to change their priorities or start setting new tasks altogether. They seem to think: “I will be able to explain things to the subordinate of my subordinate as to what they should do better and more precisely. I have no time to waste on courtesy.”

6. Pondering Dismissals 
Most top managers prefer not to dismiss employees; instead, they choose to gradually exclude the employee from the working process, or delegate the dismissal to their colleagues.

7. Delegating Without Control 

Whenever the manager lacks a particular professional skill, he or she may choose to fully delegate to his or her subordinates certain professional issues of key importance (for example, financing decisions or project activities). At first glance, this seems like a good idea that works. But the gain is short-lived. According to Murphy's law, “If something bad can happen, it will certainly happen.” It's just a matter of time before a complex situation gets out of control. Then when reporting about the failure to their superiors or trustees, the manager assigns the blame to his or her subordinate in charge “Because he did not follow through. I did not get involved because this was his (or her) zone of responsibility. We were apparently all mistaken in him (or her)... he (or she) seemed like a good specialist...” You will agree that this sounds pathetic." (end of source quotes)

Other researchers note additional factors. In this article published in Fast Company Ten Habits of Incompetent Managers. How do you identify the members of your team that could sink it? Get an expert's tips on the signs you should look for.

Bias against action:There are always plenty of reasons not to take a decision, reasons to wait for more information, more options, more opinions. But real leaders display a consistent bias for action. 

Secrecy: "We can’t tell the staff," is something I hear managers say repeatedly. They defend this position with the argument that staff will be distracted, confused or simply unable to comprehend what is happening in the business. If you treat employees like children, they will behave that way — which means trouble. If you treat them like adults, they may just respond likewise. Very few matters in business must remain confidential and good managers can identify those easily. The lover of secrecy has trouble being honest and is afraid of letting peers have the information they need to challenge him. He would rather defend his position than advance the mission. Secrets make companies political, anxious and full of distrust.

Over-sensitivity: "I know she’s always late, but if I raise the subject, she’ll be hurt." An inability to be direct and honest with staff is a critical warning sign.

Love of procedure: Managers who cleave to the rule book, to points of order and who refer to colleagues by their titles have forgotten that rules and processes exist to expedite business, not ritualize it. Love of procedure often masks a fatal inability to prioritize — a tendency to polish the silver while the house is burning.

Preference for weak candidates: We interviewed three job candidates for a new position. One was clearly too junior, the other rubbed everyone up the wrong way and the third stood head and shoulders above the rest. Who did our manager want to hire? The junior. She felt threatened by the super-competent manager and hadn’t the confidence to know that you must always hire people smarter than yourself. 

Inability to hire former employees: I hired a head of sales once with (apparently) a luminous reputation. But, as we staffed up, he never attracted any candidates from his old company. He’d worked in sales for twenty years — hadn’t he mentored anyone who’d want to work with him again? Every good manager has alumni, eager to join the team again; if they don’t, smell a rat."(end of source quotes)

Often the out of depth have mastered the art of survival.  They shift risk, and accountability, away from them. They are “political survivors”, manufacturing what they need to survive. They rarely create anything and if they take over an existing successful corporation they will often render it to a shell of its former self. When their strategies and plans do not work others must pay the price of their folly. 

These corporate executives are the lowest common denominator, CEOs hiding behind corporate walls of power, misleading in conduct, creators of smoke and mirrors and an outwardly successful persona. Industry incumbents and customers are not stupid, they eventually identity their traits and characteristics. Unable to form meaningful long term relationships with customers this type of CEO will be besieged by a loss of business triggering the simple solution.

I do not have to point them out to those who have been retrenched. Many of us have experienced them as many of my connection here on LinkedIn have.  They have lost their jobs to the Peter Principle.


There are a significant number of CEOs in Australian enterprises who are known to live off others, their loyalty, sweat and tears. They are the parasites in our commercial enterprises and in our lives who use people, as disposable commodities, for their ends.

They live under the corporate code that the company,, and they, must survive at all costs. The shareholders, and their dividends, are more important than  anyone else.