Wednesday, March 28, 2012

More signs of PPM

Bullying is only one sign of PPM (Piss Poor Management)! There are many others.

Here are some examples provided to me in the past two weeks:
  • A manager who employs people on the basis of the lowest remuneration possible rather than on ability to do the job required
  • A manager who refuses to confront poor performance and low quality work because he feels it is important to be "liked" by his staff
  • A company where senior executives seldom visit any of the 9 sites away from Head Office and ignore immoral and possibly illegal activity by the managers in those sites - the result is apprentices not paid for overtime work and the emergence of unsafe work practices
  • A company where there is a high turnover of qualified staff because they are unhappy about the high volume, low quality work practices encouraged by managers

My point is that PPM can have many faces.

Good managers ensure that everyone clearly understands performance criteria in both qualitative and quantitative terms. They also ensure that those performance standards are high enough to stretch people yet low enough to be attainable. These performance standards are then broken down into easy-to-understand results areas and performance indicators that are properly monitored. Where criteria are being met, recognition is given and where criteria are not being met, clear action is taken to get things back on track - performance standards are not allowed to slide. Good executives ensure there is appropriate oversight and governance in all areas for which they are responsible.

Its not "rocket science" - supervisory and management programs have been teaching this for at least 50 years and good managers have practiced it since time immemorial.

We need to address and eliminate PPM!

What are your experiences with PPM? I'd love to know. Please write your comments below.

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Saturday, March 17, 2012

Bullying - a clear indicator of PPM

The Macquarie Dictionary defines a bully as "someone who hurts, frightens, or orders about smaller or weaker people". It goes on to suggests synonyms that include "bulldoze, coerce, intimidate, threaten, tyrannise".

Leaders and good managers understand that bullying is oxymoronic. A leader and/or a good manager cannot be a bully and a bully cannot be a leader and/or a good manager. We need to remember this because every time we see a so-called leader indulging in coercion, intimidation. making threats etc that person has immediately forfeited his or her right to be called a leader. They may be in command or in charge, they may be #1 in their hierarchy or organisation or on the airwaves (all of which are perfectly legitimate roles) - but they are not a leader and they are not a "good manager".

Over recent blogs I have explored the issue of PPM (Piss Poor Management) and common to every example I have provided - and common to every example provided to me by other people - is the fact of one person using their position, title, money, power, physique, or some other part of their persona to coerce, intimidate, or threaten others. The result is that the other person felt a degree of insecurity, apprehension or fear in relation to their physical, emotional, psychological, or employment security. In other words, the person with the power has created an environment in which increased productivity, creativity, commitment, and motivation are highly unlikely to continue. People have been set up for failure rather than for success.

In my last blog I suggested the media should consider a "bullying index" that they put alongside all reports relating to politicians, captains of industry, talkback radio hosts, union officials, etc - in other words against every person seeking to exercise power and authority in every area of the community. The media often advocates naming and shaming for various other matters - why not for bullying?

If we're serious about eradicating bullying among young people then we've got to stop it in their role models!

Whoever you are; whatever your position in society; no matter what your wealth, status or anything else, you are a role model to someone. What sort of role model do you provide?

You don't have to be a bully! You can choose to be a leader.

What do you think? I'd love to know - please make your comments below.

More about Doug Long at

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Bullying Curse

At least in Australia (and probably elsewhere), today has been designated as one devoted to awareness of bullying. On the news this morning, there was a lot of attention paid to the issue of both physical and cyber bullying in schools and among youth in general. This is a good thing.

But I wonder if it doesn't miss the point.

Children absorb lessons from role models - that is the message clearly and consistently given by educators, psychologists, and everyone else concerned about society. If this is so (and I believe it is) then surely the place to start in combating bullying is with the role models.

When I read a newspaper, listen to the radio, or watch TV I am constantly aware of bullying by those with power and authority. Some examples:
  • Politicians bullying others through sarcasm, denigration, and outright abuse that is supported by constantly seeking to portray their opponents in a negative light
  • Mining magnates bullying the country by lobbying and threatened legal action against any attempts to more equally distribute the mining wealth
  • Australia's richest person threatening her children with bankruptcy and enlisting the support of prominent politicians in order to maintain control of huge trust funds then using the legal process to try and ensure the Australian public is kept ignorant of what is going on
  • Business leaders using the threat of moving jobs off-shore unless employees agree to reductions in working conditions and lower remuneration increases while their own salaries and their organisation's profits soar
  • Union leaders threatening industrial action quite early in negotiations unless they get what they demand for their members
  • Radio hosts and journalists who push their own agendas then ridicule or denigrate those who seek to challenge what is presented

I suggest that its no wonder we find bullying in schools when the rich and powerful in society are so blatant in their own bullying while decrying that which occurs amongst children and young people.

Bullying is bullying is bullying - no matter who does it, where they do it, or the guise under which they do it.

When I was a child my parents taught me that bullying always indicated insecurity and feelings of inadequacy in a person. "Be sorry for the bully," I was told, "they're the person with problems. They are so obsessed with themselves that, no matter what their pretence, they have no real interest in others - or in the truth."

Its not easy to ignore the bullies. Like most other empty vessels, they make the most noise. But we need to be very careful about encouraging them.

Perhaps all forms of media should have a bullying scale that they present alongside all reports that show words and/or actions of those who purport to be role models. A type of "name and shame" to combat bullying everywhere.

What do you think? Please post your comments below.

More about Doug Long at

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Still more about PPM!

The examples of PPM (Piss Poor Management) continue to come in - and some demonstrate either conscious or unconscious illegal and/or immoral behaviour.
  • A Sydney prestige car dealership that refuses to pay an apprentice mechanic (automotive technician) for overtime worked - and threatens disciplinary action if the apprentice complains outside the company. Then, after a complaint is made and a warning is given, still persists with the same illegal behaviour!
  • A private sector social service organisation that is found to have underpaid an employee then, when the employee persists with the claim, corrects this situation but also introduces a new policy designed to prohibit other employees from making similar claims
  • A sales and service organisation where top management confuses employee professionalism with employee commitment - management expects staff to work long hours at low pay - then wonders why they have a high staff turnover when "there's just so much work for everyone"
  • A restaurant where, on an evening when they are seriously short staffed, the manager refuses to assist staff in end-of-night cleaning - instead relaxing with an after-work drink and giving instructions

Seems like I've opened a hornets' nest with this subject!

In Australia we have legislation that ought to minimise the incidence of PPM - Occupational Health and Safety laws, Fair Work Australia laws, and the like - yet I hear of new examples every day.

There is something seriously wrong with workplaces and with society in general when PPM is so prevalent and so seldom challenged. I know that Maggie Thatcher, one time Prime Minister of the UK, famously said that "we live in an economy, not a society" (or words to that effect) but PPM doesn't even make real economic sense. There is plenty of hard evidence that all organisations achieve higher productivity with highly competent, fully committed employees who are engaged with their work, with each other, and with their organisation. And there is plenty of evidence also to show that higher productivity produces better results.

We shouldn't have to put up with PPM and we don't have to put up with PPM! Some clues about this are at and

Share your stories about PPM with the rest of us. Make your comments below.

More information about Doug Long at

Friday, March 2, 2012

The PPM issue!

Last week I wrote about my daughter's experience with PPM (Piss Poor Management) and I have now received numerous accounts from others about their experiences. These anecdotes include:
  • A manager who refused to employ people who knew more than he did, or to promote people who challenged him
  • A manager in a children's day care centre who, when asked for some guidance on doing a new task, ridiculed the a staff member involved in front of parent clients
  • A manager in a major not-for-profit organisation who delayed investigation into an issue relating to remuneration because "your complaint makes me look bad!"
  • A manager who was so concerned about her boss that, every time her boss was seen talking with a staff member, would find an excuse to get involved so as to ensure that she knew everything that was being said

What these illustrate is that PPM is not confined to the retail sector - it is alive and flourishing across the board.

Management education and training (whether from educational institutions or private training organisations) has been teaching good management practices for at least 40 years. Virtually everyone currently practicing PPM has almost certainly been exposed to good management practices in some way or another, yet PPM prevails. Why?

PPM in organisations is characterised by creating a situation in which employees feel their jobs are under threat - reach the performance targets set or be sacked/demoted/moved etc. - and such sanctions, in turn, could threaten my financial security and/or perceived social status. This threat of dismissal or other sanctions may be real or imagined. Its symptoms are people in supervisory/ management roles who refuse to question "the boss" or who will support "the boss" even when this means disillusionment and possible loss of good staff. My self interests and general concern for "me" takes precedence over everything else. These people can be described in the old saying: "they're not 'yes-men': they say 'no' when the boss does!"

I suspect that, deep down, PPM is caused by basic insecurity or fear.

Fear is one of the most basic and powerful factors in all animal life. It is multifaceted and encompasses physical and psychological/emotional aspects of life. It drives us to aggression, to frozen inaction, and to escapism through such avenues as physical removal from a situation, through to such behaviours as abuse of alcohol and drugs. It underlies all bullying and much of the antisocial behaviour we encounter. It underpinned the "cold war" - the West refused to accept that the East may not want world dominance (and vice versa); it underpinned the fiasco around the USA's invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq; and it underpins the current preoccupation with what Iran may or may not be doing in its (currently) totally legitimate enrichment of uranium. Fear is used by politicians and managers to drive people towards a solution that meets the ego needs of the powerful regardless of what is really good for the company or country or whatever.

I believe that, despite the best efforts and intentions of those propounding good management practices, PPM will continue to be prominent until we learn how to shift our brain's locus of control away from the "fear centre" and into the "courage centre". As I have said in earlier blogs, its the issue of "red zone" versus "blue zone" in terms of the way in which our brains work - but it starts in myself, the individual, rather than in someone else. (There are some pointers in how to make this shift at

The thing to remember is that, ultimately, no-one has to put up with PPM in any organisation. We may not be able to change the situation; we may not be able to change how others behave; but we can change our response. We can walk away - but, ideally, find your next job first!

What do you think? I'd love to hear your comments.

More about Doug Long at