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


  1. Agreed, walk away and find a new job!!! I was exposed to PPM in an Early Learning Service and it began to impact on not only the staff but also the quality of care for the children diminished. I have now moved on to another service and have not once looked back. Management have created an environment where everyone is heard and feels equal.

  2. Unfortunately some people lack the courage to walk away - yet, as you know, unless PPM is challenged it will continue. Thank you for sharing your experience.