Playing the blame game

By Ken Keller

Dear Ken Keller,

I have a manager that is getting on my nerves. She is what I call “a big talker” but it’s nothing but hot air. It’s frustrating for me, her peers and the other employees.

When I call her out on missed deadlines or poor results, she is quick to point the finger and blame others. I need tools to deal with this.

Mitch L.

Dear Mitch:

Having an ATANAM (All Talk and No Action Manager) is common.

Change places for a moment and consider the plight of your manager who is likely dying to learn from you how to be a success at her job.

Two thoughts came to me reading your email. The first is that the individual does not have the experience, skills or temperament to be a manager. The second is that the person doesn’t understand the role they play, the responsibilities they have, and may be unclear about the authority level they have.

All too often, people are given a manager title but lack management responsibilities and authority. Did anyone sit down to explain what results this individual was expected to achieve and what the resources were available to achieve the results?

I survived my first management job because I had the opportunity to work for others for over a decade. Once promoted, I did my best to avoid the bad habits and behaviors I observed from some of my previous managers and emulated the actions and styles of the better managers I had worked for. Along the way, I sought out coaching to help me improve.

You have a decision to make and it could go one of two ways. The first is for you to stand on the sidelines and let this manager continue to flounder, which does not help you. This choice will lead to a termination or demotion and your frustration level will only grow.

The second is for you to step up and invest the time required to help your manager do the job you want them to do in the manner you want them to do it. If you do this, the chances of her success improve dramatically.


Dear Ken Keller,

I’m interviewing someone who was recently downsized from a large company. This is something I have never done before and I don’t know what I don’t know.

Tom W.

Dear Tom,

I would proceed with caution. Companies that have grown to a certain size, have been in business for years and are financially stable don’t hire pioneers; they hire professionals mostly to manage the status quo.

In your business, every employee wears many hats. No one hides behind a job description. Titles don’t matter, everyone works hard or they don’t work there for very long.

In a larger company most employees don’t know who the clients are and often, sadly, the employees see clients as someone else’s problem to deal with. In your company, everyone knows and “owns” every client.

The number of important meetings you have each week can be counted on one hand. In a larger company, they have that many meetings a day and many are a complete waste of time.

Salaries and benefits are more generous in large firms; this can quickly grow into an entitlement attitude. And, because the revenue is someone else’s money, spending it comes very easy. I’ll bet you watch the pennies and check the profitability on every order.

I hope I have given you some information you can use when you interview candidates.


Ken Keller is a syndicated business columnist focused on the leadership needs of small and midsize closely held companies. Contact him at KenKeller@SBCglobal.net. Keller’s column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of this media outlet.

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