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Another Fine Mess: Four Types of Director and the Bizarre Systems They Build

April 3, 2014

Certain management styles could be hampering your business – here are four to look out for.


Left to their own devices, your senior employees can create a maze of documents and data that only they can navigate. We take a humorous look at the four (dis)organised types and what you might see when you peer into their computers.

1. The ‘I can’t delegate’ manager

This particular species likes to keep a tight rein on projects and all related data, ensuring that every detail passes through their inbox. Stressed and demanding, this person micromanages every aspect of their job (and their employees) as they try and keep on top of an ever-increasing workload.

Being forced to switch focus constantly means that information is stored erratically, scattered between printouts on the manager’s desk, their mailbox and the company management information system.

‘The surest way for an executive to kill himself is to refuse to learn how, and when, and to whom to delegate work.’ James Cash Penney, founder of the J.C. Penney retail chain

2. The paper-based manager

Although they own a laptop and a PC, this manager insists on paper-based documents for every aspect of their job. Their desk, like the rest of their office, is covered in piles of paperwork, through which they continually rummage, trying find important information.

When you do find their computer (hidden under another pile of paper, naturally) they will have an email inbox overflowing with unread email. You can also be sure that the paper-based manager never uses the company project management platform, making it very hard for colleagues to collaborate or find information for themselves.

‘The average time spent searching for information across all SMEs is 31 minutes. 86% of respondents spend up to two hours. On this basis, traditional filing is costing SMEs up to £11,000 per year.’ The Cost of Traditional Filing – YouGov Survey Results

3. The short-on-time manager

This person is very similar to the ‘I can’t delegate’ manager, in that they are constantly stressed, chasing information. However, the short-on-time manager takes the opposite approach, constantly trying to pass work off to other employees, and then chasing them up to check progress.

Log on to a short-on-time manager’s PC and you will find dozens of emails asking staff to do something, quickly followed by demands for updates. The short-on-time manager is also most likely to avoid in-house systems, saving data in their own, chaotic filing system because they don’t have time to think through, or apply an intuitive, coherent regime, let alone adhere to the company standard.

‘The average percentage of time wasted is 21%. Given that the average hour is worth £88.02, that equates to £9.37 per day per manager/director – a staggering £42,165,000 in total for all UK SMEs.’ The Cost of Traditional Filing – YouGov Survey Results

4. The email manager

The complete opposite of the paper-based manager, this person refuses to deal with anything that isn’t received by email. This manager will have a clean and tidy desk, allowing easy access to their computer.

Log on to their PC and you’ll find an overflowing mailbox, stuffed with folders, sub-folders and attachments. However everything is stored in their mailbox, preventing proper collaboration because everything has to be sent on for input, creating more emails and copies of important documents. The email manager may think that the reliance on electronic communications is helpful, but statistics suggest otherwise.

  • One in five British workers use up a total of 32 working days a year managing their email.
  • 57% of workers experience issues or are unable to retrieve an email that is three months old.
  • 19% of employees spend up to an hour each day managing emails.
  • 20% of employees spend more than an hour each day managing emails, equivalent to 32.5 working days per year.

(Source: Star Email Survey 2010)

Ultimately, each of these dysfunctional managers costs their employer in terms of efficiency and productivity. Locating and sharing data in a timely fashion is essential – something none of these people do.


  • Centralising data is essential to prevent hold-ups and facilitate sharing.
  • Email is a useful tool, but it’s not the most efficient project management tool.
  • Paper is slow, costly and should be avoided wherever possible.
  • Technology needs to be coupled with cultural change to make access to data easier.

For tips on working collaboratively and constructively read our eGuide: Smash the silos – six tips to make your teams get along

Smash the Silos: 6 Tips for Better Interdepartmental Working

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