Good People, Bad Managers Book Summary By Samuel A. Culbert

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Good People, Bad Managers, a book published in 2017, takes an insightful look at the culture of modern American workplaces and the effects it has on managers.

Written by John J.

Culbert, this book touches upon how the current management norms of self-preservation often result in behaviors that prove detrimental to worker well-being, motivation and productivity.

The author explains why good people can become trapped in a cycle of bad management and makes a case for cultural change in our workplaces.

This thought-provoking book introduces innovative strategies for creating environments where employees can thrive without sacrificing quality or profitability.

Good People, Bad Managers Book

Book Name: Good People, Bad Managers (How Work Culture Corrupts Good Intentions)

Author(s): Samuel A. Culbert

Rating: 4/5

Reading Time: 17 Minutes

Categories: Corporate Culture

Author Bio

Samuel A.

Culbert is an expert in the field of management and has written a number of books and academic papers regarding workplace dynamics.

He holds a Professorship at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management, making him one of the most-respected individuals in the field.

With bestsellers like Get Rid of the Performance Review!, Beyond Bullsh*t and Radical Management under his belt, there's no denying that Samuel A.

Culbert knows what he's talking about when it comes to effective management practices.

Breaking The Cycle Of Toxic Workplace Culture: How To Change Negative Habits And Become A Better Manager

Toxic Workplace Culture

If you’ve ever been in a workplace where the management is toxic or oppressive, you know that it’s nearly impossible to challenge their ideas and have your needs met.

You may even find yourself asking about your co-workers’ weekends, just for something to talk about.

But there is a way out of this cycle of bad management.

With the tools from “Good People, Bad Managers” book summary, you can learn how to break free from toxic work cultures, be a better manager, and be true to yourself.

You’ll find key information on how to use first-person pronouns in business conversations so that you can take ownership of your own ideas and stand up for them.

You’ll also learn why managers are taught to practice deceitful behavior and how you can change their approach.

Most importantly, the book offers tips on how to create a positive work environment and become a good manager and person.

Bad Management Is The Norm Rather Than The Exception In Us Workplaces

It’s no surprise that many American businesses are viewed as successful and innovative.

However, this success doesn’t necessarily come with good quality managers.

While there are some workplaces where great management can be found, the reality is that bad management is actually the norm.

Gallup’s Annual Polling revealed that 80% of managers don’t possess the talent to properly manage their employees effectively.

And even if they do have good intentions, poor-quality management still prevails in most companies or organizations.

This has been highlighted further by an academic study which showed that managers’ best actions were when they left their employees alone rather than offering “help.”

Bad management has become so ingrained in our work culture to the point where people don’t recognize it as a problem and just accept it for what it is.

An example of this is Carly Fiorina, who was CEO of Hewlett Packard in 2006 when she secretly listened into the Board of Directors.

Despite her misconduct lead to her dismissal from HP, she still managed to get elected as Californian’s Senator four years later with votes from over 4 million people!

This just goes to show how bad management has become normalized despite people’s good intentions, and something has got to be done about it!

If we scrutinize bad management more closely and make changes accordingly, businesses would undoubtedly become much more profitable while also increasing employee satisfaction.

The Problem With Self-Focus In The Business World: Why Good Management Requires Other-Focused Leadership

Good managers focus not on their own success, but on the success of those around them.

It’s not uncommon for somebody to be focused on their own career goals, while tending to forget about their workforce.

That is not advised in any environment, let alone a business organization.

It’s essential that managers are both inspiring and supportive when it comes to managing a team.

Instead of expecting results from employees, they should provide guidance and ask questions to understand needs and create tasks accordingly so everyone can be successful together.

This notion is akin to parenting; parents wants what’s best for their children and support them in meaningful activities as needed.

Sadly, this kind of attitude isn’t always found in American business culture – which is much more centered on personal accomplishments than improving conditions for the workforce.

Managers have a tendency of demanding care from their subordinates instead of deserving it through open communication about needs and expectations – an attitude which reflects badly on themselves rather than helping out those under them.

Overall, good management requires oversight of others instead putting one’s own successes first, but unfortunately many business managers don’t seem to understand this key concept – becoming too self-focused even if they do have good intentions at heart.

The Need For Soft Skills In The Workplace: How Business Schools Are Failing To Prepare Managers For Survival In A Cutthroat Culture

Cutthroat Culture

Business schools across the United States tend to prioritize teaching hard skills, like increasing profits and boosting the bottom line, over soft skills when preparing their MBA graduates for management roles.

This can be a troubling habit that has a detrimental effect on workplace culture.

For example, many business schools will teach interpersonal skills such as active listening but won’t teach about more introspective skills such as reflecting how personal history and background impact interactions with co-workers or how to accurately detect alternative mindsets in the workplace.

These are important aspects of leadership and diversity, yet they aren’t oftentimes addressed in classrooms.

Once these graduates start working, they often come face-to-face with an environment that rewards conformity instead of truthfulness or honesty.

Through this process of conforming to corporate expectations, it’s easy for managers to forget what is truly great leadership: listening to employees and being open to criticism and dialogue.

Without these skills in place, businesses end up leaving employees frustrated and feeling disempowered while managers have to fear backlash from higher-ups over ‘risky’ decisions such as granting vacation days.

In summary, neglecting the importance of soft skills combined with rigid workplace cultures can lead bad managerial habits overall; one example is strongly enforcing mindless rules without giving real thought into its impact or seeking out meaningful employee feedback which could have otherwise been used to create positive change at any level.

The Cost Of Deceit: How Lying And Manipulative Behaviour Prevents Managers From Taking Care Of Their Team

Managers have to always be aware of their own job position and the responsibility that it brings.

To ensure that they do not lose out, they often resort to double-dealing and posturing.

They also keep secrets from their employees, in order to protect themselves.

Take for example, a manager asking for input from colleagues on a certain course of action but already having made his or her own mind up about it.

Or them invoking authority by mentioning someone with power in order to get what they want without making any arguments.

The need to self-promote and self-protect creates an exhausting work culture which can prevent managers from focusing on the needs of their employees.

At the same time, however, stability has to be maintained within a company, and that requires managers defending their positions at all costs.

Why Bad Managers Persist Despite Inequality In The Workplace: The Need For Leadership To Take Action

Breaking the system of bad management is a very difficult task, and it requires strong leadership from the top in order to be successful.

This is something that the author witnessed firsthand as a business consultant tasked with changing the mentality of a global 150,000-employee corporation.

In his presentation to the HR team about implementing new management systems, he received only a non-committal “okay, we’ll take it into account” response.

It was only when the CEO and other leaders actively and vigorously got behind this idea that change within the company began to occur.

Employees, even if they are unhappy with their managers, can often feel powerless to make meaningful changes happen on their own due to fear of retribution.

This makes it almost impossible for them to speak up about poor management skills or lack of support at work.

Therefore, it is essential that any shift towards better management has strong leadership from those at the highest levels in order for true lasting change to happen within an organization.

How Managers Can Be More Other-Focused With Two-Way Conversations And Accountability


Leaders and managers can make great strides towards better management by ditching traditional performance reviews.

Performance reviews, though ostensibly objective, are often highly biased – not to mention deeply damaging.

Not only does one individual’s opinion become a factual representation of someone’s abilities and flaws, but it also creates a fearful environment for employees where they hesitate to raise any management issues.

A two-way conversation, on the other hand, encourages dialogue between leaders/managers and their employees and eliminates any fears, because it allows both parties to confidently state their opinions.

The author of the book ‘Good People, Bad Managers’ developed a system that focuses on four questions: What has been your contribution to the company? How have you shown our values and goals in your work? How have you helped others succeed? How have you changed your behavior after learning something new?

Moreover, two-way accountability gives both manager and employee an opportunity to answer these questions before providing feedback which is significantly different from the traditional one-way form of communication.

It breaks down hierarchical roles in a very efficient way while allowing both parties to give more honest responses as they listen attentively to each other.

By rapidly transitioning away from traditional performance reviews, both leaders and managers can create an equivalent atmosphere of trust with their employees and improve business efficiency significantly.

Rethinking Traditional Workplace Expectations To Foster Improved Management

Good managers should always strive to be better.

To do this, they must adopt a new mind-set rooted in the understanding that humans are not perfect and that excellence is something to strive for rather than expect.

They should also focus on seeking feedback from employees and other important stakeholders, such as board members, in order to diagnose issues within their workplace environment and nip them in the bud.

Finally, leaders need to prioritize honesty by using first-person pronouns when discussing decisions and encouraging others to be honest about their views as well.

By adopting these practices, managers can create an open, authentic atmosphere where employees feel comfortable providing honest feedback and everyone can work together towards achieving greater results.

After all, that’s what good management is all about!

Wrap Up

Good People, Bad Managers is a valuable book for anyone in a management position, or aspiring to be in one.

The key takeaway from this book is that good management requires an “other-focus” – understanding and supporting the needs of others instead of focusing on oneself.

By gaining a better understanding of bad management practices and raising awareness of these shortcomings, we can help to create an atmosphere where more supportive behaviors are encouraged and rewarded.

The actionable advice from this book is to point out bad management behavior when you see it, and exchange observations with your peers who are similarly affected.

Through this conversation, we can start to build the critical mass needed to spur positive change in the workplace.

Ultimately, other-focused management will lead to happier employees and greater business success.

Arturo Miller

Hi, I am Arturo Miller, the Chief Editor of this blog. I'm a passionate reader, learner and blogger. Motivated by the desire to help others reach their fullest potential, I draw from my own experiences and insights to curate blogs.

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