really bad boss

An Anatomy of the "User" Manager

If you only care about next week’s results, bring in a User Manager. He’ll get it done. But watch out for the aftermath. You know the type–the kind of manager who works to win at all costs. The guy who’s “all business” or the woman who’s “got no time for that crap (meaning connection and understanding).” They’ve got their teams spinning, scared to under-perform. Although there’s lots of work being done, stress and fear squelch creativity and conversation. The sad truth is, a “User” mentality can often improve results in the short term, but is no way to add lasting value.

An Anatomy of a User Manager

In our Winning Well model, David and I call folks like this “Users” because they tend to see people as objects to be used in order to get results.


User managers value confidence above humility. They prioritize results above relationships.


User managers focus on short-term results. They emphasize getting things done today and will worry about tomorrow when it gets here.


User managers tend to treat people as objects—the people are there to achieve results and that is their only value. These managers push hard for results and try to compel productivity through fear, power, and control. At the extreme they say things like, “If you don’t like it, leave” and, “Why should I say thank you? It’s their job.” They do not offer relevant encouragement and are inconsistent with accountability, often becoming reactionary and explosive when frustrated with poor results. Their meetings are often one-way information dumps with requests for input met with silence. Meetings also end in silence, which the manager mistakes for agreement.


People—User managers create work environments that resemble sweatshops. They do achieve results, but at a high cost. Their employees do the least possible to avoid punishment. People leave as soon as they can afford to. Employees don’t solve problems or take initiative; they are happy to leave those tasks to their manager.
Manager—Since they get things done through fear, power, and control they have to spend a tremendous amount of energy policing their workers, forcing people to work, and replacing employees who leave. They often feel out of control (since they can’t possibly control everything or everyone.) Frequently, these managers are frustrated, bitter, stressed, and suffer from poor physical and emotional health.

If you recognize these symptoms in yourself or others, we’ve got really practical tools and techniques to help you win well in the long run. Learn more here.

Posted in Winning Well and tagged , , .

Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt helps human-centered leaders resolve workplace ambiguity and chaos, so that they can drive innovation, productivity and revenue without burning out employees. She’s the founder and CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders, an international leadership development and training firm known for practical tools and leadership development programs that stick. She’s the award-winning author of four books including Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates and Winning Well: A Manager's Guide to Getting Results-Without Losing Your Soul and a hosts the popular Asking For a Friend Vlog on LinkedIn. A former Verizon Wireless executive, Karin was named to Inc. Magazine’s list of great leadership speakers. Karin and her husband and business partner, David Dye, are committed to their philanthropic initiative, Winning Wells - building clean water wells for the people of Cambodia.


  1. Excellent article Karin on the truth about “User Managers”!

    I was thinking that this one person I collaborated with turned out to be a “User Collaborator”. She wanted to control everything and had no future vision. She not only proved to me how inflexible and uncaring she was, but also how unimportant I was to her.

    Thanks and can’t wait to share!

  2. I’m stressed reading this post just thinking about former user managers.

    There are many reasons why a UM acts the way they do. Some of these behaviors are self inflicted, modeling the wrong people growing up, or succumbing to the pressures from their own UM’s from above.

    • Steve, I love how we’ve already gotten an abbreviation, UM 😉 And I so agree, UM behaviors are contagious.

  3. Good stuff as usual. Those meeting conclusions clues you allude too do sound familiar from some past teams I’ve been on. It certainly makes meetings something to dread. That might be a good post if you haven’t already done it. How to recognize if you are having bad meetings and how to spice them up while adding value that your team can’t get elsewhere as effeciently (I know you’ve talked about mtgs in the past in some capacity).

  4. A great article, Karin!

    I’ve had supervisors who told people to “either love it or leave it” but in all fairness to them, I agreed! If people can’t stop bitching, moaning, and complaining about their situation, please move on! The rest of us do not want to hear it. In the meanwhile, those who are challenged or motivated by their job can keep moving ahead. I do think leaders need to address the “dead weight” and naysayers among their team. I’ve never found the perfect job and yet complaining about it never made it better. Only by changing my attitude toward my job did my perspective finally turn around…

    • Thanks, LaRae. Thanks so much for extending the conversation. In a cohort I’m working with, we’ve been talking about various ways to get to the root cause of the complaints and using Winning Well behaviors to draw out more productive behaviors. The attitudes of everyone involved certainly make the difference.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.