We’ve all been there.  There are an infinite number of Lumberghs clogging the arteries of companies around the world, a vast array of Captain Matt Deckers leading their crews to certain doom, endless legions of Sergeant Hartmanns, abusing and berating their charges until the people they oversee take drastic action in the latrine with live ammunition.  Everybody has had or knows someone who has had a bad manager, terrible boss or gawdawful teacher.  Sadly, not everybody has the option to give them the comeuppance they so richly deserve (in part because, strangely enough, TPS report cover sheet forms don’t combust like regular paper), at least not in the real world.  Fictional worlds are something different though, and many a career has been made entirely on fantasies of revenge against the Dean Wormers and Mister Spacely’s who hold us back and drag us down.

The MS-QOTD (pronounced, as always, “misquoted”) needs you to come in on Saturday, and if you could just go ahead and come in on Sunday too, that’d be great, asking: Who’s the worst manager in the history of all fictional worlds?


About Author

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture! And a nice red uniform.


  1. Whoever ran the Quick Stop for making Dante work that day and anyone who ever thought it was a good idea to hire Randall.

    Actually, I have to go with Hubert Farnsworth for many, many reasons, such as hiring a one eyed spaceship captain, keeping an incompetent doctor employed for sentimental reasons and so on.

  2. Queen Padme Amidala pops into my head. She managed to get blockaded, lose a couple of Jedi, took insane risks that a monarch cannot take, begged for assistance from an inferior species of amphibians, broke Jedi decrees by secretly marrying Anakin, showing continual poor judgement by hiding the relationship even while on Corsuscant, etc etc etc.

    Of course, if we follow the Machete order and retcon Ep. I, then her monarchy rule gets thrown out. Still, as a senator, she still took bad risks, showed poor judgement, etc.

  3. I feel compelled to point out that there’s a significant difference between being a leader and being a manager and I think you mixing the two together a bit.

    A leader leads (set goals and motivates people) and and manager manages (implements policy and allocates resources to meet goals). The two are not mutually exclusive but are also not necessarily linked.

    For example, my nomination for a terrific leader but terrible manager is Michael Scott who definitely leads but pointedly doesn’t manage. His office regularly leads the entire company in sales performance, has tremendous moral, and even genuine affection among its employees. He however is a terrible manager, failing to respect proper professional decorum, adequately report business results and regularly horrifies a long succession of human resource representatives (at least those he didn’t sleep with). Somehow his office is tremendously profitable for a failing company, while he generates lawsuit after lawsuit.

    • AllenBT makes a good point. I’ve served in various management roles, from team lead to IT department manager to C-level advisor and as you get higher in the pyramid, the concerns change and the skills to manage those concerns have to change as well. A micromanager can be great in a QA Lead or DBA manager role but if she cannot harness that control compulsion and keep herself “out of the weeds,” then her effectiveness can take a hit.

      It is truly a rare leader that can effectively manage a team while also providing vision to take the organization forward. I’ve worked with a few and it’s very inspiring to be around. I’ve also been around the opposite and, well, TPS reports indeed.

  4. Emperor Palpatine. His elite troops were defeated by teddy bears. Obviously there is a training defficiency. On bring your kid to work day, Assist. Manager Vaders kid tried to kill him. If you work for him there is a good chance you will:
    a. Be force choked/lightninged to death
    b. Betrayed
    c. Turned to the dark side
    d. Lose all your limbs

    • The Expanded Universe gave a really good explanation for the crappy Stormtroopers: Near the end of the Clone Wars, Palpatine set up some quicker cloning facilities where the clones were grown in less than a year, with most of their knowledge flash trained into their heads without the proper hands-on training.

      Which makes me agree that Palpatine was a pretty bad manager for forsaking quality for quantity.

  5. It’s amazingly awesome to me that this topic is here this week. I’m a business admin student in college and we’re covering this very subject, although in significantly less nerdy terms, in class!

    AllenBT’s point was the crux of our lesson today. Managers and leaders are not necessarily the same thing, and while having an all-in-one overlord of awesome is certainly a beautiful thing to behold, I’d take either a leader or a manger who was good at that over someone trying desperately to be both if they just can’t do it.

    But, to answer the actual question… I’m gonna say Cap’n Kirk. He did alright in the minor day-to-day managing of his ship, sure. He also slept with EVERY SINGLE RANDOM ALIEN who got within about a 50 foot radius of him while showing signs of possibly having compatible bits. He repeatedly broke his prime directive. He lost control of his team to viruses, parasites, and infestations. Worst of all, he displays continual disregard for the structural and output capacity of his vehicle/office/house. Terrible manager. Amazing leader.

  6. “The Leader” from Hulk.
    Hated him when I was a kid… think he is a VERY lame badguy/leader… stupid character and EVERYTHING he lead was silly.
    He has been mentally blocked by me… except for the stupid mustache… I can not get that out of my head!
    Am I being led?

  7. Avon Barksdale from The Wire for not being able to rise above being a petty gangster, and not realizing he could parley his drug money into building legitimate businesses. Although, Stringer Bell tried it and got burned pretty badly.

  8. Lumberg! From Office Space. There are managers who are technically “worse”, but none who better exemplify what is wrong with the vast majority of nonfictional managers.

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