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Poor managers hurting NZ

Written By: - Date published: 1:23 pm, October 14th, 2009 - 22 comments
Categories: business, capitalism - Tags:

What a sad state the management workforce of this country is in. Just think about these recent stories:

Open Country, locking out their workers, employing scab labour, creating an environmental mess and blaming it on the workers they locked out – all because the workers joined the union and wanted some guaranteed hours. The appalling way that the Talleys have treated the workers, who from the backbone of the small community the factory is based in, makes you wonder why we want these people running businesses in this country at all.

Telecom/Visionstream, the management has taken foolish and short-sighted decisions over and over again. Their pig-headed, ideologically anti-union attitude has landed them in a tonne of trouble. Reminiscent of Air NZ, not that they learned the lesson.

Bridgeman concrete locking out their workers out of the blue, only to crumble because it was their own business they were stuffing up.

The Crafars – just dopey or insane? It hardly matters but their business, which it until recently had them lauded in those obnoxious business magazines, has turned out to be the Enron of New Zealand dairying, and a PR disaster to boot.

Then you’ve got the increasingly unhinged Zane Fulljames GM of NZ Bus. Single-handedly he has brought the bulk of Auckland’s bus network to a halt. It probably seemed like a good idea at first – save a few bucks, get a pat on the head from the big bosses in Wellington, maybe a pay rise. But he disastrously misjudged. You read his press releases and it’s clear he is letting the pressure get to him. He seems to view the dispute as between himself personally and the workers. 

Depressingly, it seems public sector bosses have picked up bad habits from the private sector.

Using an old union-busting tactic, Parliamentary Service managers tried to force individual workers to justify their one-hour walk outs and pressure them not to join in. It’s a bad faith action and they know it.

Just as bad is Ministry of Justice engaging in a PR war with its 1700 staff making the ludicrous claim that a pay rise would cost $25 million next year  – $14,700 per worker.

Where are the managers’ sense of loyalty towards their staff, or even recognition that they need to preserve good relations for the future? I guess with unemployment up and National in power, they think they can get away with it.

22 comments on “Poor managers hurting NZ ”

  1. RascallyRabbit 1

    There have been a few interesting studies done on this subject along the lines of “New Zealand will never be successful in the business world as the managers are too inept” specifically – New Zealand managers just simply not possessing the skills required to make a company internationally successful and therfore rather than berating the workers for lacking the required skills to make this happen perhaps managers need to upskill themselves.

    I believe the New Zealand instititue or maybe the NZIER have done a few case studies on this being the case….

    The old adage I used to hear in North America and Europe was:

    Q:”how do you get a Kiwi in charge or medium-sized company?”
    A:”give him a large company and wait”

    The recent goingson around the county seem to emphasise some of these sentiments!

  2. randal 2

    ” never invest in a business unless you are sure it can be magaged by an idiot because sooner or later it will be”. Warren Buffet. however the new zealand desire is to be a manager so one can exert psychological leverage on the employees. “the most satisfying desire of humans is to have command over labour.” Adam Smith. the theory of Moral Sentiments. i.e. kiwi managers are just bullies.

  3. Lew 3

    Eddie, I respectfully submit that calling them ‘poor’ is too generous. For one thing, it’s an ambiguous term which elicits sympathy and suggests that they’re somehow under unreasonable pressure or aren’t properly rewarded, when in fact the reverse is true. I’d say ‘fucking useless’ is a more apt term in this case.

    But I agree with the sentiments: WTF, these are the captains of industry we’re supposed to lionise?


  4. tc 4

    Management kiwi style was in a shambolic state even before NACT took the reins, now we’re seeing the downstream impact of a pro big business/ anti union/ nil wages growth (recall JK’s quote on that subject) influence on bossess behaviour.
    This govt continues to show everyone what you get when you hand power to a merchant banker and his lawyer/big business mates……quote Peter Garrets midnight oil ” the rich get richer, the poor get the picture…”

    I’m an expat who came back for family reasons……we’ll never get back the generation muldoon drove offshore to run our companies, they’re doing better offshore and their jobs here are now occupied by ‘yes men’ doing very nicely thanks by following the executive teams lead…..like the CEO of telecom…..ka-ching !

    Doing the right thing for tomorrow is nice but doesn’t pay as well as a quick buck…..refer the ETS and increased fishing quotas etc.

  5. roger nome 5

    De-unionisation in NZ has cause disenfranchisement in workplaces, higher turnover and lower productivity. These problems won’t go away until we have a fundamental shift in our industrial relations framework that encourages worker participation in work-place decision making. At present there is no legal facility for this except through unions, which only cover 20% of the workforce.

    We need centralsied collective bargaining back. We need to reverse National’s 1991 Employment Contracts Act.

    This is from a recent academic article regarding NZ’s industrial relations problems.

    “Labour Turnover and Retention in New Zealand: The Causes and Consequences of Leaving and Staying with Employers”

    While interesting work is the strongest attractor and retainer in the labour market, the results also show that there is a strong employee expectation that management should make personnel decisions based on merit, demonstrate that extrinsic rewards (such as pay, promotion and security) play a role in both employee retention and turnover, lend support to the idea that there is growing concern with work-life balance, and underline the retention value of good relationships with co-workers and supervisors.


  6. Walter 6

    Ministry of Justice is lower paid than most in the public sector. It has around 3300 staff (not 1700), so 25M divided by 3300 is about $7500 per person. Not ludicrous totals when you consider the PSA wants 4 – 8% increases as well as cost of living increases.

    • Chris 6.1

      I used to work for the Ministry of Justice. It is indeed the lowest paid out of all state sector employees.The PSA has pushed for years to achieve pay parity with average state sector salary, but the Government, both the Labour one as well as this one has refused.

  7. The NZ Porter report in the early ’90s, Knuckey et al for MED (Firm Foundations – 2002), Colin Campbell-Hunt’s work (2001 – World famous in New Zealand: How New Zealand’s leading firms became world-class competitors), Rod Oram’s frequent commentaries on the issue – I could go on, but all point to a management capability problem in NZ. But, especially for a National government, it is the challenge that dare not speak its name, for to do so is to suggest that some of National’s key supporters are not terribly competent.That said, our lot in power shuffled this issue around between ministries and didn’t really front up as they might have done.

    One interesting observation (without any substantive empirical backing) suggests that bigger firms with engineers in control in general do better than those who have accountants and finance people running the show. This idea has been presented crudely as ‘too many accountants’, but this is a little unfair.

    A second issue relates to the quality and purpose of what passes for management education in NZ. Bob Jones has always had a telling view on this.

  8. Herodotus 8

    Why not promote great CEO’s. Rob Fyfe has done a wonderful job at Air NZ. Given what he has faced within a few years more crisis than anyone GM warrents. And I cannot remember when he has stumbled, and what impresses me is his leadership out in front doing what we see so little of Leading as opposed to managing, and I think that this headline sums it all up, better still should be we want leadership not crap management.
    The bank managers have also done a great job if nothing else sent billions back to shareholders and deferred tax of over $2b (Westpac alone was $1b) and they still havent paid this!!

    • rainman 8.1

      You’re right Rob is a passably good leader, certainly a charismatic chap. Not on the money all the time but who is? Pity the rest of the culture is so toxic – possibly some of the worst managers I’ve ever seen, outside of local government.

  9. JD 9

    “these are the captains of industry we’re supposed to lionise?”

    Probably overseas because they’re sick and tired of ‘tall poppy’ syndrome which incidentally many posters here seem to thrive on.

    If managers are so bad Randal why not become one to show how things can be done differently instead of bitterly complaining.

    @ Rogernome: aren’t you wondering why labour, after being in power for 9 years, institute centralised collective bargaining?

  10. roger nome 10

    Yes JD, I am wondering why. My suspicion is that they were scared of the counter campaign that would have been waged against them by the NZEF and the NZBRT, for a start.

  11. aj 11

    A report in today Southland Times says a retired farmer has promises of $3m towards a fighting fund for the Crafars. Looks like the Crafars has locked in support from ACT voters.
    God Help New Zealand.

    • Lew 11.1

      The judicial system could be their worst nightmare, though. The problem is that it’s a means of putting information on the public record. Stacks of documentation as to the “serious animal welfare issues” on their farms — photos, MAF testimony, witnesses, neighbours, activists; hundreds of pages of the proceedings of previous trials against them; that megalomaniac redneck nutter Alan fronting the whole thing with his sense of landed entitlement. All as NZ tries to rescue its clean/green agriculture brand, which will likely see Fonterra cut them loose and Fed Farmers begin to distance themselves out of their own self-interest; and (the clincher) while the receivers have a mandate to get top dollar for the famrs, stock and all for their owners, the banks — the hope of which gets more distant as it wears on.

      So, I say, let them fight.


      • Armchair Critic 11.1.1

        Here is the link.
        You can tell a bit about people by who their friends are, and some of the people setting the fund up don’t have a sparkling clean record. So I agree, let them fight.

        • Daveo

          “There’s no such thing as dirty dairying,” Mr Crafar said. “Show me another industry that’s better [on the environment].” He blamed waterway pollution on ducks.


          • Armchair Critic

            Which is pretty much why they should fight – if it was a life and death issue these guys would be up for a Darwin Award. They have obviously never been told that when you find yourself in a hole you should stop digging.
            On a more serious note, there are ways of identifying the source of faecal conamination, that is, what type of animal it comes from. I think it involves testing DNA associated with the contamination. It can tell the difference between ducks, cows, dogs, people and whoever else you care to blame.

  12. not the real Ken Douglas 12

    I don’t think that the management are plainly stupid, some are smart, or at least educated smart. I think they are more blinded by their “I’m management, so I must be right mantra and they are also not street smart. Have they ever worked a real job and know what it is like to be on the employee side?

    Many of the companies that you have mentioned in the post are also run by H.R departments. So not real management!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  13. RedLogix 13

    Problem is that 90% of all businesses in NZ employ fewer than 6 people, which means that most managers are well-meaning amateurs at best.

    In my decades of working life (being coy here)… I’ve had about 1/3rd really great people I’ve worked for, natural leaders you’d crawl over broken glass for, about 1/3rd so-so managerial types who could be best described as inoffensive and not especially effective, and 1/3rd sociopaths who not only made everyone’s life a misery… but in the long run caused huge damage to the businesses they ran.

    The problem always starts at the top, with directors and CEO’s who cannot distinguish between authentic leadership, and what is often passed of as the same thing… the ability to push people around and manipulate them.

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