Review: How F*cked Up is Your Management?

The title gives it away: How F*cked Up is Your Management is a book tries to tackle management topics from an angle that’s purposefully uncomfortable and blunt. The authors pride themselves on being forthcoming and honest in their assessments of what plagues most managers, with a bias towards (again) the tech industry and startups.

That said, I had a hard time finishing it, but not because of the aforementioned uncomfortable questions it raises.

No, the book was difficult to go through because the entire first part of the book uses a guilt-by-reading rhetorical device that I find completely off-putting. The authors’ idea of “straight talk” is to accuse their readers of being terrible at a bunch of different areas—diversity, interviews, the cadence of work and deliverables—with very few solutions. In fact, most of their writing in these sections follow the template of “you suck at this, shouldn’t you be ashamed of yourself?!”, and for the life of me I couldn’t figure out who the intended reader was; those who’d nod along and agree with their judgement don’t need further convincing, and those who need to acknowledge these gaps in their purview aren’t doing to be guilt-tripped by—to use the quote on the backcover—”a bunch of swears”. For me, it read like a series of blog posts whose primary purpose was to make the authors feel good about themselves.

The latter sections were better in terms of providing accurate, if terse, descriptions of common management problems and potential solutions. It does fall prey to the same issues that plague most management advice books: much of it hinges on the authors’ own experiences, and its applicability is dependent mostly on whether the reader can pattern-match the solution to their own situations. And even when items aren’t completely relevant, I still appreciate seeing the perspectives of others in how they gauge a tricky scenario, and whether what they tried actually worked.

Beyond the sometimes-applicable, sometimes-relevant advice that How F*cked Up is Your Management provides in bits and spurts throughout its pages, I suspect that its actual propose is more of a rallying cry, an assurance to other managers that amidst the loneliness of the role, there are kindred spirits who can empathize and have walked down the same paths. If this pick-me-up is what you’re looking for, then this book can be a good read, provided you can stomach the first couple of chapters.