Perry Timms
6 min readFeb 14, 2018

All management is fake.

Well maybe not all managers are fake, but generally the premise of this post is that the majority of people – when we’re in management roles – have to fake it. Fake that we are good enough to lead, maybe. But certainly fake that they really truly care about all of the people in their charge/team.

I’ll confess – I’ve had some people in my team I’ve not at all liked and didn’t really care about. I had to look after them as that was part of the job. But as human beings, I didn’t really like them, get them, and wasn’t sure I wanted to put effort into helping them develop. I just needed them to do their job and be as little hassle to me as possible.

There were – of course – others. People who were all I wanted to be when I was them. People who had bags of potential and were always eager to help. People who believed in similar things to me. People who I got to know a bit more about who they were and I genuinely found myself caring about them, for them and interested in them. I didn’t have to fake it with them.

I did have to fake it with the others though.

And don’t even get me started on the fact that some of the people I was given to work with, weren’t up to it and caused me problems. Performance reviews, sickness absence monitoring and disciplinary action for assaulting someone at the Christmas party with a fire extinguisher.

‘So’, you might say, ‘you can’t pick your team based on people you like.’ Of course you can’t. You inherit people, you acquire them and you may even recruit them. And then they turn out to be undesirable.

And so what if you DID only work with people you like, care about and agree with? That’s homogenous and won’t be creative will it..?

Well you don’t have to like everyone you work with and agree on everything with people to care for them. You could though, agree:

  • On how important the work you were there to do was.
  • How important equity of effort and meritocracy of the people in the team was.
  • How important quality and creativity were for the work etc.

And so these are the people you don’t have to fake it with.

Faking it in management is being forced into the routines, rituals and regulations that don’t really do you or them a service. If you’re genuinely not interested in someone and their development, you may act as gatekeeper and guide just as you do with those you are interested in.

Except you won’t want to give them the best of you in pursuit of those. You’ll be biased and unless you’re a real saintly type, you just won’t have the energy for it. You’ll appear to be going through the same routines but you’ll be faking it with some and not others.

In the world of clients that I’m now in, it can be the same. If I don’t believe in a client’s work, if I don’t have an interest in the client’s outcomes, I won’t apply myself in the same way as I do when I really GET a client. I will do the work to the agreed standard but they’ll get the standard version of me not the Supercharged version of me. I can only work with the energy source that’s being created.

In fact, where a client really grated me, I did a handbrake turn. I couldn’t work with them. I walked away from revenue. Some might say that was brave and consistent with my values. That was at play. But it was because I couldn’t fake my dislike or disinterest in them, their way and their business methods.

I’ve been in situations where the commissioning client is fabulous and then the team and the organisation is awful. I’ve not enjoyed that much but I do push on because of my interest in the client. No fakery there.

I’ve also been in situations where I’ve not liked the commissioning client per se but I’ve really been interested in their team, their colleagues, their organisation. And I’ve pushed on and and had interest that led to good outcomes.

I’ve had line managers I’ve transacted with but not had an interest in and instead of doing things for them, I’ve done them in spite of them.

And I’ve had line managers I’d run through walls for. So much interest in them and what they stood for, did and believed in that I aligned 100% with them and it.

No fakery.

Which is why I feel even more strongly now about self-managed teams. Take out the fake line management interest and instead focus on not whether you like them, but for the piece of work you’re together you can pull together and be interested in each other whilst doing so.

For that work, you can stop faking and start making. Being forced into line manager/subordinate situations just won’t cut it IMHO.

So let’s get rid of the fakeness of management. The falsehood of forced duty of care.

People at Red Hat, Nearsoft, Buurtzorg, Fitzii, Medium, Menlo Innovations, WD-40, Patagonia, AND Digital, FAVI, Oticon, Mondragon and others don’t have to fake it. They work with people and find a way to make it work whilst they’re together but know they won’t permanently(or for quite some time) have to be in their charge or in charge of them.

I’ve been working fluidly with people for a long time now. And when it’s over it’s over,. When you reassemble you know why and how this person works. I’ve worked with people flexibility like this and would never again do it. Just not enough interest in how they work and how they’re being for me to want to repeat it. Instead of managing each other out of the situation, you just don’t converge on any more projects together.

Choosing your boss is what Happy Training is famous for. It’s that spirit of “what do you do, how do you it, that interests me enough that I’d like you to lead me, help me and be part of the work I do”. Brilliant piece of non-fake management systems. HT Henry Stewart.

If we are less stuck in our teams. If we are less fixed in co-conspirators. If we are less in shadow of that single line manager we won’t have to fake it either.

We’ll say “We’re not ALL in this together. This is not a military regiment. We are together for pieces of work and I’d like us to contract, use Colleague Memos of Understanding or whatever it takes so that we don’t have to fake it. If we should be working together for whatever reason, then I want to be as genuine as possible about the interest I have in you.

There’s a further post to come on this about fakery in social media and networks.

For now, I’d like people to consider that management is faking it. It’s a fake construct. It’s having to fake interest in people you don’t have the true energy to be genuinely that interested in.

We need a system where this is no longer the case. Where you can be genuine about the work you’re there to do together or the situation you find yourself in and spend time mentoring, coaching, sharing, boosting and being there for people who you have an interest in, and they you.

We can do this and agile, self-managed, holacratic methods are trying to do this. And many are succeeding. Not all, but many are.

I’d like to see us give our best to those who we feel deserve our best and stop faking it by trying to give everyone 15% each of what you have and who you are.

It’s time to stop faking it.

And perhaps admit being a manager in the way we know them to be in the world of work, is a fake way to be.

And more importantly, maybe it’s time to stop being a fake version of you.



Perry Timms

CEO PTHR |2x TEDx speaker | Author: Transformational HR + The Energized Workplace | HR Most Influential Thinker 2017–2023 | Soulboy + Northampton Town fan