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Posted by Tim Bryce on October 7, 2013


– Who cracks the whip, and how?

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I think the expression “Task Master” has become passé in today’s workplace but I’m not too sure what has replaced it, perhaps “Micromanager” or simply a “Pain in the Ass.” Basically, it’s referring to someone charged with performing a task through to completion and moves heaven and earth to get the job done. I’ve met a lot of tough Task Masters over the years, and I have found there are essentially two types: the megalomaniac, and the “poor slob” who has had an assignment dropped in his lap and realizes failure is not an option.

There are several attributes which the two types share: they are disciplined, results oriented, resourceful, and know how to communicate effectively. In terms of discipline they tend to be very organized and methodical in how an assignment is to be performed and will not tolerate any variance. They are resourceful in terms of not allowing obstacles to interfere with an assignment and know how to overcome any hiccup along the way. In fact, they show great creativity in this regards. They also understand the importance of communicating with all parties involved with the assignment. But the last attribute, which is perhaps the most critical, is they are both very determined to succeed, one because he has to and one because he simply wants to.

The key difference between the two types lies in their interpersonal relations with their subordinates. The megalomaniac relishes the job as it represents power and control. He demands blind obedience and is often fond of saying, “If I say jump, you say how high?” In other words, he sees workers more as machines as opposed to human beings, objects which he can manage by pushbutton, an approach which is loathed by his workers. Consequently, he doesn’t command loyalty or respect and desertions are commonplace.

The poor slob, on the other hand, stresses the importance of the assignment to his people, he runs interference to expedite problems for them, and is concerned with his subordinate’s welfare. This is the antithesis of the megalomaniac who maintains an almost adversarial relationship with his workers. His approach to management is simply to dominate through intimidation, thereby bullying people to complete the task. In contrast, the poor slob seeks cooperation through teamwork and builds a network of interdependencies whereby the members realize they will either sink or swim together.

To use a football metaphor, the Task Master is the quarterback on the field calling his own plays. Depending on what type he is though, the players will either respect and earnestly work for him or they’ll go out of their way to allow him to fumble away the game. In the end, it all comes down to interpersonal relations.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at

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Copyright © 2013 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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  1. Alton Walston said

    I believe there is a third type, in between the two types you mentioned. A really good taskmaster knows the job inside and out, he understand the lowest to the highest parts of the jobs that complete a product. He also understand that his people need to know the almost as much as he knows. He gathers his people divides the work each according to his/her abilities then returns to his office to find out what support there is to give. He is neither tyrannical nor weak, his disposition is that he truly is there to help his minions to do the best that can be done. He is aware that personal problems away affect the performance and deals out the work accordingly. In short, he is the boss everyone wants to work for. He gets the job done with quality and on time. And make the work as easy for his crew as possible. In my years, I was such a boss. I learned from both types you mentioned. Saw the problems that each encountered and then figured out a way to bring harmony to the workplace. Not-with-standing there are some A___holes that can not and will not do what is required of them. The solution after trying is to replace them.

    Cheers ole Blake


  2. Wayne said

    Good contrast, Tim. I’ve met both and been the “poor slob” a few times. ~WB


  3. CHRIS PAYNE said

    Good task masters have to have good team players who understand their roles. It is up to the task master to get those people in place and communicate clearly the roles and expectations. Having willing participants is key. That takes good recruiting. Just ask Coach K.


  4. Tim Bryce said

    A K.S. of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma wrote…

    “I love this Tim. My son happens to work for the megalomaniac on steroids! Actually, I have another word for him but I will leave that to your imagination!”




  6. Tim Bryce said

    An M.I. of Missouri wrote…

    “One you forgot is “the Skull Crusher.” That is any man or woman willing to advance his or her career up the corporate ladder by using others’ “skulls” to get there. For example, when someone I know very well, started his new job as a research scientist, we were invited to a get to know you party. It was held in a huge home, more like an estate with dark woods all around by nightfall. The food served was like a banquet and numerous games, like Trivial Pursuit were being played in the first floor level. The wife of this scientist was invited to view all the luxurious rooms and special features, like a pool and an adjoinig outside terrace. When the wife inquired about her husband, she being anxious since she had not seen him in a good while, the hostess took her for a long walk. The wife saw her husband leaning on the front guard rail near the entrance shaking his head negatively. The hostess tried to distract the wife from going to him. Angry at this the wife insisted she see her husband immediately. Later on as they drove home, the husband told her that the woman speaking to him was to be his Manager. She wanted him to “sleep with her” in order to further advance his career. He refused and she was angry. I know this is true because I am the wife and my husband finally retired from that corporation. He is still a good and faithful man and refused to compromise his moral values in order to climb the corporate ladder.”


  7. Avinash Prabhu said

    Tim, very well contrasted. Liked your post. Learning to be one of the three types.
    How long will it take to master these? What should be my initial steps to start? Kindly opine.


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