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Managers: The Artful Dodger

The artful dodger never seems to be responsible for anything that happens

This is the fourth article in our series entitled Managers: The Good and the Bad

Do you happen to know any managers who CAN NOT accept responsibility for anything that happens?  Nothing pertaining to their projects, their products or services, their departments, their teams; nothing is ever their fault? As though woven into their very DNA, this type of manager, the Artful Dodger, makes life for their subordinates less and less valuable over the course of time.

Charles Dickens created his Artful Dodger character as a great pickpocket in Oliver Twist.  We use the term to mean someone who deflects, or dodges, responsibility.

Characteristics of Artful Dodgers

Archetype(s):Any.  In other words, our adopted (Goleman) archetypes have little to do with this behavior.  “Dodging” is really a character flaw.
MBTI Range:SPs are common  (Sensing + Perceiving) but could be any
How to Spot:There are several things to watch for:

  • Avoids accountability and responsibility for anything but success
  • The “buck never stops” with them
  • Artfully adept at making sure $@#!+ never sticks to them
  • Are passionately concerned with protecting their reputation at the expense of others
  • Are driven to rise through the ranks on the backs of others while helping along the attrition of others
  • Drawn to power and public image
  • Aren’t encumbered by morals and ethics
  • Highly secretive and manipulative
  • Examples are equally male or female
Reason(s) to Hire:
  1. Destroy team morale
  2. Bring out the worst in people
  3. Make connections to inhibit collaboration
  4. Propagate a culture built on disingenuousness
  • If the Artful Dodger is left in charge for long, the organization under his or her purview will deteriorate or he or she will build their own fiefdom filled with hand-picked clones.

Final Thoughts

Just writing about this sort of person irritates me.


  1. How can Artful Dodgers survive in corporate life?  Are human resource departments ineffective at finding them and then tossing them out?
  2. Are these individuals more prevalent in larger companies or in small ones?

About Jeff Hayes

Jeff is an agile consultant, coach and trainer with a career spanning 30 years. He specializes in co-creating learning environments to help humans learn how to learn, become more curious and productive, and to build resilience.

Commentary on “Managers: The Artful Dodger”

  1. Neil Mix

    I worked with one of these once. It was an awful experience. I think the mere existence of such a manager is the sign of an organization that is toxic and/or overly bureaucratic.

  2. Mary Ellyn Vicksta

    I believe Artful Dodgers is one of the most destructive types of management styles in our current business environment. Instead of trying to foster collaboration and truly utilize the talent of each member of the team, the Artful Dodger is too busy pushing their own agenda in a charismatic way. They charm you into thinking that whatever they are trying to “sell” is exactly the right thing to do and the next thing that you notice is that they got a promotion or two. The irony is that they aren’t around when the team has to pick up the pieces since the programs or the products that the Artful Dodger was “selling” wasn’t really thought through or carefully examined.

    The charms of the “Artful Dodger” are hard to see through. You just naturally like the “Artful Dodger” because they just seem to have a sixth sense of being able to read you and then they use this ability to tell you exactly what you want to hear in a very compelling way. The problem is that they will tell the next person what they want to hear as well, so there is an avalanche of empty promises and half-baked schemes that sounded so wonderful in the first telling.

    How do you work with an Artful Dodger? Careful examination of the facts, the assumptions, and the “realness” of what they are proposing and taking the time to do so. You may have to gather other people affected by the “Artful Dodger” and compare stories. After having a good laugh (or a cry) about the inconsistencies, put together the true story of what the program or product is, with the real consequences if implemented.

    How to you spot an Artful Dodger in a corporation? They move around a lot and they either are on the extremely fast track or they are busy building an empire. The key thing to notice is if anything that they are pushing actually turns into reality, or is it just to advance themselves. Basically, there is no substance behind the hype.

    What happens to an Artful Dodger in a small company? Teams are destroyed, morale is horrible, and people leave (in a good economy). Fortunately, the Artful Dodger has such a big ego that they are looking for their next conquest so they probably won’t stick around a small company for long.

  3. Jeff Hayes

    And yet if the company is small enough, are the shenanigans of an Artful Dodger just that much easier to see?

  4. Mary Ellyn Vicksta

    I just ran into a situation where there was an Artful Dodger at a small company. The guy seemed to be a great guy on the surface, but his actions were all about “dodging”. It seems that all of the staff that reported to him were afraid to say anything because they feared that it would be twisted. They kept notes on various incidences and tried to get the right people’s attention so a change could be made. Unfortunately, the guy always looked good to those who assessed his performance. So, there are a lot of “little guys” suffering and wondering when the next distortion of truth will be coming along.

  5. Managers: The Good and the Bad | AlignTech Solutions

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