More than one organisation I have worked for had ‘protected managers’ that didn’t perform well or bullied employees but were protected and shielded from criticism because they were former colleagues of senior managers and head-hunted to the position. It left employees with nowhere to raise the problems, I have even seen a HR team being unable to address problems due to this protecting shield. In one case a number of experienced staff left due to this protecting relationship shield.
I wonder of this is becoming a more common problem as hiring via networks is becoming more common. Have you seen an increase in shielded managers?
A blog post by Daniel Newman that raises a smilar question: Should Managers Befriend Employees In The Workplace?