A manager who only interacts with employees to criticize their work or when a problem arises.
The president is acting like a seagull, swooping in, making a lot of noise and flying out. When operating in this mode, executives focus on finding people to criticize but never balance their efforts with finding an equal number of employees to praise.
Counteract this tendency by spending time trying to catch employees in the act of doing something right, and praise them accordingly. This will improve morale for all your workers. If you focus only on being a seagull manager, your employees will cringe at the sight of you, will do only the minimum effort to get by and will tell all their friends to avoid your business.
—Scott Clark, “The Miracle of Morale-Building,” Arizona Business Gazette, June 14, 1998
New York workers have a derogatory term for troubleshooters in the office. They call them seagull managers: someone who flies in, makes a lot of noise, craps over everything and then leaves.
—Barbara Mcmahon, “This is America,” The Evening Standard (London), May 1, 1998
However, it was our native US marketing wheel who told me about “Seagull Managers” — externally recruited senior execs who drift into a firm for a short while, disrupt everything and then get headhunted off somewhere else, clutching their meretricious resumes and well-thumbed copies of The Minute Manager.
—Michael Madison, “The Sharp End,” Marketing, May 26, 1988
Here's the original — and slightly bowdlerized — definition by Gareth Branwyn in Wired 4.09’s Jargon Watch column: “A manager who flies in, makes a lot of noise, poops all over everything, then leaves.”