Bad Managers: How to Spot Them in Your Organization

By Jeanette Coleman, SPHR & SHRM-SCP on Jan 07, 2021
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Bad Managers: How to Spot Them in Your Organization

If you’ve ever worked for a lousy manager or worked with a colleague who was a lousy manager, you don’t need the research to know what kind of impact it causes. Employees with lousy managers get physical ailments at work like headaches and upset stomachs, experience frustration and anxiety from needless stress get blamed for misunderstandings and misled by poor directions, and feel threatened and afraid to lose their jobs. Recent surveys show one in two employees leave their job because of their boss. Lousy managers undermine the success of the individuals who work for and with them and the organizations, they work to build and grow.

Any management or supervisory class or course outlines management basics, butTransPerfect Co-CEO and Co-Founder Phil Shawe says business development leaders “must take a personal and vested interested in the success of your people.”

How will you know if your managers have this important characteristic? Are you hiring lousy managers?

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Lousy Managers and How to Spot Them

Gallup research shows managers are essential to employee engagement, and their impact results in at least 70% of engagement scores. This fluctuation in employee engagement impact by managers means a huge opportunity, for both success and loss. Low and lagging employee engagement costs companies where it counts: in productivity, profitability, quality, employee turnover and safety. Great managers improve company results in all these areas.

Lousy managers impact results in all these areas as well, to the detriment of everyone involved. And worse yet, only about one in 10 people have the talent to manage others successfully to engage employees and customers, keep top talent and maintain a highly productive work culture.

What are the talent characteristics of good managers? Ability to motivate and engage employees, assertiveness to achieve work success, belief in and ability to work with clear accountability, good relationship building and sound decision-making skills.

Lousy managers take no interest in motivating or engaging employees, only in directing work. They may be critical instead of supportive, following the rules without applying any caring or appreciation. They aren’t great at problem solving or creative at finding new and better ways, preferring to retreat or give up when problems arise, or worse, assign blame and criticism. They avoid responsibility for problems or trouble while being quick to take credit even when it’s not due them. Lousy managers don’t seem to know how to forge strong working relationships, or even have an interest in them, and have a problem making solid productive decisions.

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What Can You Do About it?

Spotting lousy managers is easy enough. Hiring great managers is much more difficult, according to James Monroe, writing for The SHRM Blog. He explains that promoting high achievers to management without any support is part of the problem, and doesn’t result in a great manager who can successfully lead productive and engaged teams. Monroe says managerial goals and performance evaluations have to look at more than just numbers for business outcomes. They have to review managerial skills, and should include employee surveys.

Look beyond business knowledge to find the right character of great managers, including traits like humility, self-confidence, empathy, and willingness to be supportive and coach employees. Monroe explains that new managers need support that goes beyond typical compliance training, and a transition plan that outlines the skills needed and help to develop them. Dismissing bad managers is just as important as recognizing and supporting good managers, both for the employees they direct and for the company overall.

Monroe says don’t promote successful employees into management roles with no training or support and expect good managers. Don’t hire someone to manage your employees strictly by the numbers or because of industry knowledge without evidence of good managerial skills and traits. Ask questions of your manager candidates that reveal their attitudes towards teambuilding, employee success, recognizing and sharing credit, rewarding employees, communicating with direct reports, and coaching and mentoring employees.

Are you hiring lousy managers? It’s time to look for the great managers your company needs for success in productivity, profitability, quality, employee turnover, and safety. And help lousy managers make the changes needed to improve, or say goodbye.

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