7 Early Warning Signs of a Bad Manager


Warning Signs of a Bad Manager
Bad managers come in almost every shape and size.  Some bad managers are easy to spot because they are palpably dishonorable, inept or obnoxious.  But the warning signs of a bad manager for the vast majority of bosses are much more subtle because they are not obviously terrible people; they are just inexperienced, untrained or over their heads.

Managers Matter But Are Underperforming
Managers make up 38% of the US workforce and account for at least 70% of the variance in employee engagement scores across business units.  And, according to Harvard, the most enduringly successful companies, those delivering a ten-fold return to investors over a ten year period, excel at ten specific management practices.  Unfortunately, a recent McKinsey study found that 81% of frontline managers are not satisfied with their own performance and nearly 70% of senior executives are only “somewhat” or “not at all satisfied” with the performance of their companies’ frontline managers.

In our experience, bad bosses make work exponentially harder and can single handedly destroy team morale, engagement and performance.

Seven Early Warning Signs of a Bad Manager
Of course, one of the best antidotes to your inexperience as a new manager is to be self-aware and check yourself against the following early warning signs of a bad manager:

1. Uses Threats or Intimidation
No good manager would ever threaten an employee to get results. This is the opposite of the way for managers to inspire and motivate team members to do their best.  Instead, effective managers work with their teams to define common goals and try to incorporate each employee’s special talents and interests into the job role.

2. Communicates Disrespectfully
The most productive teams are those where there is constructive dissent, healthy conflict, mutual respect and a cooperative spirit. Bad managers undercut employee productivity when they are abusive or demeaning.  This is a perfect example of when the Golden Rule should predominate…behave unto others as you would have them behave unto you.

3. Shows Prejudice
Bad managers treat their employees unfairly… by showing favoritism to some or discriminating against others. While leaders should treat different employees differently based upon their performance, value and potential, good managers are always fair, straightforward and objective vis-a-vis their team members; otherwise resentment will build.

4. Hoards Information
Our organizational alignment research found that the timely flow of information was 12.5 times greater in high performing teams than in low performing teams. Good managers make sure their team has all the knowledge they need to make smart and purposeful decisions in their day-to-day work and go to great lengths to ensure everyone on the team understands where the team and organization are headed.  Bad managers do not trust employees with complex information, use information as power and try to whitewash bad news.

5. Neglects to Give Feedback
How can you expect your team members to improve behavior if you don’t make it clear what you expect from them? Not only must you set very clear expectations for success on the job but you must also monitor behavior and give meaningful positive (and negative) feedback.  Bad managers create performance ambiguity; strong managers let everyone know where they stand and provide high levels of support to continuously improve.

6. Undermines Motivation
A key to building a high performing and engaged team is giving them opportunities to learn and grow. Empower employees to manage their own activities as long as they are able to deliver.  Micromanaging undercuts an employee’s confidence and their desire to contribute in a meaningful way.

7. Lacks Leadership
There are times when a manager simply needs to take charge…to make a difficult decision, to hold a poor performer accountable or to set compelling goals. As a new manager, choose these times judiciously but don’t be afraid to draw a clear line in the sand.  That’s what good leaders do…they know when to lead and when to empower their teams to set the pace.

The Bottom Line
Bad managers decrease company performance and increase risk.   Pay attention to these early warning signs of a bad manager.  The success of your people and your business depends on it.

To learn more about how to create effective managers, download the 4 High Performance Management Metrics That Matter Most

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