6 Signs of a Bad Manager (and How to Overcome Them)

6 Signs of a Bad Manager (and How to Overcome Them)

Leaders become great not because of their power but because of their ability to empower others. – John C. Maxwell

A good manager can genuinely be a powerful force. They can motivate employees, keep morale high, guide their teams, and get a job done. They play a massive role in developing their team’s talents and skills. They build strong relationships with their team members and usually are why their team decides to stick around and put in their best. A good manager is relatable, approachable, and can be a pleasure to work with.

Conversely, a bad manager can do the complete opposite.

It is indeed essential to get the job done, and a lousy manager will be able to contribute to the company’s bottom line for a while, but poor management is bound to have severe repercussions in the long run.

What are the Repercussions of a Bad Manager?

Everyone has a tale about an awful manager at some point in their career who was the reason they could not advance or chose to quit a job. Unfortunately, it is not a rare phenomenon.

In a study conducted by Udemy, nearly half of the participants said they had quit a job because of a bad manager– there is a cause and effect at play here. Bad managers result in low engagement- low engagement results in low productivity and high turnover.

Employees will hang on to their jobs only for so long if they are frustrated, tired, unhappy and unmotivated. Bad managers quickly lose the confidence of their employees and, worse still, drive them away. And since companies like to think of people as their most valuable asset, it seems counterproductive to drive away the best talent and negatively affect the company.

Additionally, bad managers can have a more serious effect on their team members. For example, employees who had managers they didn’t like were 60% more likely to suffer a heart attack.

Yes, they can cause increased stress, major health issues, and in extreme cases, even death.

Are employee relationships and company culture suffering because of poor management?

6 Traits of a Bad Manager and How to Overcome Them

Sometimes bad management hides in plain sight, and it is difficult for managers to evaluate what they are doing wrong or why there’s a sense of discomfort surrounding them in the team.

Here are a few poor management practices that could be driving employees to disengage or quit their jobs.

1. When a manager insists it’s their way or the highway

Sometimes managers think theirs is the only right way to get a job done. They give the orders, and the team will carry them out exactly as instructed. There is no room for discussion or ideas. In fact, most of their team members have given up speaking at meetings because they know they will not be heard.

Dominant and controlling managers typically tend to exhibit arrogance, superiority, conceit, and manipulative personality traits. These traits are destructive because they limit personal learning and make the whole team less productive. In addition, by not giving the team members a voice, they stifle creative ideas that might otherwise emerge from team discussions. This situation does not allow room for growth and can bring about stagnation and low confidence in the team.

Some managers can even perceive talented team members to be threats and go to great lengths to hang on to their power, even at the cost of the group.

When leaders are only focused on their own power, they can negatively affect their teams’ performance.

How to avoid dominating the team:

a. Let employees have a say!

Employees who feel their voices are being heard are 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered to perform their best work.

Consequently, employees who feel empowered will also have higher morale and perform better in a team. And the best kind of work is indeed teamwork! It makes work lighter, and team members feel motivated and valued. Moreover, it facilitates ideas, innovative solutions and new insights- after all, many minds are always better than one.

The manager may be convinced that he/she is correct, but if they don’t encourage input, they will never know if the team had better ideas.

Simply put, by letting team members have a say and approaching a situation with a sense of humility and egalitarianism, managers can improve performance in their departments.

b. Keep the team in the loop

Getting the team to achieve something requires optimum cooperation. For example, asking for their input on the project plan, timeline commitments etc., is essential since they have a more accurate picture of what it takes to get the job done. Also, stressing out the team by making unreasonable commitments (without consulting them) is something good managers avoid.

Success is only possible if all the factors that impact a project are considered and the team has adequate time to execute the assignment. Over-promising and under-delivering make everyone (including the manager) look bad.

2. When a manager has an inflated ego

Sometimes, managers let power go to their heads and become arrogant because they are in charge. They feel that they have gained their designation because they are more competent, skilled, and knowledgeable than their team. As a result, these managers tend to treat their subordinates like minions. Studies show that three out of four employees report their boss is the worst and the most stressful part of their job

Managers also sometimes use their position to control and manipulate people working under them. Inflated egos do not help anyone and are detrimental to everyone’s career, including that of the managers themselves.

Inflated egos prevent the ability to see the bigger picture, and it becomes all about the individual and their personal goals.

Keeping ego in check

The ego is an essential part of one’s identity and confidence. However, if left unchecked, it can influence a person to make bad choices and earn discredit.

Managers need to keep their ego in check so that they can transform relationships positively. And self-centeredness is not the answer when attempting to build strong relationships with team members.

However, accepting inputs, treating team members with respect and appreciating their valuable ideas is a good start. Team members treated as equals and with respect are more likely to remain engaged and take ownership of their work.

3. When a manager ignores workplace conflict

Conflict is inevitable when there are human beings involved. It usually results from varied interests, opinions, thought processes and an unwillingness to compromise. This is true even for the workplace.

It is the manager’s job to handle conflict between employees, see that things do not get out of hand, and work continues smoothly.

However, sometimes managers avoid resolving conflict because they do not want to deal with a possible confrontation. They usually think that it is not their concern, the situation will resolve itself, or they want to be perceived as pleasant by their team members.

And although it may seem like avoiding disputes is a good thing, a conflict that is left unresolved can cause many problems for the organisation. For example, it can cause strained communication, lowered productivity, lowered morale and impaired teamwork- especially if it escalates.

But running away from conflict makes the manager come across as a pushover. And the more aggressive team members are likely to continue to do as they please because the manager cannot firmly address the situation in a healthy manner.

Resolve conflict immediately

Workplace conflict needs to be nipped in the bud because conflicts and disagreements only lead to negativity, and things never reach a conclusion.

The key is to deal with conflict through clarity, transparency, and empathy.

By firmly and effectively dealing with a situation, managers can enable employees to focus on their work and what is essential instead of the conflict. Creating an environment where each employee can give their best and not worry about organisational politics and other issues can go a long way in raising productivity and maintaining a positive and happy atmosphere at the workplace.

4. When a manager shows no empathy

Non-empathetic leaders cannot understand the needs of others and are unaware of their thoughts and feelings. In the case of non-empathy, selfishness is the main agent that clouds human judgment.

When managers are non-empathetic, they cannot connect or build strong relationships with their team members. This affects their capability to improve their interactions, communication and positive outcomes.

Non-empathetic managers can also cause high levels of stress. For example, in a study of employees from various organisations, health care expenditures for employees with high levels of stress were 46 per cent greater than at similar organisations without high levels of stress.

A lack of empathy can negatively affect company culture.

Be an empathetic leader

Empathy plays a critical role in the ability to be a successful leader. It is also positively related to job performance.

Empathy enables managers to create an environment of open communication, effective feedback and gain greater awareness of the needs/problems of their team members. It also helps to validate and acknowledge what employees are going through- which is of great psychological comfort.

Research shows that leaders who project warmth (even before establishing their competence) are more effective than those who lead with their toughness and skill. And the biggest reason for this is trust. Employees tend to trust and appreciate kind managers.

5. When a manager believes in micromanaging 

There is no stronger indication of mistrust for the team than micromanaging.

A study showed that 39% of employees said being a micromanager was the worst trait a boss could have, followed by bosses that are overly critical (22%), know-it-all (14%) and impatient (9%).

Normally, fear is what drives micromanagers. As a result, they exert inappropriate influence over their team through constant criticism, control, and attention to sometimes irrelevant details.

In time, this breeds employees who have low morale, no confidence, and are hesitant to make decisions independently without the nod of their managers. Hence, productivity is bound to drop, and inefficiency and unease increase.

Employees who are made to feel that they have no freedom to do their work and will never be good enough are bound to go looking elsewhere for opportunities and a manager that will make them feel worthwhile.

Show confidence in employees

It is the role of the manager to guide and support. However, once the employees are familiar with their duties and responsibilities, it is time to allow them to perform their jobs independently. The manager should step in only if there is a problem, and as far as possible, let them figure things out on their own or in collaboration with their teammates.

Employees cannot learn or grow in a stifling environment where every move is being tracked- they need the freedom to perform their roles.

This is how employees become capable, confident and independent.

6. When a manager grabs the glory 

There is nothing more frustrating than someone else taking undue credit for another’s hard work or innovative ideas.

A study showed that 37 per cent of the participants felt that their supervisor failed to give credit when it was due. In the same survey, 23 per cent said their supervisor blamed others to cover up their own mistakes or minimise embarrassment.

A manager, especially, taking credit for another’s work is never okay. It shows disrespect to the employee whose work it is and displays a lack of integrity and unprincipled behaviour on the part of the manager. Furthermore, this can lead to the alienation of team members as it undermines their trust in their leader.

Taking undue credit can also make a manager look incompetent in the eyes of their team.

Give credit where it is due

Everyone likes to be perceived as important and get the glory. And however tempting it is to get the recognition and a pat on the back, good managers always give credit where it is due.

They know that giving their team credit will make them feel valued and appreciated and will motivate them to work even harder the next time around.

But most importantly, letting the team take centre stage and get the glory portrays a strong and secure leadership.

To sum up

The bottom line is that a good manager is supposed to be well equipped with multiple skills to be able to lead their teams to success.

There is no secret sauce to help people become good managers. Instead, many of these soft skills come with self-awareness, introspection, and constant effort.

Being a great manager is more than just the ability to get a job done. It is creating a bond with team members, being looked up to and respected and being a constant source of support and encouragement. It means having to learn to wield powers responsibly and positively to contribute to the greater good of the team and the company.

After all, with great power comes great responsibility!


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