One bad manager in your organization can make it difficult for your business in many ways. You might have higher absenteeism, increased turnover, and a difficult time recruiting. You may have heard the expression, “Employees don’t leave companies, they leave managers.” It is true. High pay or great benefits will not retain a good employee with a bad manager. People spend too much time at work to be miserable.
In a large Gallup poll about management, they found:
- Only 30% of employees are engaged at work
- Only 35% of managers are engaged at work
- 50% of employees quit because of their manager
Employees who don’t feel engaged at work are just going to work every day to get through it for a paycheck. They aren’t proud of the company for which they work and they aren’t telling everyone how great it is to work there. In fact, they are telling everyone how miserable they are.
What are some qualities of bad managers?
- They micromanage – A bad manager doesn’t trust that employees can do their job without watching and directing everything they do. Micromanagement is defined as “to manage especially with excessive control or attention to details.” It is understandable that new employees will be watched at first to see how well they are doing and if they understand the processes. After the initial training period, however, a manager should let go and trust the employee. Micromanaging bosses watch everything. They often don’t focus on the big picture and can focus on every detail to ensure everything is done how they want it. No one wants someone standing over them the entire time they are working. Micromanagers try to control all aspects of a project they initially delegated to their subordinate. Now sometimes, it is important for a leader to micromanage a little, especially on a large project or problem where a leader is ultimately accountable. But it can be frustrating for employees when leaders are micromanaging every project or every detail. Many times, employees can’t finish their work because they have to keep reporting to their manager the status on their projects. This is time consuming, wasteful, and demotivating for employees.
- They can’t communicate – Bad managers avoid communicating with their employees as much as possible. Face-to-face conversations are awkward. Bad communicators wait until a performance review or a write-up before speaking to employees about an issue. Employees are then surprised that they have been doing something wrong throughout the year. Or a bad communicator may hide behind email and avoid meeting with employees. They only communicate issues or problems through email and copy the HR representative. Then when employees ask to speak to their manager, they tell the employee to go talk to HR. How do you know if you have a bad manager who can’t communicate with employees? Well, you are probably copied on some of those emails or you have heard complaints from employees. Don’t ignore complaints if they come from multiple people.
- They are narcissistic managers – These are the managers who focus on their problems only. They don’t often see the big picture and blame their employees or other departments for everything wrong. Narcissistic managers typically want a lot of praise, can be extremely selfish, micromanaging, and very controlling. These managers can be very charismatic to their superiors, but are probably making everyone else around them miserable.
Watch for turnover, high absenteeism, and employee complaints. If these things are happening, you definitely have a problem on your hands and you should do some deep investigating to move those people out of your organization.
What are some qualities of great leaders?
Although it may seem impossible to find good leaders, every organization has them. Management hiring should not be rushed so that you may find those great leaders.
Here are some skills great leaders have:
- They are great communicators – Great leaders know how to communicate with their employees, other departments and teams, and their superiors. They don’t avoid issues and if they see something they need to address, they address it. It doesn’t mean they don’t feel nervous about having tough conversations, they just do it. They are the ones during performance reviews who ask their employees where they want to go in the company. The great communicators encourage an employee who is having a hard time and provide additional help for the employee to succeed.
- They are empathetic – Leaders who have an ability to understand other’s feelings and show compassion to their employees are great to have in an organization. Now this doesn’t mean they don’t hold people accountable. A great leader understands when people are going through something difficult in their personal lives. They still hold their employees accountable and may offer some additional training or assistance until the employee gets through the rough patch.
- They inspire others – A great leader inspires others to do great work. If a leader is passionate about the business or a project, it is contagious. Their employees will see this type of attitude and get excited about it as well. Often, leaders or managers inspire others to learn a different skill or motivate employees to become creative with their own ideas. They want to see out-of-the-box thinking from their employees. A leader with this skill creates innovation around him or her.
- They are honest – Leaders who are honest with employees create a circle of trust around them. If an employee is not performing well, this manager addresses the issue. If an employee asks a question that a manager can’t respond to because of confidentiality, the manager will state that. If an employee trusts in their manager, they will believe in the organization more. There are some managers who tell their employees everything, including confidential information. That is not honest to the company and that is not a good leader. A good, honest leader earns trust throughout the organization.
- They are proud of their employees – Imagine you praise a manager’s performance on a safety project that has saved the company millions in lost time. The response from that manager will reveal that person’s character. If the manager talks about the work their employees did, highlights their employees’ strengths, or tells you how great his team is, this is a manager to keep. These leaders should take some credit of course, but they recognize teamwork and the importance of the people who work for them and who made it happen.
- They don’t micromanage – They believe in the people they hire and they don’t micromanage. They aren’t interested in all the small details like how the house was built before a deadline. They care that expectations were met and the work was completed with good quality. They may verify that the written process was followed and no shortcuts were taken, but they will believe in what their employees say about what is done. If their employees don’t perform well or don’t tell the truth, they get them out of their department or organization.
- They believe in their people – They know they have good employees and they want to keep them. A leader with this skillset will show they believe in their employees by giving frequent feedback on performance, trusting who they hired, and they show public encouragement and recognition.
- They own their own mistakes – People make mistakes and how they respond to those mistakes tells a story of character. Great leaders own their mistakes and often will come to you before the mistake is found. They apologize even if one of their employees made the mistake. They will own it, tell you what and how the mistake was made, and how they are going to ensure it doesn’t happen again.
- They listen to feedback – Great leaders listen to feedback from their employees, other departments, and managers. This is hard to do, especially when a manager is really confident in their skills. But allowing employees to give feedback if they think you are heading down the wrong path or if they are unhappy with something can build trust. Also, another form of this is allowing employees to give feedback on a project or process which helps you recognize some new ideas. Some managers implement consensus decision-making in their departments. Consensus decision-making is described as a creative way for a group to reach decisions or agreement. Instead of voting for something, the group uses consensus to find solutions that everyone supports or at least can live with. This allows the leader to listen to everyone’s ideas and not be the sole decision maker. It is a collaborative style of decision-making and shows the employees that a manager values their input.
- They treat employees fairly and equally – Leaders are going to have top performers. They recognize these top performers for their achievements. But they aren’t unfair. There is a fine line between recognizing top performers and showing favoritism. For example, if a manager consistently goes to lunch with one of his subordinates, but doesn’t invite the whole team, this could be perceived at favoritism. A great leader will recognize the skill level of their team members and go to the expert in their area for solutions, but they will not show favoritism to certain employees.
Great leaders are hard to find. If you promote within your company, you should invest in a leadership training program. Great workers don’t necessarily or automatically make great leaders. Understand the difference and ensure you spend the time hiring and training good leaders. These are most important people you will have in your organization.
Author: Kimberley Kay Travis
Kim Travis, co-owner of Travis and Adams Consulting Group, has over 20 years’ experience in human resources and leadership roles.
She has specialized knowledge in employment law, employee relations, recruiting, management consulting, leadership development, manufacturing safety programs, and writing business articles and blogs.