Strong leaders shape their team’s success. And poor management creates roadblocks that hold them back.
In an SHRM survey, 84% of employees say poor management stresses them out significantly. Plus, it can cause a lot of unnecessary work. And half of employees say they’d personally improve with better management.
We’ll examine the red flags of poor management, along with its causes. Then, we’ll look at how to solve the problem.
Table of Contents
What Exactly Is Poor Management
Poor management means having a negative impact on employees and the company. Instead of leading them to success, a poor manager holds them back.
Now, poor management can take many different forms. However, they all result in low-functioning teams. And they all involve failing to put people first.
Signs of Poor Management
Look out for these signs of bad management, both at the individual and organizational level.
How can you identify poor management at the team level? Here are some signs that an individual manager is underperforming.
- Not giving credit to employees. Good managers promote their work to superiors. They never claim the credit for their team’s work.
- Micromanaging. Looking over employees’ shoulders destroys trust and confidence. Plus, it causes managers to stretch themselves too thin!
- Staying hands-off. Not checking in regularly leaves employees unsure of how to improve. They need daily feedback on their performance.
- Having poor emotional intelligence. These managers have trouble “reading people” and relating to them sensitively.
- Being too negative. Some managers are too prone to saying “no” to employees’ ideas. Others can be constantly heard making negative comments. And some focus on blame instead of solutions.
- Not communicating clearly. Poor managers may forget to communicate important directions or project updates.
- Being disorganized. Managers who don’t prioritize well can’t lead teams effectively. If they can’t manage their own schedule, they can’t help employees set priorities.
- Not being inclusive. Poor managers may have unchecked biases that harm employees. They lack self-awareness of these issues.
More Individual Signs
- Neglecting employees’ growth. Poor managers may not help employees grow their abilities, as Inc. notes. They might not discuss their career goals or set stretch goals.
- Putting too much pressure on employees. This may stem from personal insecurities and difficulty prioritizing. These managers may have trouble saying “no” to their own boss.
- Not taking feedback well. They may view it as a personal attack rather than a personal favour. If they can’t hear constructive feedback, they can’t improve.
- Not being fueled by their passion and values. If they aren’t energized by these things, they won’t motivate others. They won’t be driven to achieve goals and will seem disconnected from purpose. (And so will their team.)
- Ignoring wellness. Poor managers may fail to prioritize employees’ wellbeing—and their own. They may work overtime constantly and expect others to do the same.
- Being disrespectful. “One in seven U.S. workers feel that their manager engages in hostile behaviours toward them,” writes Fast Company.
Poor management can exist on the company level, too. Let’s examine what that looks like.
How can you spot poor management at the company level? Here are some red flags:
- They aren’t agile enough to jump on trends (following from the point above). They may remain years behind the competition due to narrow-mindedness or complicated processes.
- They harp on problems while missing what’s going well. “One classic error leaders make when under pressure is to focus on the 10 percent of work that didn’t get done,” writes SHRM.
- They ignore real problems affecting success. While they shouldn’t focus only on problems, they should work to fix them. They can’t remain in denial about a trend that’s negatively impacting business, SHRM asserts.
- The culture is suffering, as company leadership isn’t setting a strong example. Plus, they’re not instilling the sense of being one team driving toward a shared goal. Employees may take out frustrations on one another as a result.
- Employees aren’t building their skills. Instead, they are stagnating. Existing employees aren’t becoming eligible for leadership positions that may arise.
- People are disengaged. Metrics show that performance has dropped, meaning motivation has sunk.
To clarify these ideas further, let’s look at typical examples of poor management.
Poor Management Personas
These five types of managers don’t lead effectively. Each needs hands-on guidance from HR to transform how they manage people.
The absentee boss
An absentee boss causes more stress than a boss who easily gets angry. Employees experience role ambiguity and don’t know where to focus. Poor workplace culture and health impacts often result. Plus, such leaders can block employees’ path to success.
Sometimes absentee bosses are loners. They feel most comfortable working independently. But their lack of direction negatively affects their team.
The people pleaser
People-pleaser bosses rarely confront interpersonal problems. They avoid speaking their mind if it might cause discomfort. This means problems fester instead of being addressed early on. Culture and personal development are bound to suffer.
Micro-managers want to control every detail of how work gets done. They can’t accept that employees might have equally effective methods of working. They may be perfectionists who have a very fixed idea of what “perfect” means.
According to GoodHire, only 22% of employees feel their boss trusts them to stay productive while working remotely. Mistrustful managers may want to know exactly what employees are doing at all times. This lack of trust harms the manager/employee relationship.
The command-and-control leader
These managers take an authoritarian approach. Instead of coaching employees, they may intimidate them. In extreme cases, they may come across as bullies. At best, people will find them unapproachable.
If employees at your organization have one of these bosses, step in. Help them challenge the assumptions behind their approach. And provide consistent training that helps them change it.
The Negative Effects of Poor Management
Here are just a few of the main effects of poor management. This is by no means an exhaustive list.
As The New York Times points out, poor management lowers productivity. Good managers steer their team to success. Less capable managers let their teams flounder. They don’t reach their targets as a result.
Workers may stop believing in their mission (or even understanding it). And they probably won’t take pride in working for their company.
Managers act as role models for employees. So, poor managers’ direct reports may not build their own leadership skills.
Good employees will no longer put up with bad bosses. In fact, 82% say they’d quit a job because of a bad manager. In a trend dubbed “QuitTok,” employees are posting their reasons for quitting on TikTok. Often they cite bad management.
What causes poor management? We’ll answer that question next.
How Does Poor Management Start
Poor management can stem from several causes: lack of training, high pressure, and poor culture.
Lack of training
People often receive promotions to management positions without training. This lack of preparation leaves them ill-prepared to lead.
Pressures of the job
A Gartner survey found that 68% of managers are overwhelmed. And just 14% of their companies are doing anything about it. Sometimes they have a truly unreasonable task load. They may have far too many employees to manage, for instance.
Workplace culture issues
It’s tough to lead when a company has a poor culture. The manager may have little support in learning the ropes. And toxic behaviours like gossip may already exist. Plus, they may be managing former coworkers, which can feel awkward. Changing a culture is a tall order, especially for a new manager.
Lack of empathy
Some managers don’t naturally possess enough empathy. They have a hard time tuning into employees’ emotions and responding accordingly.
Fortunately, all of these causes of poor management can be overcome.
Solutions to Poor Management
Is it possible to fix poor management? Absolutely. Use these ideas to remedy poor management in your company—or to prevent it.
- Equip managers with strong organizational skills. They need excellent time-management and project-management abilities.
- Provide training on cultivating empathy and other key topics. Getting to know employees as individuals fosters empathy. Being curious about what drives them, how they learn, and who they are outside of work. Through continued practice, managers can develop any skill or quality.
- Empower managers to say “no.” They know their task load better than anyone, after all. Talk with leadership about this issue. Make sure they’re viewing managers as partners.
- Use software that lightens the load for managers and keeps them organized. Performance management and appraisal tools will help them stay on track. Such tools will help them look back and review employees’ performance over time, too.
- Conduct 360 reviews so managers gain a thorough understanding of how to improve. They’ll learn valuable insights from direct reports and other colleagues.
- Encourage managers to hold weekly one-on-ones with each employee. Simply checking in with employees more will help solve many problems. That’s especially true during uncertain times. O.C. Tanner found that weekly one-on-ones increased engagement by 54%. Productivity increased by 31%, and burnout decreased by 15%, HBR reports.
- Create a process for stepping into a management position. IBM has built an accreditation process for its managers, HBR reports. And managers who consistently underperform get moved into other positions.
Give struggling managers one-on-one guidance. If the manager genuinely cares about their work and employees, you’ll see big improvements. Share regular feedback with these managers so they’ll be aware of their progress. When they feel empowered to succeed, you’ll see a major transformation in the whole team!
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