There’s a quite popular saying that goes: “employees don’t quit their jobs, they quit their managers.” And there’s a lot of truth in that saying if you think about it.
Your manager – or boss – typically has a HUGE influence on what your job actually looks like from day-to-day, how you feel about coming into work, and what your career path will be in the foreseeable future. Your relationship with them is so crucial that you often have to manage them to some extent too, as an employee, to keep things going smoothly.
We can’t say that this popular saying (that people quit managers, not jobs) is 100% true at all times though: there are many different things that impact any employee’s happiness at work, plus studies have shown that there are other reasons besides their manager that are just as likely to drive employees to quit. But all things considered, you still can’t overlook the impact your manager typically has on your work-life. It couldn’t be more true than if you’re so unlucky as to have a bad manager.
Since we’ve already done a roundup of qualities of great leaders that people really love (it’s one of our best articles of all time), we figured why not do something similar…except this time a roundup of top qualities that make a bad manager. To do just that, we went and asked a couple of dozen experts to weigh in on this one simple question:
- 1. Takes credit for other’s WORK
- 2. Doesn’t show appreciation or give recognition to employees
- 3. Micromanages
- 5. Plays Favourite
- 6. Doesn’t provide clear or realistic direction
- 7. Unable to listen and respond to feedback (poor listener)
- 8. Doesn’t live up to workplace values
- 9. Blaming Others
- 10. Always the Critic
- 11. Arrogance
1. Takes credit for other’s WORK
“A good manager always takes responsibility for the performance of their team and won’t throw any of their team members “under the bus” while still providing the team members with all the praise in public, even for ideas that the manager would’ve come up with themselves. A bad manager is the opposite. They take all the credit and blame their employees for the failures, which obliterates trust and leads to the team starting to also cover for themselves as opposed to working for the best of the company.”
“There’s nothing worse than working for a manager that’s willing and happy to claim any big wins the team achieves, but deflects responsibility when times are tough and losses come around. Team wins and losses should be shared together, with management leading the way to ensure wins are multiplied and losses minimised.”
2. Doesn’t show appreciation or give recognition to employees
“We all like to be told we’ve done a great job, and some managers may overlook that when leading a team. You should always let people know when they’re doing a good job, it’s extremely motivating and shows you respect them professionally.”
“They see you, their employee, as simply a set of hands and feet paid to get a job done. They don’t ask about you personally, because they don’t care. If it doesn’t have to do with getting the job done, they don’t care.”
“A manager is the one leading their team and will also be the one that knows when to give credit where credit is due. If they cannot appreciate instances where their team exceeds their expectations, it will be a source of demotivation. This will also worsen if the manager does not give credit to their team while also taking all the credit for themselves.”
“A poor manager will micro-manage his or her team. They will see only one way to accomplish a task and will not value the input of others. Team members are not encouraged to grow, mistakes are frowned upon and unless a task is completed exactly as the manager wants it completed (even if completion in another manner achieves a positive outcome) the manager won’t recognize the success.”
“Bad managers fail to give their team personal independence. They over-delegate and over-assign. Employees who feel they don’t have freedom will become disillusioned and frustrated.”
“Controlling your team in minute detail is a terrible trait for a manager. You should hire a team you trust to do the work and give them the freedom to carry it out. Micromanaging leads to a lack of motivation and creativity!”
“A clear-cut sign of a bad manager is someone who jumps in and takes over every time there is a problem, even the slightest one. If your employees are resistant to bringing problems to you, because they fear you’ll take it over, there’s a good chance you are doing something wrong. A great manager rejects the dependence of the their teammates and instead asks “how would you solve this problem if I wasn’t here? The #1 role of a manager is to grow people, and when you solve a problem for them nobody grows.”
4. Unable to trust (control freak)
“There are managers that are unable to give projects completely to their juniors. The junior will do the work, but everything needs to be funneled through to the manager for approval – which is ok on some things, but when a manager refuses to let anything go without approval, it results in bottlenecks. You’ll have juniors sitting around waiting for their manager to approve their work, so there’s a huge loss of productivity. Managers need to be able to trust the people they employ to do their work correctly.”
“Similar to micromanagement, the untrusting manager wants the employee to get the work done, but is excessive in checking timing and details. They may feel that employees who are very successful are a threat, and so place greater emphasis in trying to catch them doing the wrong thing.”
5. Plays Favourite
“Managers that pick out certain team members as their favorites are…bad news. Often there are some members of the team that are more similar in terms of culture, values or even work ethic, so it’s easy for managers to relate more easily to these people. However, when this results in them promoting their work over others, giving more weight to their opinions, or giving more assistance, it crosses the line. Other team members are quick to notice and can easily become disengaged as a result.
6. Doesn’t provide clear or realistic direction
“A bad manager is one who does not clearly define for employees their responsibilities. This can lead to confusion amongst team members and work not getting done if no one understands that the tasks are their responsibility.”
7. Unable to listen and respond to feedback (poor listener)
“This is probably the most damaging characteristic that a manager can have. They won’t listen to a person speaking and therefore they never truly get to the route of the issue. Instead, the manager hears a few words and begins to interrupt with a solution, which may not even be the right solution because they didn’t truly listen to the problem. The manager with poor listening skills has no chance of having a productive and effective team.”
“The number one thing that defines a bad manager for me is an inability to listen and respond to feedback from staff. Individual team-members are always a rich source of information – they could hear real-life feedback from customers, for example, or have insights into where processes could be refined.
A manager who’s too arrogant to realise the value of this information not only misses out on opportunities to improve things; They also alienate the staff by failing to listen. As a consultant who’s zipped around numerous companies for over a decade, I’ve encountered a great many managers like this.”
8. Doesn’t live up to workplace values
“Bad managers will demonstrate inconsistencies in the values of the company. They might advertise the principles as part of the mission statement, but their day-to-day actions say otherwise. And of course: Actions speak louder than words. Research shows, inconsistencies in values is recipe for employee burnout.”
9. Blaming Others
Rather than take responsibility when things go wrong, a bad manager will blame others when confronted. Managers who blame their team members will lose respect. A manager can delegate authority but not responsibility.
10. Always the Critic
A constant critic is a real drain on a company’s energy and creativity. This manager’s attitude will keep people working within very narrow guidelines and discourages any attempt by people to reach out and offer new solutions to problems. Every manager should be careful to acknowledge the effort and good work.
Research has shown that arrogant employees are poor performers who create stress for others, and their behavior is likely to create a negative atmosphere in the office. An arrogant manager is less likely to welcome or solicit feedback and is likely to keep subordinates in a helpless position as he or she has authority over their promotions or opportunities. Such managers are also much less likely to offer mentoring or coaching, leading to a less-developed team.
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