3 Signs of a Bad Manager

The best managers are the ones that can get results, make their employees feel appreciated and happy, and help them grow in their careers. All of these qualities are important for a manager to have when it comes to retaining top talent in today's competitive workplace. But not all bosses are created equal! You should be on the lookout for some behaviors of a bad boss and signs of a bad manager if you want your employees to stay engaged with their work. By knowing what these signs of a bad manager look like, you will avoid them and focus on becoming an exceptional leader in your company. 

We've had decades of experience at IRI Consultants, along with the Projections team, providing companies with solutions to solve their employee engagement challenges, including keeping teams motivated and developing authentic leaders who can connect with their teams. We've helped organizations drive sustainable behavioral change, exceed business goals, and unite their workforces. While doing so, we've found that a large number of executives and CHRO's don't know how to bridge the gap and form genuine connections between "managers" and "employees," leading to missed opportunities for developing leaders.

We'll cover some of the signs of a "bad" manager or boss, but if you recognize some of these behaviors in your organization, there's no reason to panic. It is simply an opportunity to pour into your management team(s) at all levels and provide them with the proper training and skills they need to achieve shared business goals and motivate their employees.

The Impact Bad Managers Have on Employees

You may have heard the phrase, "people don't leave jobs; they leave bosses." It couldn't be more accurate. In fact, A 2019 report showed that 57% of employees "specifically" quit because of their manager — rather than job responsibilities or pay. The same study shared that 14% of employees have left multiple jobs due to a bad manager or management. Supervisors sometimes don't realize how they push people away instead of motivating them to succeed. Bad managers don't value their employees. Unfortunately, this forces employees who are good at their jobs to leave the company, seeking to be appreciated and recognized elsewhere for the work they are capable of doing. 

Similarly, an SHRM study found that 84% of US workers blame "bad managers" for creating unnecessary work and stress. In addition, 57% of American workers say that the managers in their workplace could benefit from training on "how to be a better people manager." In other words, they lack the emotional intelligence and people skills to do their job correctly. Clearly, a lack of proper leadership training can negatively affect employee motivation and retention. It's not simply that employees don't want to deal with a bad manager or boss. Still, they're leaving the workplace in mass quantities, and, according to some recent statistics, it's primarily due to poor manager development.

signs of a bad manager

Three Signs of a Bad Manager

Here are three things your leaders can do to help your company hold on to their best talent and avoid the reputation of being a "bad" boss.

Avoid Micromanaging

One of the signs of a bad manager is the tendency to micromanage. We've written a more in-depth post on stopping micromanaging your employees, which you can find here. Sometimes without realizing the implications of their actions, they nitpick and change nearly everything a worker does. This can be frustrating for workers. Make sure your leaders give team members space and time to do their job. There should be a mutual understanding between leaders and employees where leaders empower the team and instill confidence in them while employees prove they can shoulder additional responsibility. If your leaders think they must be closely involved with their team's work, one of the following problems may be taking place.

Reasons Micromanaging Is Taking Place

  • Your leaders haven't delegated appropriately. You need to use the talent you have around you to ease your own workload. This could include promoting someone to be your assistant. It should also include giving the right tasks to the right people for the job. If something does not require your specific knowledge or expertise, consider delegating to an employee who is looking to expand their professional development and ready to take on the extra responsibility.
  • There are multiple, highly incompetent people on the team. Be mindful of how you select candidates. If your leaders genuinely believe that their employees' work is so regularly flawed that it won't get done correctly without intervention, your company may need to offer formal training or begin recruiting more reliable workers. It's common for a company to hire a manager to simply fill a position rather than develop real leaders with the emotional intelligence and soft skills required to motivate and empower their teams. It's also possible that employees have not been given a chance to develop new skills or take on additional responsibility but could rise to the occasion if given the opportunity.
  • There is no opportunity for feedback.  Employees must have the chance to look to their manager or boss and ask for feedback on the project or tasks they've been assigned. Similarly, management should solicit feedback from their employees to ensure they are doing everything possible to support their career development and have that frequent dialogue as an opportunity for improvement, recognition, or both.
  • Leaders feel they can't give up control. This inability to forego control could happen for several reasons, so it's essential to maintain an open-door policy and have frequent, positive communication amongst managers. Do they feel their team is inadequate to handle new responsibilities? Are they afraid to loosen the reigns because they think their employees won't do the job the same way? It may come down to something as simple as implementing leadership development training that equips managers and supervisors with the conversational skills to empower employees and the confidence to let go when they need to.

Don't Be Completely Hands-Off

On the other end of the spectrum are leaders who don't quite lead. They may be overwhelmed themselves or may even feel that their teams are so well-trained that they don't need leader support at all. While workers may wilt and quit under too much supervision, the same can happen when they don't get the help they need. Leaders need to be present to hear the challenges, remove the roadblocks, and address employee concerns. It can be just as frustrating to have a boss who seems like they don't care as it is to have one who seems like they care too much about daily tasks.

Team members should see and have ready access to their managers throughout their day. Even highly competent workers can confront complex issues and have questions beyond their authority. Having an ongoing relationship with staff is crucial to retaining the best people, making them feel more connected to their leaders and the job. This creates a balance of trust as well as an understanding of the larger scope of what's being accomplished.

Don't Forget About Self-Sacrifice

Employees likely understand that their leaders have deadlines, quotas, and other performance goals that must be met on a daily basis. However, when a leader focuses only on their own needs and doesn't include the rest of the team in decision-making, planning, celebrating good results, and other aspects of the operation, you run the risk of breeding resentment–which inevitably pushes people out of the door.

Try to make sure that your leaders at least allow their team's concerns to be heard. Additionally, focusing on getting work done quickly and accurately helps the entire company, not just the team leader (keeps business open so that they stay employed, increases profits, get bonuses, etc.). If managers make it all about themselves, employees will be less motivated to get to the goal.

While there's no such thing as a "perfect" leader in the workplace, there are always opportunities for your managers to become better leaders. Train them on how to avoid hovering, not disappearing on team members, and be inclusive instead of self-centered. These three key areas will help them become stronger leaders who get the best out of workers, achieve goals, build trust, and make the best people want to stay.

bad boss

More Signs of a Bad Manager

To be an effective leader, you should stop micromanaging, learn to delegate, be hands-on to an extent, and remember the importance of self-sacrifice. We've covered all of that. So, what are some of the telltale signs of a bad manager? Here are some of the signs you may be (or have) a bad boss in the workplace.

  • Shows a lack of empathy, does not connect with employees.
  • They don't listen to others or think they are always right.
  • Shows favoritism to certain employees when there is no explanation for the extra recognition. 
  • Uses intimidation tactics, like yelling or confronting other managers or employees.
  • They seem unapproachable, aren't perceived as friendly, and employees don't feel like they can come to them with feedback, good or bad.
  • They've received complaints from multiple employees or have a negative reputation amongst their coworkers.
  • He or she has terrible organizational skills, is poor at planning meetings, or forgets about deadlines.
  • Fails to show recognition to employees when they are deserving.
  • They take credit for work that their employees have completed, without putting in any effort themselves.

There are many unintended consequences of poor leadership, and this is by no means an exhaustive list. For the most part, you know the signs of a bad manager when you see it. It doesn't take an expert to know that something is off, primarily if one or more employees have expressed that they don't feel comfortable around a particular supervisor, manager, or boss.

Evaluate Personal Management Style and Behavior

If you want to be an effective and motivating manager, then this discussion about bad behaviors should help steer clear of them in your day-to-day management style. It's also important that managers recognize when they're making one or more of these mistakes themselves because it can affect their whole team negatively. As a manager, it's important to be aware of these bad behaviors and take steps to better yourself to better your team.

It's always important to take a proactive approach in order to develop bad managers into authentic, trustworthy, confident leaders. The key is to create a positive workplace culture where employees at all levels, including middle and upper-level management and c-suite executives, feel respected, heard, and appreciated. Consider implementing a training program that empowers employees and equips leadership with the soft skills they need to connect with their team members. When you foster this type of atmosphere, you'll be far less likely to struggle with bad managers who need to work to correct their behavior. You'll be hiring the right people for the job who already fit the mindset you're looking for!

If you're not sure where to begin, Projections and IRI are here to help. We can discuss a custom eLearning solution or leadership development program to solve your unique struggles. You can schedule a demo or chat with our team of experts to decide what the right path is for your organization. Don't wait until you've spotted bad management styles in your workplace; decide now that you're going to create a workplace that develops better leaders!

About the Author Jennifer Orechwa

With over 25 years in the industry, and now as IRI's Director of Business Development, Jennifer has gained a unique perspective on what it takes to build a culture of engagement. By blending a deep understanding of labor and employee relations with powerful digital marketing knowledge, Jennifer has helped thousands of companies achieve behavioral change at a cultural level.

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