Bad managers can range from those who are simply in over their heads to those who are truly awful and destructive, tyrants, and bullies. It can seem that there are more bad bosses than good ones, and you are probably not wrong. Pretty much everyone has experienced working for a bad boss.
The majority of managers are simply incompetent, clueless as to how to motivate, lead or develop their staff, or help employees utilise their best talents to grow and contribute in a meaningful and productive way. One of the main reasons people leave their company is due to poor management. So, why do organisations get it so consistently wrong?
The hardest thing about business isn’t the business part, it’s the people part. Business is ultimately linear, it tends to follow a clear set of rules and expectations, with the occasional bump in the road. People are complex and unpredictable. We are led by our emotions which means outcomes involving people can be unpredictable. How different people or groups interact can create all sorts of energy, and it’s not always good.
Below I list the 9 reasons we all have to endure bad Management.
1. The selection process
Recruitment process tends to focus on whether the candidates are good at doing their current job, which likely has no leadership requirement to it. Very rarely do recruiting managers prioritise the capacity of the candidate to actually lead. The criteria for what makes someone a really good producer, salesperson or researcher are not necessarily the same skills sets that make a good leader.
So, essentially companies the world over take people who are incredibly proficient technically in their current area of expertise and then promote them to a level of incompetence.
This issue is further complicated by the tendency of recruiting managers to default to their predilections when they recruit, either going for people like them or opting for the weaker candidate because they may feel threatened by the more competent candidate.
To recruit well one needs to hire people who will plug your gaps, and are either smarter or better than yourself. That takes confidence and self-awareness and an ability to read between the lines of what a candidate is really saying, to find out who they are.
2. Lack of Practice
To be able to do something well takes deliberate and focused practice, with plenty of repetition, such as learning to play a musical instrument. But have you tried to practice to manage for hours? How do you even practice management?
Some aspects of management can be honed via a mentorship and training. Communication competence can be taught. Planning ability and listening skills can be taught. You can even help people learn to read the energy of their team. You can teach someone to be more critical, to pay closer attention. But self-confidence, likability and the willingness to trust employees are not easily learned. Only with time, and experience, will a manager get better at projecting themselves in an effective manner, and the only way to really get that is through experience.Because people tend to get promoted into managerial positions because they are good at doing their current job, they have likely spent most of their lives and careers doing something totally unrelated to managing people. So, it goes without saying that a new manager is not likely to be very good at leadership.
Because people tend to get promoted into managerial positions because they are good at doing their current job, they have likely spent most of their lives and careers doing something totally unrelated to managing people. So, it goes without saying that a new manager is not likely to be very good at leadership.
Most people who become managers have been managed before and will have watched managers at work, managing people. Unfortunately, observation is no substitute for doing. Yet frequently companies expect the new manager to step into their new leadership role with very little training, mentorship or support.
Good managers are rarely surprised at how people react. Good managers will instinctively help to fill gaps so no one has to jump over a chasm to come to a conclusion. It takes a while to get good at even seeing the gaps and then, even more, time to get good at filling them. It takes time to sense outcomes, to know how an individual or a team will react to information.
The only way to eliminate surprise is to have seen it all before, and a honed intuition with a strong sense of empathy.
4. Lack of self-awareness
Without empathy, a manager will not be able to manage effectively. To have the capacity for empathy every manager should receive effective training. Most people (male and female) need to gain a greater self-awareness, to identify their feelings and to articulate, why they feel as they do. This form of personal development will help the manager identify the best way to communicate and behave to achieve what they, their staff and the organisation needs and wants. Understanding the root of one’s emotional response to any given situation will give a person a greater choice in how to act on what they feel.
Most people (male and female) need to gain a greater self-awareness, to identify their feelings and understand why they feel as they do. This form of personal development will help the manager identify the best way to communicate and behave to achieve what they, their staff and the organisation needs and wants. Understanding the root of one’s emotional response to any given situation will give a person a greater choice in how to act on what they feel.
5. Communication skills are sorely lacking
Good leadership is grounded in communication. Most of us are blind to how we communicate, and the powerful impact of our words and actions on others. Many managers use their words as weapons rather than communicating in kind, open and gracious ways that will pave the way for better listening, trust, and collaboration.
6. Wanting to prove themselves
New and old managers alike are often desperate to prove themselves, so they believe they need to appear to be ‘managing,’ they need to feel like they are contributing, when really there is not a lot they should be doing most of the time.
Many managers over-involve themselves. It’s not even about being a micromanager, it is more about the manager being around the work that is being done too often. In other words, they get in the way. It’s an easy mistake to make, especially early on when your job title doesn’t really line up with your experience. That is the paradox of a good manager. The manager’s team should be able to function effectively without the manager being present very much at all.
Unfortunately, many bullies get into positions of power and authority because they are good at asserting themselves. They victimise perceived threats and defeat them. Often bullies go unchallenged by others for fear of the consequences.
New Managers who show signs of being bullies often go unidentified because most organisations do not have mechanisms in place to identify and weed out bad apples. This is why so many bullying types are frequently found within the management ranks.
Good performance appraisal systems, with confidential upward appraisals of leaders by subordinates, can help.
It is surprising how many people mistake authoritarianism for good leadership. Bad managers can believe that having absolute control over their team, expecting blind submission to their will, is leadership. All too often people have their ideas suppressed, contributions undermined, and growth potential thwarted because of a narcissistic boss who can’t tolerate being challenged.
9. It’s the system
Some people are just not cut-out to be managers, no matter how much they try to get better at it. Management is not for everyone. The problem is that the world of work puts management in everyone’s career path, as the primary way to progress.