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Are you a bad manager?

Date
What are the tell-tale signs that you're a bad boss?

What are the tell-tale signs that you're a bad boss?

Many are out of their depth when they get promoted into management positions. I call it the competency trap. Good technicians and people who are particularly skilled in an area are turned into managers. The problem is that the qualities that made them a great technician – the ability to work on their own, think laterally and cut corners – are not the same as the skills required to be a manager. And then there are those who are promoted because they are smooth talkers who have sucked up to the right people and said the right things.

The problem is that many of them can’t tell whether they are a good manager or not. They don’t even think about it. Meanwhile the problems continue, staff will get unhappier and sooner or later, they are shifted. It can come as a complete surprise to them. So how can you tell whether you are a good boss or not? What are the signs?

Steve Tobak at BNet says there are seven warning signs: your group is underperforming, your superiors are putting you under more pressure, people you once thought were allies are now turning against you or avoiding you, the increased stress is forcing you to make bad decisions, you are behaving badly, your personal relationships suck and your employees hate you.

Tobak makes the point that slating these managers is not entirely right because we can all kid ourselves from time-to-time. “One thing most bad managers have in common is they’re not consciously aware that they’re bad managers. And if they are aware of it on some level, they’re probably not willing to admit it to anyone, least of all themselves. That’s because nobody wants to believe they’re the problem. It’s a common enough phenomenon that isn’t limited to bosses, but applies to people at all levels: executives, managers, employees too. I’m not a shrink, so I’m not sure why that is. But if I had to guess, I’d say it’s probably got something to do with ego, denial, compartmentalisation, self-delusion, lack of perspective, that sort of thing.”

A business advocacy group has provided the New York Times with a handy checklist:
1 Have you ever publicly criticised an employee?
2. Do you take credit for your employees work?
3. Do your employees fear you?
4. Do you expect employees to do what you tell them without question?
5. Do you believe employees should know what to do without you telling them or providing guidelines?
6. Are you a yeller?
7. Do you demean employees as a form of punishment?
8. Do you play favourites?
9. Do you hate delegating?
10. Do you check everyone’s work?
 If you answer yes to a few of these questions, it’s a bad sign.

Management professor Bob Sutton has his list - you ride people hard, you feel you are babying employees if you thank them or try to understand where they are coming from, you cultivate only your star employees and ignore the rest and you take credit for all the good stuff.

Sutton writes: “The most crucial test of a boss is self-awareness. The best bosses are in tune with how the little things they say and do impact people, and they are adept at adjusting to bolster both performance and dignity,’’ Sutton writes. “Unfortunately, too many bosses think they are in tune with their employees, but live in a fool’s paradise.”

So how did you score? Or how do you think your boss would do on these tests? Are there any other points you would add?

25 comments so far

  • To any of my staff reading this I would like to say ......

    GET BACK TO WORK !!

    Commenter
    The Boss
    Location
    Sydney
    Date and time
    September 20, 2010, 4:28PM
    • You must be kidding, the worst of the worst remain managers and the good workers leave. this in turn makes that poor manager look like the best of a bad lot.

      They never get shifted, that is complete rubbish.

      They also retain their positions through who they know, it is very rare a good technician or consultant will progress in any company. It's those who manipulate the personailites of those higher up and can make themselves 'percieved' as the best option are the ones who get the managers roles and then become untouchable.

      I have seen it too many times to count

      Try a little more research next time

      Commenter
      Realist
      Location
      Reality
      Date and time
      September 20, 2010, 4:52PM
      • @ The Boss | Sydney
        HAHAHA.
        Make me.
        How timely this article is.
        I was just mentioning to my dear other half that the micro-managing some people do is way over the top, and eventually health fails, workers revolt, etc. Some bosses really need to take a chill pill. The best of management courses all come to naught if the power of the position sours relationships in the workplace.
        Anyway, I'm off the push some papers around on my desk.

        Commenter
        Clive aged 5
        Location
        Melbourne
        Date and time
        September 20, 2010, 5:23PM
        • You left out an item:-
          0 - Do you promote people who are incompetent because they are good at sucking up ?

          Without this you rarely get the others.

          Commenter
          nicho
          Location
          sydney
          Date and time
          September 20, 2010, 5:54PM
          • I believe the particular principle you are referring to in this article is called the Peter Principle:

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_principle

            Marcus Buckingham also talks about the exact same thing in your article about technical employees being promoted to management level without the skills or nuance to operate in a management capacity in his book - First, Break All The Rules. It's definitely worth a read.

            It's just a shame in our "modern" work environment, the general premise is that, if you want to get promoted and earn more, you need to end up moving into management. But the reality is that not everyone is suitable for it. I've seen plenty of brilliant technically-minded employees end up wasting their lives away in management positions only because that was the only way for them to earn six-figure salaries to pay for what not.

            Unfortunately, the human ego and thirst for status and monetary rewards know little bounds. It'd be great if people could just focus on what they enjoy doing and do best, and still be paid well for it. Then there wouldn't be the need for endless numbers of dubiously qualified and skilled people trying to break into the management ranks - with the end result that they have neither the experience nor aptitude to properly manage their staff and bring out the best in them. Everyone loses at the end of the day.

            Commenter
            L
            Location
            Sydney
            Date and time
            September 20, 2010, 6:09PM
            • Most managers I've seen only manage, let alone excel. Shouldn't they be leaders instead/also? How can one just manage and not lead? How can one lead without leading by example?

              Commenter
              momosan
              Location
              Sydney
              Date and time
              September 20, 2010, 8:44PM
              • This is so true. Unfortunately, we live in a society where Management are in a position to freely promote their friends & relatives or pick on someone who tries to challenge them or speak the truth. I used to work for one of the four major banks & can confirm from my own experiences that if you try to raise an alarm of any wrong doing than you will become a target to the extent where you will be forced to leave. It takes a lot of courage to fight for the truth but becomes an almost impossible task to win because all Management & HR always support each other no matter what. HR is only there as a fomality, they will almost always support Management even if a Manager is doing the wrong thing. The tricky part is it becomes a difficult task if you have to prove that you are being bullied or harassed at your work. Thats why it is so important to keep everything in writing if you are caught up in a awkward situation with a Manager so that if you do decide to fight back you are well equipped.

                Commenter
                The Insider
                Location
                Melbourne
                Date and time
                September 20, 2010, 9:02PM
                • This is simply Wellington's law. The cream and the scum both rise to the top.

                  Commenter
                  PeterR
                  Location
                  Canberra
                  Date and time
                  September 21, 2010, 8:06AM
                  • It's a difficult balancing act. How do you managem employees who think they know everything when all they know is how their department runs? People who avoid responsibility for their actions and then lie and blame others and then when you start formal discipline say that putting anything in writing is aggressive? Employees who write a formal letter of complaint calling you a liar and then object to meetings being recorded, but are happy to libel you in the work place? How many more chances are you supposed to give an employee when a manager has 19 pages of intervention and guidance and then you're told you're too harsh for sacking the employee? I've been reading these blogs for a while and any time there's anything about managers there are so many posts about bad managers - it's easy we've all had them. But how many people complaining about managers can honestly ciam to be a model employee? A compnay buys your skills and time and you have have do be able to what you claimed you could on you CV and in your interview.

                    Commenter
                    Flipside
                    Location
                    Sydney
                    Date and time
                    September 21, 2010, 10:07AM
                    • The NYT checklist is very good. Unfortunately, these are the sorts of people who get promoted in many cases; or have their underlings move on before they are wedged out. They're rarely shifted unless promoted, it seems!

                      Commenter
                      Matt
                      Location
                      Elsternwick
                      Date and time
                      September 21, 2010, 10:28AM

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