Enterprise Software

Bad managers: What your company should do

Regardless of the economic ups and downs, employers must be sure they're holding on to the right talent. Here's what companies should do if managers aren't up to par.

Bad managers are a problem with many organizations. In many cases, junior and mid-level employees get frustrated with their horrible managers and quit their jobs even though they have what it takes to grow into a future leader at the company. Regardless of the economic ups and downs, employers must be sure they're holding on to the right talent.

I recently communicated about this topic with Jeff Diana, HR expert and Chief People Officer at HR-tech company, SuccessFactors.

Jeff offered some answers to a couple of questions from me:

Q. When do you hold onto a bad manager (i.e., micromanager, overly demanding, passive-aggressive, etc.)? Can their habits change in the workplace?

A: Very few people are born knowing how to be a great manager and most first-time managers struggle to find a style that will work for them and help their employees grow and support the company. Bad habits can be developed early, but luckily, "bad managers" aren't destined to be bad forever. Those who want to change, usually can. It's worth having upper management work with someone who is an asset to the company because, in many cases, work habits and behaviors can be replaced with work-friendly strategies.

For example, an overly demanding manager may not understand the skill set of their employees or what is a reasonable workload. Simply asking an employee to finish something in five hours does not mean it will get done. Managers can be taught the right questions to ask to determine exactly what an employee is working on, coach them to better prioritize projects and be more productive. Employees who feel valued, listened to and understood are more likely to complete higher quality work and at faster pace.

That being said, not everyone is cut out to be a manager and if a "bad manager" can't (or won't) change but is still considered a valuable employee, there's the option of moving this person into a non-management role if it's feasible and makes sense for your team.

Q: When is it right to fire a bad manager?

A: There is always an appropriate time to end a bad relationship - if you let it go on too long, unnecessary and sometimes irreparable damage can occur. If you've already given this bad manager feedback and provided training but they've spent months on probation with little to minimal change, then it's time to let them go. At SuccessFactors, we have a "No Jerks" policy where we hold all of our employees to a standard where they are asked to respect one another. Even though they may contribute strategically to the company, keeping an employee who is perceived as a jerk or a bad manager will end up hurting your company since they'll continue to create a bad atmosphere for others, demoralize your key team members and potentially drive out the future leaders of your company.

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

8 comments
OH Smeg
OH Smeg

I'll have several of her. ;)

lost in Texas
lost in Texas

We have no anti-bullying policy to combat a toxic bullying climate in IT. The head bully just screwed up a $ 19 M ERP project by being over a year late and spending an additional $ 3 M to finish. Also got Phase 2 delayed by two years. She's attached at the hip to the CIO who hired her so no amount of comment or accumulated failure can dislodge her until he gets shot first. In the meantime at least ten of the 100 person IT unit here have quit. Rot at the head and the underlings "talk or flee." Only we're told not to talk as it will do no good. HR only investigates the Federally protected sub species, not the perpetrators of 21st century management-by-bully/psychopath.

cd003284
cd003284

Most management systems hold that the ability to select, vet, and supervise one's immediate subordinates are among the most important abilities and skills of anyone who hires and fires. But that cuts both ways. Managers who select unsuitable or unsatisfactory subordinates have those people's names and performance attached to them. Add the old devil of all devils, the bottom line, and many, maybe most managers, have a built-in conflict of interest: their superiors vs. the company vs. CYA. Tom's right. "The Rot starts up at the top... If you find yourself in what I term a "Toxic" company.... run, don't walk."

maverickmel
maverickmel

People Join Comapnies, but leave managers. And not just their IMMEDIATE managers either. That's a saying that is worth repeating. In a company that constantly restructures and reshuffles middle managers, guess who winds up getting it in the shorts? That's right. All the worker bees. And if you think about it, senior management is supposed to pick the right middle managers, who are supposed to pick the right teams, correct? But what happens when senior management pick a bunch of "yes-men", and gives them a Herculean task to accomplish without adequate resources? Like asking for growth in a territory that has NO HEADCOUNT? You guessed right! The rest of the territory winds up having to carry the load without additional headcount and are blamed when the region misses its numbers as a whole, even those the territories did their own share. And when it comes down to the crunch, the Sales and field support teams take the first body blows, weakening them further. After a few rounds of this, the attrition rate gets phenomenally high, and THEN, middle management gets it, but only after many, many spirits are crushed, and reputations tarnished. And THEN, it satrts again, with a NEW round of middle managers, who pick their teams much the same way THEY get picked..... The moral of the story? The Rot starts up at the top... If you find yourself in what I term a "Toxic" company.... run, don't walk.

Sam Orton
Sam Orton

It depends upon the hierarchy of an organisation. Operating core could be powerful in flat organisations.

gjm123
gjm123

The people leaving of their own accord are often not the people causing the problem. However, it is not always recognised by senior management that the mid-management bods are the problem. Is there anything a lowly serf can do in these situations?

ceso_softdev
ceso_softdev

gee!, that sounded so familiar that I could swear we worked at the same company. But not to worry, I've never been to Fort Worth so go figure. This kind of "bad manager"/"this is how we do things around here" behavior it's in most cases company sponsored. Bad organizational culture allows the jerk managers to prosper by Kissing Up/kicking down. Most companies take the easy way out by blaming it on the people that is leaving... "they don't have what it takes...", "they are not committed to the company...", "They are not on the bus...", bla bla bla, you get the idea. If this sounds way too familiar, leave the company ASAP. Just be professional, give proper advance notice, help transition your responsibilities to someone else, I mean, just because you have a Jerk for a manager with full company support doesn't give you an excuse to be one yourself. These companies with Toxic corporate cultures will not change...ever! look after yourself and leave the place; in the end, your career it's your responsibility same as your well being.

WishtobeIT
WishtobeIT

Unfortunately, and more often than not, sometimes middle managers have no clue if those under them are performing properly, managing their team effectively, etc. and senior management very often are out of the loop. It's usually when something major and NEGATIVE occurs when senior management is drawn in. By then, most times, the damage has been done to a valued employee and it may be irreversible. People are so busy with the bottom line that they don't take time to provide regular feedback, proper training as a PROACTIVE move. Usually, it's on the BUT-END, not the FRONT END that these measures occur. The workplace in general (in my opinion) overall just doesn't really care. Most are not proactive because if they were, there would be no such thing as a bad manager continuining in his/her behaviors. Thanks.