IT Employment

Do you trust your manager to make the right decisions?

The results of a recent survey indicate that one in five employees don't trust their boss. How do you feel about the decisions your managers make? Take the poll.

In a new survey conducted by Right Management in conjunction with LinkedIn, 4,000 individuals throughout North America were asked about the trust they have (or don't have) for their managers.

Some of the findings:

  • 19% of employees "rarely" trust their managers to make the best decisions
  • As many as 57% say they "occasionally" trust their managers.
  • 31% of senior executives (C-level and VP) "always" trust managers' decisions compared to only 22% of non-management employees.
  • Employees at smaller companies are more likely to trust their managers' decisions (26% reporting "always") compared to those at larger firms (only 20% reporting "always").
  • 27% of workers aged 55+ "rarely" trust managers to make the best decisions, versus 15% of 18-24 year-olds.
  • Only 1 in 5 employees "always" trust their managers to make the best decisions

It wasn't clear from the study results that I viewed how, or if, these numbers had changed from previous surveys. However, the findings of this survey don't surprise me. I think there are several factors that can decrease employee trust in a manager (not counting actual incompetence).

Burned by layoffs

So many companies experienced layoffs in the last couple of years, that it's hard for remaining employees to rebuild trust. Even though their direct manager may not have had any say over a layoff and was forbidden to share knowledge of the layoff beforehand at the risk of jeopardizing his own job, feelings of being misled are common. People are people, after all, and they can't help their feelings of "If you let this happen, who's to say some other bad thing isn't going to hit us down the road?"

Reorgs and change can play havoc

The level of change and restructuring in organizations in recent months also plays into it. People are shaken by seeing what they think to be true about their companies and their jobs radically changed. Even if no layoffs have occurred, huge reorgs indicate that something is not working correctly, and in the minds of employees, that indicates some kind of managerial miscue.

This uneasiness and vulnerability carries over to managers as well. They start to worry about their places in the company and some mistakenly try too much to please their bosses, which adds undue burdens on their teams. (Many times, managers don't know the day-to-day duties of their team members and, because they don't understand the bandwidth they have, make bad decisions.) This same insecurity can cause some managers to worry more about their own profiles in the company--at the expense of exercising positive management.

Lack of communication

For some reason, when things get hectic, as they often do in downsized companies, and new initiatives are begun in a panic, communication is the first thing to go. It's ironic because that's the time when good communication is needed more than ever. Managers are often preoccupied with high-level, strategy-making meetings and are remiss about trickling the information down to the front lines where it's needed the most. And if employees don't always know what's going on, they think the worst.

Maybe the mistrust is misplaced

The other thing to consider in survey results such as these is that a great many people are going to believe they know better than their managers, even if they don't. There are always going to be people who feel they could have done things better than their managers. Like arm chair quarterbacks, however, they don't always have the context of the decision to make that assessment fairly.

Not to beat a dead horse, but let's see how TechRepublic members feel about their managers by taking this poll.

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.

54 comments
tanernew
tanernew

One of my friends has become a manager in some telecom company. He says "Now, I understand the managers". Normally a technical member has the skills to do lots of different jobs in his expert area. If he loses his job, he can work in another place. So if the member sees something wrong, he rejects the request works as he knows best. I've seen similar situations and I've solved a lot of issues with big success with my own way. My managers were angry with me but now they are happy to see lots of solutions around the plant but can not accept the truth. But when you become a manager you give your time to management and you start to lose your technical skills. In addition to this technology changes very quickly. In this situation you can not go to another company. You need to stay in your position. To keep their position they need to listen their upper managers. So even if their upper managers take wrong decisions, they can not argue. Because they don't want to be a bad man in the eyes of their upper managers. But the problem is how they can explain this situation to the technical members. Generally thay can not. So they start to behave very rude to their members to force them for the completion of these wrong decisions. I know this is not the case always and I don't want to commonize but I see similar situations in a lot of companies.

rquance
rquance

I have worked as a Manager for a Quality Control Dept. in an international company and most of my decisions were made correctly but some were forced on me by other unknowledgeable upper management types so please give us a little break. Many decisions are not ours but we look like we made it to the employees below us. Please remember that the higher up you go in management the less you know about what is happening below you. The top manager generally knows very little of what he should.

Osiyo53
Osiyo53

I trust my manager to make the right decision. Depending upon how one defines "right". In my case, the way I look at it, as long as the decision works out and produces a reasonably adequate result ... its right. Or, right enough. What does one want? The PERFECT, or BEST decision every darn time? Not gonna happen. And who gets to decide what the best, most perfect decision in a given situation is? I don't always agree with each of the decisions made by my managers. But who does? It doesn't matter to me if it's the same decision I'd have made, or the same approach I'd have taken. I simply look at it, the decision, and ask myself "Will it work?", then ask myself "What can I do to help make it work? Or make it work better." Now, trusting that every decision a manager makes is gonna be "right", blindly as a matter of faith, is just plain foolish. Nobody is that good. When the event occurs where I believe a bad decision has been made, I try to give feedback to that manager about my concerns, suggested fixes, etc. Sometimes the person listens and modifies the decision. Sometimes not. If not, I make every attempt to do what I can to make the "plan" or whatever work anyway, as best as is possible. Criticizing and finding fault with a manager's decisions is easy. One of the easiest things one can do. Doesn't require superior brains or talent, despite what the criticizing person thinks about that. Harder is to take an imperfect plan or system, and to then do what it takes to make it work despite its imperfections.

jamesmichael_penaranda
jamesmichael_penaranda

Most of the time, I dont!!! They filtered the information before it has even reach the employees and it doesn't show the through picture or the reality of what is actually happening!!

david.moss
david.moss

I trust my manager to make the best decision in his own interest, and perhaps in the interest of the organisation. My interest and that of his other subordinates come a distant third.

santeewelding
santeewelding

A working hypothesis, given your youthful time in grade, or, have you fixed rigidly on this for all time? I would not ask, save, the subject -- how we relate to each other, the rest of us, and how the rest relate to any one of us -- is a human subject. There is no appeal beyond it. I therefore must pay strict attention to how you are doing it. And, to be clear about it should I ever encounter you.

david.moss
david.moss

Its a working hypothesis based on over 30 years in the workforce in a variety of roles. Some of those roles put me in the managers seat, but of course I was the exception to the rule. I saw part of my role to match the best interests of the employees with the best interests of the company. Self interest came in a distant third. I rarely encounter that in others. For instance, in times of downturn most managers I have encountered think about how to reduce excess staff. I think about what I can do to get all these idle resources making some money for the company. I can generally come up with an answer. Works for me, I just wish it was more common.

Gis Bun
Gis Bun

I don't trust a manager who I know who doesn't know what they are talking about. Just like when you are in an interview, they test your knowledge, how I trust my manager will depend on theirs. If they admit it that they aren't an expert [in say networking] is one thing, but to spew real crap..... I also don't trust a manager who will not at least take my opinion [or others] as a suggestion - instead of automatically saying his/her mind is made up and nothing will change it. I also don't trust a manager who doesn't bother to test changes. I had one like this and it caused plenty of downtime for the company. I don't trust a manager who gives you sh?t in public instead of behind closed doors. Boy. That kills morale and makes him/her look really incompitent [and embarrass the "victim"]. I don't trust a manager who doesn't bother communicating changes to all. Is he/she hiding something from those who didn't hear it directly from him/her?

NewbeeC#
NewbeeC#

I really dislike working with people who see information, even their poorly thought out information, as POWER!! And people who choose this behavior, DO exist.

TheProfessorDan
TheProfessorDan

I have worked for some really good managers including the one that I currently work. I do think that it is human nature to question your boss's decisions. I often wonder what I would do if I were in the same position. The key is to either communicate your concerns to your manager or keep it to yourself.

SleepDeprived
SleepDeprived

They're not synonymous. Often, these roles are expected from the same person. Sadly, those who can do both well are more the rare exceptions than the rule.

NewbeeC#
NewbeeC#

Here's the list... I can tell you I am ONLY interested in working for a 'LEADER'. ? The manager administers; the leader innovates. ? The manager is a copy; the leader is an original. ? The manager maintains; the leader develops. ? The manager focuses on systems and structure; the leader focuses on people. ? The manager relies on control; the leader inspires trust. ? The manager has a short-range view; the leader has a long-range perspective. ? The manager asks how and when; the leader asks what and why. ? The manager has his or her eye always on the bottom line; the leader?s eye is on the horizon. ? The manager imitates; the leader originates. ? The manager accepts the status quo; the leader challenges it. ? The manager is the classic good soldier; the leader is his or her own person. ? The manager does things right; the leader does the right thing.

sboverie
sboverie

Grace Hopper, one of the designers of COBOL and one of the first programmers, said "You manage things and lead people". A good manager can deal with things, organize them and develope efficient procedures but be unable to inspire people to do more. A leader can inspire their team into doing more by virtue of treating them as valuable people and not like a questionable gear in a complicated machine.

NewbeeC#
NewbeeC#

Most of the time when I am in thoughtful conversation with other techies Grace quotes are mentioned. So you see .. those we love do live on in our hearts and minds.

Dented
Dented

I'm self-employed, so I'm my own boss - and I don't trust myself as far as I can spit. So I always get a second or third opinion from my guys and gals in the biz.

mullachv
mullachv

This survey becomes meaningful only if we can answer "What is a right decision?"

daeg_ltl
daeg_ltl

I'd be interested to see stats in both public and private sectar. Could be greatly different. Public funds tend to have a lot of politics steering them, while private sectar is more performance or profit driven.

Dilberter
Dilberter

Managers decisions are swayed by sundrey elements not even in the employee manual. Such as making sure his posterior is not in danger; or making sure his id is not insulted or demeaned by other managers. When I worked for Titanic Corp., the upper managers were not getting any new business into the company; so we eventually went down with the ship when the economy went sour. Managers are not interested in your career or its training and advancement but only in the fact that you can currently support the job at hand. In the current world; they don't even manage; but must have daily or weekly meetings to keep themselves abrast of events ( because they have no clue themselves ). The invention of phones, email, instant messenging, wireless; mean nothing to them as long as they can practise 1950's factory style management

dkoch
dkoch

My manager, in my opinion and there's nothing humble about it, was an arrogant fraud. The operative word being WAS. Management finally caught on, and after nearly three years of constantly screwing the pooch, Friday was his last day. The frustrating part was that it took 3 years, tens of thousands of dollars in wasted or mismanaged projects, and constant complaints from me before anything was done. Now some of that same management can't even look me in the eye. I like being right as much as anyone, but I would have settled for the alternative in this case.

routerqueen
routerqueen

I have had 5 managers in 8 years, and one of them understood my job - the rest were Finance Directors with no technical skills at all, and some even fewer management skills. One was a great leader - former helicopter pilot in the Army and educated. The entire organization is driven by heirarchy and politics, whatever agenda the current political players have in mind is the rule of the day. This last reorg has several top mangement staff that do not have skills nor education for those departments, and they have to do the best they can or be out of work. The fallout will be major failure and could be the goal so they can outsource it all. Hopefully it will outsource administration as well. In the meantime it's chaos as usual.

asics447
asics447

My current manager is great - but right wrong or indifferent I do what they say. I have tried in the past to interject my opinion and it was ignored sometimes and used others. I just do what I am told-give my 2 cents and take it from there.

codepoke
codepoke

Every one of my managers has been human. I've received so much advice and preparatory counselling from graduates of the Dilbert School of Organizational Hierarchy, I expected them all to be trolls. They've all been caring people, even if they did have weaknesses almost as bad as my own. In fact, they've all gotten to where they are by being as good as I am now at what they did then. And, surprisingly only to Dilbert's merry cadre of nabobs, they've all been good at managing me. I've been a happy camper through almost 30 years of employment with companies ranging in size from 200 to 22,000, and I expect I will be for another good long while.

mjc5
mjc5

I'm happy for you. You are pretty lucky however.

TGGIII
TGGIII

Bad feelings, as mentioned above, often result from re-orgs and changes that are imposed. Play five why and ask why do we get into the position of flexing the workforce so often and you can easily tie it to the fact we create then try to solve business issues with management magic. Fixing process problems with re-orgs will not work; building up huge staff in anticipation of the business surge you are going to create is foolhardy, etc., etc, etc. We have systems in place that force actions to demonstrate the appearance of accomplishment and then reward the rapid actions to shift course when they fail. Many of the tactics employed today are "bet the farm" moves that work until they dont't. The theory is that you only need to have a few wins to pay for the losers but I believe the net effect is negative as no real learning on how to better satisfy the market takes place. While this is not true for every company, I see this trend accelerating on the whole as we continue to into the recession and pressure for profits continue to mount.

KMacNeil
KMacNeil

I, too, am a 30-year veteran of the IT workforce. I've had good and bad managers in terms of their people skills (including the "dragon-lady" a few years back). However, I have rarely distrusted their decisions. They have a lot more information that I have about other things going on in the organization. As someone in another reply said, they sometimes have to make compromises. Sometimes will make what appears to be the wrong decision; sometimes they'll correct it and sometimes they can't. Having said that, I do trust them to make the best decisions with the information they have at the time, even if it's not the decision I was hoping for.

jkameleon
jkameleon

... in the best interest of shareholders. But not necessarily in the best interest of me.

routing
routing

The mangers job if to investigate the alternatives. Too shortsited thinking can declay the judgments. Too few alternatives or personal "gut feelings" can jeopardize the decisions. I say- use multicriteria analysis- always. There are software out there to help with this.

yapness.vibgyor
yapness.vibgyor

This decision is solely based on my experience with my current organisation (2 years) and doesn't include a general perception that I have. Generally, I trust my managers to make right decisions for me. But in my current organisation, this is not the case. At the moment, I think my manager can 'never' make a right decision for me. The simple reason being my line manager doesn't know what I do and what I am responsible for. I work in a project environment and deal mostly with my functional manager...who I think knows what is best for me and I can trust him to make right decision for me. The problem is, he is hardly in the picture and has any say!

sagimaniac
sagimaniac

I once had a manager who doesn't make ANY decisions ... AT ALL ! That's pretty frustrating since his approval and decisions are needed for most things. For now, I'll settle for me to make my own decisions and to get my manager to make the ones that need his approval.

Photogenic Memory
Photogenic Memory

Sorry. But my manager is actually a stupivisor. It isn't the lack of knowledge that this person has that solidifies my opinion. I render my judgement but the quality of communications I've had with this individual. It's also confirmed by my co-workers. Just plain awful and brutally mean. He's drunk a lot. It gets worse a night too with odd phone calls. I'm looking for another job. Please send some positive energy my way please? Thanks guy!

mfcoder-hh
mfcoder-hh

IT management suffers from two main problems: 1. It is mostly populated by those who have been promoted from a technical role to a management role. The problem here being that the majority of those skills are not transferable to the new role (a programmer becoming an analyst-programmer uses his programmer skills; a senior analyst-programmer becoming a manager needs a whole new set of skills). This leads to one of two outcomes - either they carry on doing their old job (by interfering with technical matters, thus annoying those whose job it now is), or they do their new job begrudgingly, and thus, poorly. 2. They tend to foster parent-child relationships with the workforce, which is neither good irl, nor in IT. Rapidly-developed 'them and us' camps arise, where one group withholds information "for your own good", and this fosters the mistrust and aggression mentioned in the article. IT management still works in the old Victorian work-house style, where responsibility, seniority, and salary are all mapped to the same structure. This might have worked when you needed many homunculi controlled by a few superiors, but IT is based upon an intelligent (yes, I know) workforce all contributing to the end goal. Adult-adult relationships are needed. To put it simply - if you're gonna lay me off, then let me know as soon as possible and I'll handle it; tell me nothing and I'll spend my time worrying and discussing my worries with those in the same position. Both situations are probably detrimental to throughput, but one at least shows me respect.

myrna3356
myrna3356

I want the answer by the example of BP in the Gulf of Mexico. For weeks, there are decisions taken, but the oil is still flowing. If a manager is faced with the fact to take a decision to do something, then there are not only two possibilities, yes or No. There are always more than 2 parameters that influence his decision. Most of the managers are NOT real professionals. They become Managers because of other "qualities". In 98% of cases, one could say that the decisions of managers, are "random" decisions. As long as their decisions do not cause any catastrophes, one would be willing to tolerate such decisions. But trust is another matter. Oded

Netteligent
Netteligent

We all make mistakes and willing to learn to be a better employees. It is hard to be and become a good managers.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

given of course you have the tools and the talent. It is of course hard to learn from further mistakes, when the first lesson is to deny that you made one.....

Arcturus909
Arcturus909

I've seen managers take every course and read every book there is and still not be able to motivate people to do anything for them. There are a couple of basic personality types (at least) that excel at management, but at least one that really should look elsewhere for a career.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

that stepping from tech to management is seen as a career progression instead of a career switch... What's really irritating and the prime reason for not trusting most of them, is that time and time again, they get the basics wrong. Anyone who want's trust at any level has only to do one thing, be seen to practice what they preach...

mr_m_sween
mr_m_sween

"The other thing to consider in survey results such as these is that a great many people are going to believe they know better than their managers, even if they don?t. There are always going to be people who feel they could have done things better than their managers. Like arm chair quarterbacks, however, they don?t always have the context of the decision to make that assessment fairly." Thank you for describing me Toni.

mjc5
mjc5

My last manager came in, kicked us out of the decision process, and now we have a turnover rate approaching that of the restaurant business. Ironic, because that's sort of how we're treated. Maybe this armchair quarterback can't do better, but it's a dead lock I couldn't do worse.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Layoffs. Where is right even in that? We've done very well since we got rid of you Tony... So why exactly am I meant to think this was right? I've never met any profession more frightened of change than management. It's the thing they fail to manage most. In my experience they successfully present it as a soon to be discovered total fallacy, or get so scared of it they negate the beneficial effects. Communication, while success is defined by not communicating, or by deliberately misleading your people, it will never be right, and all too often a failure as well. Mistrust?. I trust management to act in their own interest. Anything else would be stupid or naive. If you think I'm either or both, any decsion you make will be based on incorrect data, so if you get it 'right' it was luck, not judgement.

blarman
blarman

The key is to make it so that everyone's self-interest is tied together. If everyone in the company benefits by some action, it's not hard to get everyone on board. As a manager, you have the responsibility and power to take the company's long-term and short-term goals and turn them into goals for your employees. If you really want your employees to step it up, you designate a reward for completion of the goal that's commensurate with the work it took to achieve. Something small - like making a deadline - might merit donuts or lunch. Something big like winning a new contract might be worth a bonus or some office toys. The key is to get involved with those both above and below you. Find out what needs to get done, then get people motivated to make it happen.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Why do management as a profession continually lie about motivation then? Why am I expected to lie about my own? Why am I expected to work for my manager's interest instead of my own? If it's so obvious to you, sarcasm is required, why in Cuthulu's name are we even having this chat? Right key, wrong door mate.

ejrg
ejrg

Tony, I agree most managers act in there own self interest. At one place I worked, I was under the impression that everyone was looking after themselves. Management seemed to be mostly interested in making themselves look good, failed to act on poor employees and frequently asked me to "interpret" what was being said by head office. I think their job was more "control" rather than manage the staff. Even that they did badly. Group think seemed rife - blind obedience expected - which made me feel very uncomfortable working there. I once described the place as the "Communist Party Headquarters", that didn't go down well :-)

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Trying to sell it as something else to persuade me that I should do what they say, not what they do. Nah....

eternalrage83
eternalrage83

I think a lot of the management out there could learn from the few that have discovered that keeping the decision making process and the reasons for actions shrouded in mystery as "need to know" information for management only is bad for employee morale. Keeping people in the dark about things that affect them is never a good way to get the most out of your work force.

blarman
blarman

If you trust your employees, you'll tell them about things that affect them, whether it is upcoming business decisions or goals for the future. When everyone knows what the company is aiming for, they can work for it. I used to work for HP back when they still made hard disk drives. The management would share the monthly goals and emergency orders with the line crews, who would make sure that the orders got filled - even if it meant overtime. The best part was that the employees got rewarded, too, because every quarter there was profit sharing. A few extra hours here and there could mean a lot of money when the company was performing well. It's too bad that many companies (including HP) no longer use this model, because it was very effective both for the employees AND the company.

mckinnej
mckinnej

This is way up the list of subjective topics. Your perspective is a major contributor. "Right" and "Wrong" may have entirely different definitions depending on your relation to the manager. In other words, "Right" from a subordinate's perspective may be totally opposite from "Right" from the manager's/senior management perspective. Another major contributor to how this question is answered is attitude. Let's face it, some folks can't be pleased. I could hand out $50 bills at the front door and someone would complain that I pushed them into a higher tax bracket. One last tidbit that most people don't seem to realize is most managers have absolutely zero formal management training. This obviously puts them at a huge disadvantage right from the start. Can you imagine being assigned a DBA job and not have any training on databases? This is one thing the military does very well. All their managers have lots of formal training. In my 24+ year military career I received over 2 MONTHS of full time formal leadership and management training. My training was in-residence classroom training and typically at an entirely different base from where I was stationed. You may or may not like the military, but training their leaders is one thing they do very well. The commercial world rarely, if ever, has anything even worth comparing to that, therefore the managers are often not qualified for the jobs they have (if we use the same yardstick as we would for a technical position). For that we should blame the penny pinching companies, not the managers themselves.

Beothuk
Beothuk

One thing I have noticed in 41+ years working is that many companies think that because some is (e.g.) a good engineer, they would make a good manager. That is not necessarily true so you end up with managers who can't manage.

ari.burkes
ari.burkes

You're absolutely on the money here, but I'll take it a step or two further: I've seen repeatedly that management is the reward for top performers, your "one percenters." In the IT world, this normally means that the best resource in a given group or department is plucked from the worker-bee ranks and parachuted into a mangement role, often in a derpartment other than that in which he or she previously worked. The net effect of this move is really a double-whammy: not only have you removed someone from a role in which they were highly proficient and placed them in a position in which they are (likely, and at least initially) entirely incometent, but you've left a gaping hole in their previous department. That department has now lost their top performer, with the greatest level of skill and knowledge, and may as a result be negatively impacted for months - or even years - to come. So, you may ask, how do you reward your top employees without the effects I've noted above? If I knew the answer, I'd probably be wealthy now.

nick
nick

My working life has been spent watching managers make decisions that "I could do better". I have slowly realised that most managers try to do their best within their particular strengths and weaknesses. Basically people don't try to make bad decisions. However there are plenty who make bad or poor decisions. As I reached upper management I realise that all decisions are compromises and made with imperfect knowledge. No one has the time or money to make perfect decisions. What I have realised is the following. 1. A good manager makes more good decisions than bad ones. 2. A good manager accepts ownership when they made a bad decision. 3. A good company will support the manager who occasionally makes a bad decision. 4. There are some absolutely crap managers that don't deserve to be in their jobs.

Dyalect
Dyalect

no trust / communication = alot of bad employees