This is how to be a bad manager (and some tips to those who don’t want to become one)
- co-written by Carlos Alberto Pinto Nogueira CA and Flavia Padoam
No one deliberately chooses to be a bad manager, we know that. People and companies thrive by predictability and order, though sometimes a little chaos arises and we have to deal with it. Let’s say you were really good at your job, got promoted as a manager and suddenly had a team to lead. In this transition, alongside all the new responsibility, you faced the need to learn management skills and used your own experiences to navigate this new area. For some people the efforts work well, while others still manage based on weak principles.
We don’t have a guide on how to be a perfect manager, but in this article we propose 5 actions to avoid, should you want to enhance your management abilities. Read with your mind open and no judgments — perhaps something here can trigger a reflection about your own actions.
These behaviors are seen far too often on several people (managers or not), and they bring no benefits to the company nor to the team and most certainly not to you. That said, if you want to make sure you are (or will become) a good manager, at least do not follow the 5 items (and one bonus) below:
1. Not sharing information
Step number 1 for being a bad manager is withholding information. Very often, people chose to keep information for themselves, feeling that it translates into power: being the point of contact for anyone who needs to know more about any topic, being the go-to-person when a well-informed decision is necessary.
Managers that choose not to share information lead to dependent and not proactive employees — the team, kept in the dark, will not feel that they can lead the way and take initiatives without talking to the manager. As a result, they will not be accountable for the consequences, celebrate the wins or learn and recover from the mistakes.
Information is indeed power and it should be shared, for the sake of a healthy culture and for the benefit of the company. Sharing information means trusting the people, and it creates a sense of ownership. Well-informed employees will know when they see an opportunity that may be good for the company, they will feel responsible, accountable, and work better under these circumstances.
Don’t be a manager who is scared of sharing information, with the fear of losing power. Sharing is empowering, and empowered teams will bring much better results to you.
2. Not empowering your employees
The item above brings us to this mistake, that has some nuances.
It’s common to see managers who haven’t learned to delegate and give freedom to their employees. The causes may be a need to control the work, a lack of trust, misjudgement of abilities. Under these circumstances, the team should always ask before taking any action or decision, and even involve the manager if they need to talk to other areas. If one needs information that a person in the team has, the manager prefers to be the bridge instead of letting them reach out to one another.
This takes us to a deeper level of bad management, considering people who don’t encourage their teams to communicate with other areas without their presence; or who don’t let their employees have exposure to and contact with higher-level managers in the organization, imposing restrictions by hierarchical levels. For a fear of not being the bridge anymore or a need to control everything that is shown or presented externally, bad managers prefer to always handle external communication.
These actions hinder your own work and your ability to focus on what really matters. But above all, this kind of management diminishes the employees. By doing this, you limit their ability to network, to create bonds, to have positive exposure in the company, and even to have new ideas that would come up from these interactions. You limit their ability to take responsibility for their own actions.
Giving your employees the freedom to create, to communicate, to work, can only bring the best out of them — fostering ownership, accountability and responsibility. A good manager will not restrict their employees from reaching out to higher-level people on the organization hierarchy — for the employee, it’s always a great opportunity of exposure, and for you, the superiors will just see the great team you have and trust your decisions even more.
3. Having a lot of people who report to you
It may sound odd, but this is another limiting factor. Some bad managers prefer to have a lot of employees directly reporting to them, instead of empowering good ones that could run their own teams. A high number of subordinates brings them a sense of status and power.
As a consequence, it becomes impossible to have meaningful 1:1s with everyone that reports to you, making it harder to identify talent, to reward good results and also to spot points of improvement. It makes it harder to help build the careers of all the employees, and as a result they might become frustrated and demotivated with the lack of direction.
Combine this issue with the previous ones, and you have a big number of not empowered employees that have to involve you in all the decisions, a big plate of power and control (perhaps, all that a bad manager may ask for).
Therefore, learn to delegate, recognize the talent of good people below you that could lead their own teams, and you will have more space to be a good manager to those who are directly reporting to you.
4. Having a busy agenda every day
Having an agenda full of meetings all day is the modern version of “having a big pile of paper on your desk”. Not so many decades ago, the big piles of paper on people’s desks were a measure of how much work they had, and it would put evidence on the busy ones (of course one can imagine that this was far for being a fair representation of the truth).
Today, having a busy agenda can be seen as the new “pile of paper”, a demonstration of how busy you are. Some bad managers use this as a measure of importance, status and again, power. If they are late for a meeting, the fact they were at another very important meeting before is the perfect excuse. Naturally, having a full agenda, busy days and being late to meetings happens to everyone on occasion — however, what cannot become frequent is the fact that you are always so busy that no one can reach out. Not to mention that it also leaves you with less time to think and, therefore, less time to be creative (a singular topic that would give room to another article!).
Aligning with the previous issues, if you have a lot of not empowered employees that need to talk to you all the time to make decisions, but they can’t reach out very easily because you’re always busy, that won’t take you much far. Good opportunities will be lost and people will be demotivated.
That said, avoid giving everyone a sense that you are so busy and unreachable, that won’t make you a better manager.
5. Not committing
Despite all the above, the bad managers can be seen as easy-to-deal-with because of their tendency “to agree” with everyone. In order to avoid discussions and to please people, the bad managers show support for various distinct ideas coming from different sides. In a minute, they may agree with an opinion to avoid discussions, and, in the next meeting, support a totally opposed point of view. By the end of the day, they make their own decisions, taking back any commitment made, hindering any chance of having people’s trust.
In a worst case scenario, bad managers keep postponing the decisions, to avoid being accountable for the consequences. They procrastinate to send an email with decisive guidelines, to make an important choice that will affect the company, simply because they don’t want to be compromised with the potential results.
We’re not telling you to enter big arguments to advocate for your decisions every time, but don’t pretend that you agree with something different. Advocate for your points of view, be flexible when listening to other perspectives, and keep your word, doing what you said that would be done. Commit and be accountable for your decisions.
And one extra: being overprotective.
Most of the above-mentioned items inevitably turn you into the person who will always have the final word. Some managers do like the power and centralization, but some may have those behaviors out of excessive protection with their employees.
As an overprotective manager, you may fear that your employees will make mistakes and not handle the pressure well, or that it is too soon to trust them with important presentations or conversations. Thus, you choose to do all the above, with a faith that you’re helping, protecting them. Needless to say that it only restricts their growth.
Certainly, you should provide enough guidance and support, but also give them space to work and create. Let them try. If they make mistakes at some point, that will bring learning and they will recover, having your constructive feedback to improve in the future. Overprotection is harmful for both sides — you also need the breath of fresh air that comes after delegating activities to your employees.
Of course we augmented each of those scenarios, on purpose, in behalf of clarity. Probably (hopefully) you won’t see yourself (or your manager!) in all of these shoes.
However, if you realize that your manager/supervisor/coordinator acts as described here, we can give you some advice. In the first place, make sure your daily actions prove that you are trustworthy, that you can handle decisions and consequences. After that, gather suggestions on how the team could have better results with some additional responsibilities and, if you feel comfortable, present them to the manager as feedback — that may lead to some movement in the right direction. Having an honest conversation is always the best way to deal with any uncomfortable situations. You may also look for a mentor to give you advice, and reach out to your Human Resources/People area.
On the other hand, if you recognize yourself as guilty for one or many of the items, revisit them, reflect and open space for thought. Recognizing your flaws and being open to change is not weakness — it is courage. Your improvements may even foster the spirit of growth, flexibility and courage to your organization, inspiring others to revisit their own behaviors.
Finally, if you’re not a manager yet, allow yourself to reflect if you already perceive any of the listed items in your actions — enjoy that you still have time to grow in the right direction.
— This article was co-written by Carlos Alberto Pinto Nogueira CA and Flavia Padoam, mentor and mentee that constantly discuss about the evolution of skills, people and technology in the new emerging corporate environment.