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The Seven Sins Of A Bad Manager

Written by Ken Gaebler
Published: 9/28/2015

It's not difficult to be a good manager, but it requires constant self-vigilance. For starters, these seven management mistakes should be avoided at all costs.

Prior to joining the ranks of management, your number one job was to get results on the front lines.

Seven Sins of a Bad Manager

Now, you're no longer on the front line of the business. Instead, your top priority is helping your team to get results in an outstanding fashion.

The sins of a bad manager can be many, but here are some of the big ones you'll want to avoid:

  1. Being disengaged. When managers are not interested in what their people are doing, the managed folks are typically not happy. Spend time with your team. Ask questions. Help them. Otherwise, the folks above you will get comments like this: "We do all the work. She gets all the credit. She leaves the office at 2PM to go to the gym. It's not right."
  2. Failure to teach and mentor. If you, right now, asked the people you manage "What have you learned from me in the past few weeks?" what would they say? If the response you'd likely get is "Not a single thing!" then you are not a good manager and you may lose people soon. If you suffer from this management sin, there's another important downside: your team is not getting any better at doing the work because there is no structured learning going on.
  3. Micromanaging or doing all the work. This is on the other side of the spectrum from being disengaged, and it's just as bad. Nobody likes a manager who is constantly looking over their shoulder or re-doing all their work. A good manager knows how to find the right balance. They delegate but then they check in with their team and provide constructive, teaching feedback.
  4. Failure to give credit and say thanks. A manager that gets and takes all the credit, never acknowledging the talent and effort of his team, won't be a manager for long. The team will quit or quietly undermine quality. It's so easy to say thank you and to send out an email that applauds the work of your team. So why don't you do it more often? If you need structure, just make a list of your team members and put a check next to their name after you've given them public or private recognition. Make sure everybody gets at least one checkmark every weak. Easy.
  5. Playing favorites. You may have a personal affinity for some people on on your team. Maybe they went to same college as you or you like the same sports teams. In this case, it's tempting to spend more time with those people and give them the best assignments. Don't do it. This is a cardinal sin for managers, common particularly with young managers. You need to be sure to spend similar amounts of time with all your team members and you should never play favorites.
  6. Bullying. Maybe you grew up in an environment where negative feedback and intimidation was common, and you think it's the best way to get people to perform. Well, you are wrong. Unless you work at a completely dysfunctional company, if you are mean to your staff, guess who will be in the job long after you've been let go? My opinion is that any manager who bullies employees should be let go as soon as possible. If they have some value to the organization, maybe, instead of terminating the manager, you give coaching a try to see if they can mend their evil ways, but usually bullies are hardwired in my experience and very resistant to change.
  7. Having a personal agenda. As a manager, your goal is to support the goals of the company and its cultural values. Suppose your company values teamwork, support and mutual respect. You then have meetings with your team in which you trash talk your company's other teams ("They suck. We're great."). You (perversely) think you're motivating your team, but in fact you're undermining the company's goals and your team is quickly going to lose respect for you. Instead, if you have a "company first" mentality and teach your team to do the same, you'll find that you are more likely to rise up in the ranks. In contrast, self-absorbed managers who play games and don't work in the interests of the company will usually wash out and go nowhere fast.

This doesn't seem like rocket science, but even I can look at this list and think of times when I've been guilty of some of these management sins.

Indeed, I don't think many managers who are honest with themselves can say that they've never lost sight of these managerial basics.

The bottomline? If you manage people, you might want to periodically look through this list and make sure you haven't fallen off the wagon. Are you committing any of these seven management mistakes? Be brutally honest with yourself.

In a busy world, it's easy to lose sight of these management basics. When you do, the costs to your career and to your employer may be higher than you might imagine.

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