Management Matters

How to Spot a Bad Manager

Date Posted: 10/13/2016

How to Spot a Bad ManagerAs a top-level executive, you are presumably more or less aware of the red flags to look out for in an employee. However, it might be more difficult to spot negative attributes in those who are senior, if not the same level of seniority as yours. Most of the alarming signs may be too subtle or so deeply ingrained in typical management culture that it is hard to notice. Worse, you might unknowingly be showing these “symptoms” of a bad manager yourself. Here are five ways to know:

  1.  Bad managers are more concerned with giving orders than leading. The key to being a good manager is knowing the difference between being a leader and being a boss, with the first being the ideal. Bosses order their employees to do things, but leaders train their team members on how to get things done. Good managers lead by example, whereas bad ones merely expect their subordinates to do what they are told. It’s the classic top-down vs. bottom-up debate. Top-down managers see themselves at the peak of an autocratic organization, who make all the decisions and hand them down to their employees. Bottom-up management, on the other hand, encourage participation and engagement among all organizational levels. This is only possible when the manager knows how to listen.
  2. Bad managers never listen. Effective communication is a crucial leadership skill. Being a good listener also means valuing other people’s feedback and opinion, something that bad managers often easily dismiss. They’re good at talking to and at employees without really hearing the other side of the conversation. When a manager keeps on repeating a question that has been asked countless times, or constantly forgets employees’ names (especially those they interact with on a regular basis), this should be a red flag that they are not really listening.
  3. Bad managers love to pit employees against one another. Good leaders foster cooperation, whereas bad managers encourage a toxic culture of competition. They unfairly compare the performance of their employees, which naturally resorts to discouragement and conflict. This fragments a team whose members are out to get at each other rather than to cooperate in completing tasks together with each person playing his/her part and helping each other.
  4. Bad managers are not dedicated to their own work. Nothing is more dispiriting than working for and with a manager who seems like he’d rather do anything else other than his job. As mentioned earlier, good managers lead by example, and bad ones can do the same as well, but influence their employees negatively when they don’t show any interest in doing their own job with enthusiasm.
  5. Bad managers do not care about individual growth. Some bad managers are easy to spot because they demonstrate extreme disregard for the well-being of their subordinates. Not paying workers on time, overworking their employees, and providing a subpar working environment are glaring signs of bad management. There are more subtle signs of bad managers who may not be harsh or cruel but they place zero priority on the individual growth and development of their employees and are satisfied with merely meeting the company’s goals. While this is not directly damaging to the organization’s success, it could be the cause of dissatisfied and unfulfilled employees.

Bad managers are just as detrimental to an organization as bad employees are, but are not always as easy to identify. It is therefore crucial to be constantly on the lookout for the signs stated above, even, and perhaps more importantly, as it applies to oneself.

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