We all know that the key to a highly functional company is a well-qualified staff. However, there are other factors to consider besides qualifications alone. There are reasons why the best performer in a department may not make the best manager. People skills are quite different than functional skills, we all know that intuitively, yet keep rewarding top performers with more authority over other workers without testing their ability to bring out the best performance in others.
Mark Zuckerberg stated recently that before anyone is hired into a senior management position at Facebook™, he asks himself if he would want to work for the person. If the answer is no, that person cannot become a manager. This sounds callous, but think through the logic of forcing an entire team of people to work under someone who you would not be willing to work under. What do you think that would do to your retention rates and even worse, your GlassDoor™ reviews. This “manager” may be able to force the results you are looking for in the short term, but over the long-term morale will flag and you will have an entrenched problem that is even more difficult to correct now.
Do you have any of these personalities as direct reports?
1. The Bully – The type of person uses their position and authority to keep subordinates in a constant state of fear. They manipulate outcomes by threatening people with their jobs or public humiliation if their demands are not met.
2. The Thief – This manager constantly takes their team members ideas and passes them off as their own. They also make sure that all information goes through their hands before reaching the executive so that they can get all of the credit.
3. The ZigZag – Every time a decision is reached, this manager waits until the work has commenced to halt production and move in another direction.
4. The Fire Marshall – Creates an environment of daily fire drills. Everything is an emergency, and I mean everything. This manager procrastinates until the very last minute on projects and then forces everyone to work extra hard to make the deadline.
Most companies have these personalities in the management ranks. If one of them works for you, ask yourself, how would you feel if the situation was reversed? Are you guilty of turning a blind eye to their dysfunctional management styles because ultimately they deliver the results you need to meet your bottom line? Are you trading short-term results for long-term disaster?
These questions become more important as you climb the ladder since employees tend to mimic behaviors that appear to lead to success. If the SVP is a bully, you may pattern that style because you mistakenly believe that is what it takes to be successful in your organization. As these behaviors permeate throughout the company, suddenly your workplace become a toxic environment and makes it difficult to recruit and retain top talent in a competitive market.
Additionally, poor managers negate other benefits that the company offers. You may have great health benefits, a hefty bonus and liberal vacation time, but if your boss makes your daily life miserable, those far-off benefits pale in comparison.
In a recent article, Jim Clifton, the CEO of the Gallup organization, found that 60% of employees working for the U.S. federal government are miserable — not because of low pay, poor workplace benefits, or insufficient vacation days — but because they have bad bosses. “No amount of pay and benefits will solve the problems created by a manager who has no talent for the task at hand.”
Here are some possible solutions if you think your team is at risk from dysfunctional managers.
1. How > What – Are you grading your managers on just their results, or how those results were delivered. Observe how the manager actually “manages” and offer guidance and best practice training.
2. Weed out bad managers – Your number one producer is an insufferable jerk to his employees. What do you do? As tough as it may be, you have to cut the cord. Certainly, offer guidance and training to correct the behaviors, but if nothing is done, the long-term damage to the organization will far outweigh any benefit derived from their short-term results.
3. Consider “flat promotions” – This is a concept created out of an understanding that some of your best people are not cut out for management. Quite often you see a great employee toil for ten years at a job with no promotion, while a peer receives several promotions within the same time frame. This has little to do with the ability to perform a function, but simply in the ability to manage people. Often, we promote people to manage a team, who have no business being in management, simply as a reward for a job well done. A “flat promotion” rewards them financially for being excellent at their job without forcing them to take on a role that they probably won’t succeed at. Believe it or not, everyone does not want to climb the corporate ladder.
4. Hire an executive coach – As an objective third party, a coach can help your team understand some of the dynamics involved in how the team feels about them and how that translates into job satisfaction and productivity levels. A coach can distribute a 360 survey which collects input from senior managers, peers, and subordinates to help that manager see and address blind spots that may be negatively impacting the workplace.
The great modern philosopher, Jay-Z said, “If everyone around you is crazy, maybe you are the one that is insane.” Likewise, if your team is being run by dysfunctional managers, it is your responsibility to take corrective action before the environment created by the bad behaviors becomes entrenched, and your company becomes a toxic shell of what it once was.