Biggest Challenge of People Management - Incompetent Managers - Part 2

Employee Engagement, Employee Relations, Rewards and Recognition

Let’s identify bad apples from the basket of good apples. A lot has been written about bad managers. Many authors seem to have taken out their frustration through their stories and prepared an extensive list of 25-40 traits they seem to have noticed in managers. Broadly speaking, mediocre or bad managers demonstrate FIVE bad qualities.

Poor Communicators– As soon as Ganesh, the functional Head of Finance Team, reached the office, he sent an email to his direct ten reportees asking them to coordinate with each other and complete a task before the end of the day. He wrote another email to Pankaj and Naveen, asking them to fill out a couple of other assignments on priority. When Pankaj enquired about the previous assignment, Ganesh asked him to put that on hold and instead focus on the new assignment. However, a while later,  when Ganesh returned from Executive Council meeting, he asked Pankaj to focus on the previous assignment and delegated that latest assignment to Naveen. At the end of the day, none of the tasks could be completed. In fact, it took three days for the entire team to complete both the assignments as   Ganesh had not given the full information to his team required to accomplish the task and of course, his priorities were not clear. It’s quite common to find such bosses in any organizational setup. In the morning they tell you one thing, after lunch, it’s a different story. You are told to do X, with the objective of an outcome of   Y.   You put in all your efforts in doing X but Y doesn’t happen. Your boss gets furious that you didn’t do what was expected. Does this sound familiar? Not giving clear instructions is a prominent trait among bad bosses.

They frequently guard information and treat it as power. Also, they often contradict themselves or give conflicting instructions. Employees are then left in a workplace Catch 22: They either risk looking unintelligent or insubordinate by asking too many questions at the onset, or they spend way too much time trying to speculate about their manager’s actual expectations. Should you choose the latter and fail to envision what your manager had in mind, you run the risk of bumbled task and letting the manager build a narrative that you’re poor at following instructions. Bad leaders fail to communicate with their followers, which spawns confusion and slows down the workflow.

Play Favorites – It was a weekly team review meeting when Sarah announced an ad hoc cash reward for Aditya for completing a project, which was behind schedule by TWO months. Interestingly, there were FIVE other people involved in this project, but the reward was given to Aditya. It wasn’t the first time when he was showered with such ad hoc rewards; even in the past, he had received several awards, out of turn promotions and nominations for training programs. In a team of 18 employees, apart from Aditya, Shilpa is another team member who gets such favours from Sarah. All three of them have been working together for last ten years during which they have switched THREE organizations.

The term "playing favorites" has a ring of unfairness to it.  No matter how hard you work, or the results you achieve, you somehow become dwarfed by those of the manager’s pet - this trait clouds their ability to recognize your skills and the value you add to the company. They also fail to see that they're treating you unfairly. As a result, they create unhappy employees and increase the attrition rate.

Intimidators/Bullies– Satish came out from his cabin in a furious mood, shouting out at Aditi, “What is this crap you have sent to me. Didn’t you understand my instructions? I have explained to you 100-times what I want in that report, but you b***h never pays attention. Where was your mind when you were working on MIS? Were you thinking about sex positions? Well, that’s what the report looks like, totally f**k*d up? Do you have SEVEN years of work experience or its fake? You start counting your days; soon you will be out of this company. Now, don’t you start crying, I know all your dramas”. Not only did he scream at her but on few occasions, he even tried to hit her, all in the full glare of more than 70 employees on the work floor. For them it wasn’t an unusual sight, everyday Satish would bully a couple of his team members in this manner. They used to hate him like hell. Well, that’s how bullies are. Bullies manage through fear-mongering and intimidation. Often “screamers” do not give guidance; they bully. They humiliate you in front of others and might shout, swear or yell at you on a consistent basis or make offensive jokes at your expense. Such bosses also make snide remarks or offer unfair criticism about you. They also have been known to ridicule and berate their employees. While doing so, they create a culture of distrust, nervousness, and fear. Under their thumb, employees are worried about losing their jobs. Office politics begin to dominate employee performance.

Indecisive – The digital marketing team of Ashish got stuck with the finalization of content and script while they were preparing for the upcoming marketing campaign. The content was ready and could have been approved by Ashish but instead of approving it himself, he had sent it to the CEO for his approval. The CEO had already responded to him with a message, “Do as you deem appropriate,” yet, Ashish was reluctant to decide. Probably, he was trying to save his on a**, just in case anything goes wrong. While his team was getting frustrated, he convinced CEO to appoint a panel of THREE member team for approving the content of marketing campaign. Ashish is not alone. There are several managers like him. They live in fear, which often leads to decision paralysis. While some may be perfectionists who won’t make decisions until they gather all the data; others are paralyzed by uncertainty, and many simply prefer the seeming safety of the status quo. Indecision stems either from their fear of making a mistake or simply not having enough essential business intelligence to make the decision. A poor decision can be corrected, but indecisiveness is fatal, and employees hate such managers.

Micromanagers– Members in the team of Pooja, a Project Manager in a real-estate organization, were fed-up with her. She wanted them to send a daily report describing a list of activities they performed during the day. Many times she had called her team member to her cabin and asked them to re-do the task as it was not as per her direction. Once, Anand countered her and said, “Madam, the result is same. However, by following this new process, we will be able to save a lot of time and resources”. To which she replied, “Don’t use your bird-head and do as I say.” Micro-management is a sign of poor management. It shows an attempt of a manager to take control. In its real sense, micro-managers are bad news for business and bad news for employees. Micro-management will eventually lead to a massive breakdown of trust. They dis-empower staff, stifle opportunity and innovation, and give rise to poor performance. Micro-management is a sure way to ensure your team won’t reach its full potential. When trust is gone, two things can happen - a severe loss of productivity and loss of employees. Yes, the latter is a worst-case scenario, but happens.

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