There is a common saying when it comes to employee turnover that “employees don’t leave companies; They leave bad managers.” But is this really a big cause of employee’s handing in their resignation and how do you go about finding that bad manager before he costs you your best employees?
First, let’s examine the prevalence of the problem. We hit the books and found a bunch of studies suggesting that your managers are an important part of employee retention. A 2015 study by Gallup showed that about half of employees surveyed “who decide to voluntarily leave their jobs do so to get away from their managers.” Similarly, an oldie but a goodie study conducted in 2012 by the fine folks at Harvard) found a “straight-line correlation…between levels of employee engagement and our measure of the overall effectiveness of their supervisors.” Further, they found that there is a “strong correlation between employee engagement, customer satisfaction, and revenue,” suggesting that those terrible managers are not just harming your employees, they’re also harming your bottom line!
So, how do you go about detecting a bad manager in your midst? The following are just a few red flags that you might notice and that you shouldn’t ignore:
- Poor feedback: Giving feedback is a large part of guiding a team to success, so if you have a manager that is incapable of providing constructive feedback, timely feedback, inconsistent feedback, or really any feedback at all, chances are your team is going to suffer. Now, here it is important to differentiate between feedback and criticism. Criticism is feedback that is delivered in a way that is not only unhelpful to the employee but can also prove emotionally damaging. Constant criticism is not only draining to the receiving employee, but can also prove to be a drain on the whole company, actually altering the company culture and creating a negative work environment where folks are afraid to try anything new or stray from the norm, resulting in a stagnant business.
- Poor guidance: While similar to feedback, being able to give guidance to your team speaks more to the day-to-day way that your managers, well, manage! Some managers are so hands-off that they themselves are practically in the dark about the projects their team is working on or they provide such unclear instructions that it takes workers weeks to decode them and implement the changes. Others, meanwhile, are micromanagers, who are so involved in every detail and stymie the trajectory of the project with their random requests to sign off at every step.
- Poor sharing: One of the biggest benefits in being in upper management is that you get a seat at the table. The one filled with executives that discuss and debate the shared goals of the company and its outlook. Unlike those big execs, the manager is also tasked with sharing this information with their underlings so that everyone is on the same page about the company’s direction and best understands the reasons behind various decisions. Similarly, if managers are not soliciting their workers for feedback to bring to the execs, they are also failing to get the voice of the “boots on the ground” workers heard. When employees are left in the dark or their opinions are not valued, they fail to understand how their job factors into the ultimate success of the company and can quickly become disenfranchised with their job and disengaged with the company overall.
- Poor communication: Similar to forgetting to communicate top-down information, a poor manager will also simply forget to communicate the day-to-day things that help keep everyone informed. Whether it’s simply forgetting to communicate when key staff will be out of the office, if a project is changing or any other information that is important to the ability of your workforce to get their job done, it can contribute to a frenetic environment where folks feel uninformed and unable to do their jobs.
- Poor planning: From an employee perspective, one of the most important roles of a manager is career development. If your managers are not doing a good job helping employees to understand their current role and what it takes to climb the corporate ladder at your company, then they are ultimately failing your workforce. Further, a manager that declines to give their employees stretch roles, allow them to get additional training or otherwise help them realize potential within their existing roles, specifically when upwards mobility is limited, is going to quickly make jobs feel stagnant and ultimately cause workers to start looking for greener pastures.
- Poor advocating: A bad manager will fail to advocate for their team, forgetting to effectively communicate what their workers want and need to do their job effectively or, alternatively, explaining to said employees why said wants and needs aren’t feasible. A genuinely bad manager will typically take it a step further and after they’ve failed to advocate for their team, will simply blame them for any shortcomings. A good manager will take responsibility for the failings of the team and help upper management understand why they were not successful or what they need to do differently moving forward in order to improve outcomes.
The easiest thing to do when you notice one of these red flags is to address it head on. Perhaps there is a perfectly good explanation for the behavior that was observed or perhaps it was completely out of character for the individuals involved. As soon as you notice the behavior, set up an opportunity to speak with the manager and discuss the behavior that you noticed and why it is concerning to you. Listen to their response and propose alternative solutions and then set a future appointment, right then and there, to discuss the changes that are being made and how the team is responding to them.
It should be noted, however, that these red flags can also signal a cry for help. After all, many employees are promoted to the role of manager not because they demonstrate good leadership, but because they were excellent at their role and it was hoped that those that they manage would miraculously follow suit. If this is the case, your manager is less the villain and more the victim and it is your job, as the boss, to fix it. The good news? In most cases, there is a fix, and it all boils down to training your manager how to…well, manage! You can enroll them in classes, both in person and online, or even just find a good book on management that will cover all the basics such as how to provide constructive feedback, how to effectively manage teams and projects, how to effectively communicate with the peers they manage, and even how to help their employees ascend the career ladder and join their ranks.
Not sure where to start with training opportunities or need more guidance on how to manage your managers? We here at Abel HR can help. Just give us a call at 609.860.0400 and we will be happy to discuss your options.