manager mistakes

The problem with managing people is that managers are people, too. And managers do just as much dumb stuff as their employees do.  

Andrew Saunders, writing on the U.K.-based website Management Today, recently compiled a list of the kind of behaviors managers fall into — usually unknowingly — that drive their employees nuts and hamstring productivity.

Here’s a sampling:

They’re unavailable. Sure, managers often say, “My door’s always open,” and think they’ve achieved the ideal communication structure. They haven’t.

First, as Saunders explains, “an open door policy isn’t much use when your team is either at home, freeworking in the local co-space or queasily emailing from the back seat of an Uber en route to the airport.”

Availability is now a cross-platform concept, he says, and now managers must master the art of doing it in about 15 different ways — from Twitter to Google Hangouts.

And then there’s the concept of (gasp) actual face-to-face conversation. “Take them out for a coffee or a beer, and see what’s on their mind,” says Saunders.  “Less open door, more open bar.”

They pull rank to win arguments. Saunders characterizes this as the “Just F#%&$#g Do It” school of management, and it just doesn’t fly with today’s workforce. Sure, some tasks are both necessary and distasteful. But if managers can’t illustrate why these actions are critical to the overall operation — and in the employee’s best interest — those tasks won’t just be necessary and distasteful, they’ll be done badly.

Saunders suggests managers “turn your pressing problem into (employees’) unmissable opportunity. In 2016, it’s much smarter to outthink someone than to outrank them.”

They don’t fully understand the listening thing. New bosses have this drummed into their heads — people need to feel like they’re being heard.

That part is undeniable. Sometimes people just need to vent. But often, just sitting there soaking up the complaints isn’t enough — managers have to act on what they’re hearing. Sometimes, that action won’t please the complainer. That’s life.

They turn everything into a competition. Seems sensible, on the surface — a little friendly competition can crank up effort and production, right?

Well, maybe not. By making winners out of a few, you inevitably make losers out of the rest, says Saunders. He quotes CEO-turned-business-author Margaret Heffernan: “Internal competition is bad for harmony in the workplace — it starts from a benign place but it can lead to very dysfunctional behavior, even sabotage.”

They forgive their own failings but focus on the the failings of their employees. We’re all guilty of this to some extent, but it’s corrosive to manager-employee relationships. “A lack of self-awareness is one of the biggest of bad boss habits,” Saunders says.

He counsels managers to “remember their team is just as irrational when it comes to their weaknesses. So most will have been driven batty by their bosses’ inconsistencies at some point, just as most bosses will have been ready to cheerfully strangle some of their reports, too.”

Saunders outlines additional “bad boss” traits, including failing to say “sorry” or “thank you”, a lack of interest in what employees’ lives are like outside of work hours, and not straying outside the manager’s comfort zone. We recommend you check them out.

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