Business Growth: Bad Managers are Bad News

Dan Arens is an Indiana-based business growth advisor. Dan Arens is an Indiana-based business growth advisor.

Gallup recently reported the results of a large study. Only 30% of employees in the U.S. are actually engaged at work. Over the last 12 years that percentage has not changed. Gallup goes on to suggest it is the managers who account for a 70% variance in employee engagement at work.

Succinctly put by Gallup, "people leave managers, not companies." As they report, more than half the people looking for a job left their previous job because of a bad manager. Managers are on the front line of a company. They are the ones who are critical to the development and growth of a business. But, Gallup says firms choose the wrong manager candidate a majority of the time. While that might be hard to believe, hiring managers are selecting the wrong person for the wrong managerial position more than 80% of the time. With that level of mis-alignment in hiring, finding the right manager is very difficult for most companies. According to Gallup CEO Jim Clifton, “Authentic management talent is rare. Gallup research shows us that one in ten have the natural God-given talent to manage. Those gifted people know how to motivate every individual on their team; boldly review performance; build relationships; overcome adversity; and make decisions based on productivity, not politics.”

Bad managers will have a tendency to manipulate people and situations. They tend to deal with office politics by participating in the gossip chain and water cooler cheap talk in an attempt to be “like one of the staff.” Clifton goes on to say in a recent article that the bad managers “lack the inner personal courage required to manage the teams effectively.” In further research, Gallup has determined two out of ten employees have “some characteristics of basic managerial talent and can function at a high level if their company coaches and supports them.”

Rather than dwell on the negative impact of bad managers that results in high absenteeism, poor performance, bad customer ratings, poor quality products or services, and lower profits, Gallup looks to celebrate the characteristics of good managers. Here are three suggestions to help your company establish and build a successful group of managers:

  • Identify and advance the right person for a managerial position: While many employees with more tenure get promoted, that is not necessarily the right way to do it, according to Gallup. “Effective people management requires a talent set of its own, and someone who shined in a previous role may not transition seamlessly to a managerial role," they say in their State of the American Manager report. A company needs to develop a process for hiring and promoting the right managers. "Soft skills, such as relationship building often go overlooked," according to Gallup. In other words, don’t just promote someone because they have been with the company the longest. Develop a set of criteria that employees need to possess in order to be worthy of promotion to a leadership role such as a manager. Then follow those criteria for your implementing the promotion process.
  • Understand the characteristics of a good manager: A good manager is able to find the right people and put them in the correct position. They can and will hold an employee accountable. They are able to convey the company vision. Managers should be able to motivate their staff and coach/mentor them based upon their individual gift sets. They should make informed decisions not political ones. Finally, they need to create an environment of trust with their employees. Managers need to be able to effectively communicate in all types of situations, be they accountability, motivational, or disciplinary related. Good managers also need to gather information in order to make more informed decisions.
  • While the Gallup studies indicate there are more bad managers than good ones, your company should still celebrate and find ways to recognize the good ones. Identify them and publicize all the great things they are doing to help the company and those that work for them. Acknowledge their qualities and virtues, as a means of setting them apart in their leadership position and to help other employees see what they should aspire to become. 

Without question there is management talent somewhere that will enable your company to grow. All you have to do is find it. Gallup’s final suggestion is to use a tool called predictive testing analytics that can help you align the needs of your company with the current management pool that is available to you.

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