Want to know more dumb things that managers do? You can avoid doing the dumb things that managers do that undermine their effectiveness – if you know what they are.
Talking with an experienced manager to prepare to write this article, I was struck by what he said: “The biggest mistake I’ve seen managers make – and I’ve seen it quite a few times – is to assume that you know what’s going on.” He also added his favorite quote from Peter Drucker. “Most of what we call management consists of making it difficult for people to get their work done.” You can avoid these traps that keep you from effectively managing employees and projects.
- In your efforts to stay on top of things in your department, push the burden to employees. Requiring written reports and updates that gather dust on shelves, asking for written proposals before giving the go ahead on projects, and holding endless meetings so you remain in the loop on everything, is just plain bad management.
Decide what you need to know and when, establish a critical feedback path for each job and project, and hold your weekly meeting with your reporting staff members. Make sure the employees understand the goals and that they have enough information to make informed decisions. Then, get out of their way.
- Acting like a lazy slacker. The employee who assumes a management role and then, does little, while delegating her own work to other employees, is universally despised. Employees who are responsible for picking up the slack are resentful and unhappy. Nothing makes a work environment seeth with negativity more quickly than a slacker boss.
Stories about bosses who surf the web and chat on Facebook all day are prevalent in this Internet age. When working on the computer may make the world think you are actually working, don’t think that you can get away with slacking. Your employees know and may even be clocking your time online.
- Listen and respond to complainers first. If employees who complain get most of your attention, you will turn all of your reporting staff members into complainers and whiners. This will occur especially if other employees perceive that the problems of complainers are solved first or that the complainers receive more resources and attention from you. Who needs that? Good managers are responsive to all of their reporting employees and prioritize problems and opportunities based on their impact on department goals and work.
- Share too much personal information with employees who report to you. Your employees may listen politely – after all, who wants to be on the bad side of the boss? But, they really don’t care, and they really don’t want to know. Furthermore, excessive details about your personal and family life can chip away at their respect for you and your competence as a manager.
One manager I knew used to talk incessantly about his personal life while holding his whole staff captive at their weekly staff meeting. Not only did it influence their opinion of him, it also negatively affected their team and the ability of the team to get their work done. Plus, most of them spent all of their spare time job searching.
- Mind read. Never make assumptions about what an employee is doing, thinking, planning and / or the meaning of any of these actions without asking the employee. Don’t assume that you know, or can conclude from what you see, that you understood what the employee meant. This is especially important in situations that might lead to disciplinary action.
In a law firm where a friend works, a lawyer was was using Facebook at work (for actual job-related reasons; she was tracking the Facebook profile of a plaintiff in a lawsuit, to see if she could catch him doing something that he claims he can’t do because of injuries on the job).
She left the office without logging out of Facebook. One of the partners at her firm noticed this and, instead of simply logging her out and telling her afterwards, posted an obnoxious status message in her name. “Maybe this will teach her a lesson about not using Facebook at work.” Dumb boss.
- Gossip or exchange information about your staff members with other employees in the department, or for that matter, with anyone. Your relationship with the employees who report to you must remain confidential. What they discuss with you must remain with you. It is beyond disconcerting to hear your boss casually drop information about a coworker. It can have an impact on the relationship the employee has with the coworker. But, it always affects your relationship with your reporting staff member. He or she will think of you as a gossip and will never trust you again. This is disastrous when trust forms the foundation for every important relationship at work.
- Fail to think beyond your own little world and thus, neglect to communicate important information to employees. You are the source of much of the information that your employees receive officially at work. Employees adapt much better to change when they know that the changes are coming. Further, they need to know how the changes are likely to affect them and their daily job and work. Employees adapt much better to change when they see it coming, are prepared, and have time to process the possibilities – before they hit.
Some managers fail to communicate because they hoard information as power. Others fail because information gets lost in their day-to-day busyness. Other managers fail to understand or assess the impact of the information on the employees in their department. Whatever the reason for withholding information, it’s counterproductive. Employees need all of the information that you can offer to effectively perform their jobs. Maybe it’s time you apply how to minimize resistance to change to your job description.
- Whether you are the company owner or a manager, asking employees to do your personal work, or promote your personal ventures on company time, is a no-no. Employees resent doing your personal work and it does not move your department closer to accomplishing goals. On the topic of personal work, I have heard of employees who were required to create and publish calendars and newsletters for everything from Masonic Lodges to churches to neighborhood associations.
Others are asked to contribute to the manager’s affairs in other ways: babysitting in the evening, dropping clothes at the cleaners, volunteering at charity events. Any request from an employee, that is made by a manager who has some power over the employee’s success at work, is out of line and should be outlawed. Employees are not your personal servant nor your errand persons. Outside work is just that, and it belongs – outside of work and work relationships.
- Misuse the company’s appraisal system and fail to provide regular performance feedback to employees. Every employee needs feedback regularly. Effective feedback occurs as close to the incident or occurrence as is humanly possible. Feedback is one important way that employees learn and grow in their jobs and careers. Waiting until an annual performance appraisal to provide feedback is cruel and does not serve the interests of your department or organization.
Holding back information that would have helped an employee grow until an annual review is just plain wrong. Additionally, misuse of an annual appraisal destroys employee trust and creates an environment in which employees are afraid to make mistakes. Telling an employee at the annual review that you are rating them 3 or 4 instead of 5 because everyone has room to grow is nonsense. Equivalently, telling a good employee that she is rated a 3 so that she has something to aspire to, destroys, not increases, motivation.
- Exhibiting a lack of decisiveness or trying to please everyone. The best managers are leaders and provide their employees with the sense that they can be counted on to make decisions. The employees may not always like or agree with the decision, but they believe that the manager carefully considered the facts and reached a thoughtful decision. It is much easier to follow a manager who will make a decision and execute the required actions.
A manager who vacillates, changes his or her mind, moves the group in new directions based on new feedback at the drop of a hat, and never seems sure of the appropriate direction, will make employees crazy. These managers alienate employees who are asked constantly to start, restart, and change direction. Employees do not respect managers who change direction based on the boss’s changing feedback. You can try to please your boss – most employees do – but not at the risk of appearing indecisive and currying favor at the expense of reporting staff.
Employees who become bad managers are often good individual performers who were promoted for a set of skills that have little or nothing to do with their new job as manager. And it shows.
Don’t let these bad habits and poorly thought out actions get in the way of your success as a manager. These ten additional dumb things all fall in the category of things that bad managers do. Don’t fall into the trap. Your success as a manager hinges on your ability to avoid doing dumb things that alienate employees and compromise your ability to lead your department.
By Susan M. Heathfield, About.com Guide