Are You an Awful Manager?

December 4, 2014

No one―not even the most hard-hearted autocrat―wants to be regarded as an “awful manager.” To avoid this dire fate, make sure you’re not exhibiting any of the following four telltale signs that may be holding you back:

1. You have no vision for the business (or you fail to communicate it to the workers), so employees are not motivated by a common cause.
Would you jump out of bed each morning and go to work with a happy heart, if the motto for the company was, “Let’s make more money for the shareholders”? I don’t think so―unless you are a shareholder. Or would you rather work at the company down the road, where the motto is, “Let’s improve people’s lives”? I would and did. We changed the motto/vision statement of the company from one that nobody remembers to one we all worked toward. It just happened to be, “Improving people’s lives.”

2. You lack sufficient knowledge or wisdom to run the organization successfully.
Now it’s great to be motivated and hyped-up about the business’s goals, but what if you are running fast in the wrong direction? With a receptive mind, knowledge can be acquired through the traditional routes of training and development. Two of the key areas for management development and training are: Interpersonal skills (because businesses and organizations are full of lovely human beings, who if motivated, can do marvelous things), and business literacy (understanding all areas of the business, how they fit together and can be positively influenced). If managers don’t know the nuts and bolts of how to turn a profit in the business, the faster everyone will run, and the faster you’ll all get into trouble. Wisdom can be defined as “the efficient use of knowledge”. But even the “all knowing” don’t always become wise. So use knowledge wisely, for the good of the employees and the business.

3. You don’t develop employees in support of the common cause.
So you have a motivating vision. You know this vision is good for the staff, the customers, and the shareholders. But you don’t train and develop your people to be the best they can be. That is absolutely tragic. I love developing people―because if you develop the people, you will develop the business. An employee training and development plan in support of the company’s organizational goals and vision is a must have for any business. Awful managers who don’t understand this still exist (and they shouldn’t).

4. You don’t listen to your employees.
The adage, “always remember we have two ears and one mouth,” should be a manager’s mantra. That means you need to listen twice as much as you speak. One of the greatest sources of personal stress is the feeling that one is not in control, with no influence over matters that directly affect you. That’s why an awful manager who does not listen to employees can be a major cause of stress in the workplace. One solution is for the manager to receive interpersonal skills/communication training, as these skills can be learned. If all else fails, HR will have to get involved. As an extreme measure, the manager may have to find a job elsewhere.

Here are a few more action items from the awful manager’s repertoire:

  • Be unclear where the organization makes money
  • Avoid budgeting and 5-year plans
  • Do not share your hopes or dreams for the business with the team
  • Be abusive to your employees
  • Hold meetings without agendas
  • Avoid performance reviews
  • Make sure you have the best office (you’ve earned it!)
  • Have no concern for employee working conditions

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No one wants to be thought of as an awful manager. Advance your management skills with these AMA resources and seminars.

About The Author

Gary Sheard is director of Sheard European Management Consultants. He started his career at the bottom: His first job was in the muddy fields of Yorkshire, England. Over the next 50 years he worked on the shop floor, as a manager, director, and managing director. He is the author of the book Awful Management. For more information:

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