Friday, 5 April 2013

Lethal managers

I've been working for some 23 years now, breaks for having my two children aside. In that time I've worked part time behind a bar, in a foreign exchange bureau and a video shop. I've held full time posts in retail, at a famous London attraction, in call centres, a bookmakers, as an HR manager, an office manager, a print salesperson, an HR manager again, and as a Director of a business. I've not taken a conventional career path to my current position, that's for sure.

The main reason for moving on from most of these roles wasn't a lack of job satisfaction (though that did figure in a couple of cases) but frustration with my managers. I've seen some truly shocking management behaviour- my experience in one call centre was a whole story in itself, and for another time.  And don't start me on the Director of the print business...

I've worked with managers who are lazy, disorganised, and who don't know how to motivate themselves, much less their teams. Managers who clearly loathe people, who are short-tempered and intolerant. Managers who play the blame game, finger pointing to take the heat off themselves. Managers who paper over the cracks, cover things up and refuse to share information or implement measures that would really help fix things. Managers who don't take responsibility, or make things clear. 

Managers who believe they can learn all they need to know from charismatic business and management gurus who shout a lot but have little of real value to share. 

In short, I've worked with managers who either a) didn't have the inherent skills needed for the role, b) have let power go to their heads or c) have been landed in a post with no real training support or development themselves.

There's an interesting infographic out there that seeks to encapsulate the key traits of a bad manager. I think it's a litle simplistic, and doesn't consider WHY they do what they do, but it's a good start for a conversation.

I titled this post 'Lethal Managers' because a truly bad manager can kill purpose, motivation and satisfaction; worse, they drive away good employees who would otherwise be loyal and productive. They can make other staff stressed out and sick. They can make terrible decisions that leave a business exposed to risk. 

They can be toxic for a business, and have an appalling effect on your position and image.

But let's not assume they don't want to change. There is hope for everyone, right? Right. If you have- or worse, employ- a manager that's costing you resources and testing the patience of those around them, take a step back and look at one thing you can do today to help matters. Talk to them, find out if they have any skills gaps that are creating problems. Agree a different way of tackling a key issue, and define a change you want to see in them in six weeks.

Bad managers need managing, or they'll create more trouble than they're worth.

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