What if you could predict which managers in your organization would thrive, and which would fizzle? Or if you could predict which teams would be the most successful?
If you take a good look at some of the habits of your managers, you might be able to make these kinds of predictions with some alacrity. That’s because failing managers, those who will wash out (and potentially take a group of otherwise good employees with them) tend to share some of the same habits.
Of course things like bullying, sexism, and anger management problems make for unsuccessful managers, but these habits are a bit more insidious than that.
1. Requesting minute-by-minute progress reports or accounting of time.
Any boss or manager that checks in with individuals on his or her team far more than necessary is likely a micro-manager. It shows a huge lack of trust on their part. In addition, asking employees to keep track of exactly what they worked on every moment of the day actually takes up more time than it saves. Unless the company bills by the hour (such as a law firm) such accountings are usually unnecessary and an indication that the manager doesn’t trust the employees not to goof off.
2. A messy desk.
A small percentage of the population has the sort of mind that can keep a messy desk and still know exactly where everything is, but in most cases, a messy desk is an indication of disorganization — exactly what you don’t want in a manager. If this person is constantly missing meetings, asking for documents multiple times, and misplacing important things, that’s a big red flag that they probably aren’t organized enough to run a team or department effectively.
3. Unreachable for comment.
If a manager regularly neglects to answer emails or return phone calls and dodges employees in the hall and break room, it signals a bigger problem with communication. Good managers should be responsive and open to questions and problems from the team, and available regularly for input.
4. Calls unnecessary meetings.
Lots of organizations fall into a meeting trap, in which meetings are routinely and unnecessarily convened, but if a particular manager seems to be constantly calling meetings for “input” or to talk about an issue for the millionth time, it could signal a problem with indecision. Managers need to be able to make decisions, and while getting input is good, too much input is simply a way to procrastinate making a choice.
5. Best buds with one member of the team.
If a manager seems to be close friends with just one or a few members of a team — to the exclusion of others — this could be a case of playing favorites that could easily escalate. At first it’s just that they go to lunch or happy hour together, but then the favorites are getting choice assignments, not being reprimanded for coming in late, and so on. It’s certainly OK to be friendly with team members, but playing favorites can be a sign of other problems.
6. Always trying new management styles.
These managers are often categorized by a huge stack of management books in their office. They hop on whatever is the latest trend in management strategy or styles and try it out. But they rarely give anything time to work, and may quickly lose interest. They’re so focused on trying different strategies that it can sometimes begin to interfere with the team’s work. It can also frustrate employees who never know what’s coming next.
7. Know-it all.
If a manager seems to have a ready answer for every question ever asked of him or her, that could be a bad sign. A great manager knows when to say, “I don’t know,” and defer to get more information. A manager who always has the answer, no matter what, may be doing so out of pride. They may try to bluff their way through situations in which they don’t have all the information, which can be catastrophic.
These are just some habits I’ve noticed that seem innocent on the surface, but may have deeper implications for the team and the organization as a whole.
I wonder if you’ve noticed any similar habits or trends in ineffective managers in your organization or work experience. I’d be interested in your additions to this list in the comments below.
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