10 tell-tale signs of a bad manager

One of the most compelling truisms of career progression is that the skills that raise most people to the position of manager are very different to the skills required to be a good manager.

Team members that are extremely good at their task-oriented workload are usually the first ones promoted, but a manager needs to have a lot of skill in managing people and making decisions. Many managers fall down in these common areas – maybe this is this you? Or your manager?

1. Being moody

The manager sees the world through a negative perspective. It is incredibly demotivating to have a cynical boss. Perhaps more commonly, the manager who storms into the office in a furious mood ready to take it out on anyone who dares challenge them in the wrong way. If you’ve ever thought to yourself  “don’t go near her when she’s in one of those moods” then it’s a sign of trouble.

2. Gossiping

Talking behind people’s backs is a treacherous act by a manager. Some people get caught in the wilderness when they know they need to have their finger on the pulse of what is happening in their team, and inadvertently descend into gossip. In other cases you have a manager that is all too happy to share confidential details or to express their emotionally laden opinions of people at various levels of the organisation.

3. Bad role model of behaviour

A manager needs to set the example, for whatever he or she does will be considered the yardstick of what is acceptable for the team. Long lunches, rudeness, arrogance or ethical misdoings are quickly noticed by the team and either influences their behaviour in a negative way or loses their respect, neither of which is a good outcome.

4. Micro-managing martyr

Micro management is possibly the most stifling and frustrating habit a manager can have. By paying too much attention to every single detail, the manager not only burns their own time, which should be spent on other things, but also shows a complete lack of trust in the team’s ability to do things. When you show this lack of trust in your team it crowds them, and reduces the likelihood of them coming up with new ideas, processes and improvements to the current method of work. Of course, attention to detail is a great attribute, but a manager should be looking to impart this skill onto the team, rather than doing it for the team.

5. Unsupportive, aloof brick wall

Every manager is a part of two teams: the team they lead and the team of people on their level of the hierarchy. This requires a bit of balancing as it involves operating in two ‘modes’, satisfying the needs of two separate groups. However, a manager must lead the team that reports to him, and if he seems distant, unsupportive or absent there is no way he will be getting the most out of that team. In particularly competitive environments where ruthlessness is rewarded, this becomes a common complaint about managers. It is important not to get too caught up in negative aspects of your organisation’s culture, especially if it results in your team feeling unsupported.

6. Bully

An increasingly common problem in the workplace is bullying. Everyone is time poor, frustrated and in a hurry to get to the top, and bullying is an unfortunate outcome from this. Bullying is of course a sign of a terrible manager – when they target someone in the team with repeated efforts of belittling or intimidation. And, most importantly, this is illegal. Some managers bully people outside of their own team. Setting this example goes beyond making life hard for an individual – it is telling a whole team of people that this is the way you should act if you ever want to be in a higher position within this company.

7. Always the critic

Some managers have fallen so deeply into the habit of correcting people that they have simply forgotten how to offer anything constructive or positive in terms of feedback. A constant critic is a real drain on a company’s energy and creativity. It keeps people working within very narrow guidelines and really discourages any sort of attempt to reach out and offer new solutions to problems that are currently being faced. A basic skill of every manager is ongoing acknowledgement of effort and good work.

8. Being a mate

Part of a manager’s role is to guide the behaviour of a team. I do encourage managers to build a positive, friendly working relationship with those that work for them, but it is so important to make sure you don’t fall into the trap of being so friendly that standards are dropped. The lines can get blurred if someone is too easy-going, regularly drinking with staff and constantly offering the “it’ll be okay” line when things get tough. If someone breaks out of the confines of acceptable behaviour then the manager needs to be able to address it properly. If the relationship compromises the manager’s ability to do this then it has gone too far towards the ‘mate’ end of the spectrum, and although likable, this manager will struggle – and lose the respect of others in the team who are not mates!

9. False promises

Giving a false hope or unmet promise raises expectations and then delivers a heavy dose of disappointment. When you consider the promises a manager would make to their team: better pay, fighting for them in talks with senior management, delivering on work outcomes, then you can see how important it is to deliver on those promises. Letting down your team by failing to deliver on promises is possibly the most morale-damaging act a manager can make. And using forgetfulness as an excuse is not on.

10. Poor directions

Have you ever steamed ahead on a project, pouring in hours of work on it only to have your manager later clarify that the initial instructions weren’t entirely on track? It’s a demoralising feeling. Often this is because of a lack of detail, or a lack of background information, but poor directions will result in your team members becoming lost. Often, managers in a rush will push out one or two lines of instruction where a five-minute phone call would be so much more effective. It always pays to be slow and careful in your delivery of instructions, rather than rushed and regretful later on.

Rate yourself – if you give yourself 10 for excellent and 0 for worst performance – how do you rate as a manger?

Eve Ash has a wide range of resources and books that can help people change their thinking and habits in a constructive way.


Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments