Unfortunately, there are many more ways to be a bad manager than there are to be a good one. No doubt you’ve encountered one or more of these types: the abrasive manager, the weak-willed manager, the lazy manager, the distracted manager, and the micromanager. You may have even reported to or managed one yourself.
When a company hires the wrong salesperson, the impact can be harmful to the organization in lost revenue, lost accounts, and lost time to hire and train someone new. Such damage is painful and often long-lasting, but at least it’s visible upon inspection.
The effects of employing a bad manager, however, ripple insidiously across a department or organization and can prove even more costly.
Consider the abrasive manager. This person sees himself as tough and demanding, and he holds people to high standards. He thinks employees are here to work, not to play.
Okay, sounds stern but not unfair.
He also thinks feelings are for greeting cards and that you should leave your emotions at home. He doesn’t have time to hear about your concerns or ideas. He’ll make the decisions. Employees need to shut up and work. Employee development? Work hard and you’ll get promoted. Don’t like it? There’s the door. Teamwork? A constructive atmosphere? This isn’t pre-school!
Yikes. Who wants to work for this ^%$^@?
An abrasive manager often sticks around for a while because, in terms of productivity, he gets results. Turnover is a different story though. And turnover doesn’t just mean the cost of recruiting, hiring, and training replacements. It also costs brain power and untapped potential of future leaders who leave a dead-end environment. Overlooked people with high potential get hired somewhere else, and they talk. Pretty soon, word gets out, and the company with the abrasive management culture has a hard time attracting talent.
Meanwhile, the company across the highway employs a weak-willed manager. She’s great to work for. She never holds anyone accountable. Employees don’t say anything, because they’re standing on the corner of Easy Street getting free money every two weeks. Why mess with a good thing?
Except it eventually catches up. Management notices the output isn’t where it should be. A culture of laziness has infected the department, and once-dependable employees have lost their focus. The true stand-outs with high potential have moved to other departments or, worse, found employment elsewhere because they were tired of pulling too much weight and going unrecognized for it. And do you think she is going to replace high potentials with other high potentials? Heck no. She’s intimidated by strong performers and replaces the ones who leave with ineffectual people who won’t challenge her.
The micromanager often delivers a similar end result through disempowering people and leaving them feeling bored and underutilized. As a side effect, the micromanager gets burned out from doing all the work that should have been delegated. He becomes the invisible man riding a past reputation, kind of like a dead star that once shown bright and has now shrunken to a dim shell that spins aimlessly.
Here lies one of the problems with job interviews: You can ask the right questions but still remain uncertain whether the answers point to a good or bad manager. The reason is none of these people think they are bad at managing.
We know from years of building personality assessments that people tend to believe their way is the right way. What you need—as a hiring manager, recruiter, HR professional, or talent director—is an objective measure of performance for comparison. Because when you are able to compare your management applicants to objective performance models, you can see how closely they align with the type of job you are trying to fill.
Many types of management roles exist, of course, but there are common performance competencies shared by top managers across multiple industries. Coaching and Developing, for example. Managers who are invested in the growth and development of staff yield better results. Better trained, more empowered employees not only do better work, they stay with the company longer because they like working there. It seems obvious that this would be the case, but try telling that to the manager who say,“People are here to work, not to play.” Or to the manager who doesn’t trust anyone to do it right so he pushes them out of the way and handles everything himself.
Composure and Resiliency is another competency displayed by top managers. Lazy, distracted, or burnt-out managers didn’t start out that way or they wouldn’t have gotten promoted into management to start with (one hopes at least). Many of them fade out because they ran into too many challenges and obstacles they couldn’t overcome. Intrinsically, they lack the resilience to stay calm, push through, and bounce back when things don’t work out. Yes, avoiding hard work limits exposure to stress, but it also kills any chance of achieving positive results.
Other competencies around decision making, planning, and delegating have proven to be important performance drivers as well. It all makes sense when you think about it, and these findings are backed by extensive psychometric research into job performance. Integrating a pre-employment assessment into your standard hiring process—one that has been validated for management selection—is like putting a filter in place to keep your applicant pipeline clear and help you hire only those managers with potential to affect your environment and culture positively.