At some point or another we’ve all had a terrible manager. You know the one I’m talking about. The one that made you roll your eyes and lock yourself in the storage room until you calmed down. Yes, that manager, the one who barked out commands, sent emails on a Sunday morning demanding an immediate reply, and never had a good word to say for all your hard work. If you’re like most people, this manager even caused you to change jobs.
So, what happens when you wake up one morning annoyed that someone hasn’t replied to your weekend emails and you suddenly realize…that terrible manager is you? Somehow, in the pressure cooker of a demanding work environment, you’ve morphed into what you hated most! It can creep up on you, especially, if you’re new to management and still adjusting to the level of responsibility demanded of you.
Don’t panic if you’ve inadvertently caught Bad Boss Syndrome. It is curable. Here are five behaviors to watch for and eradicate so your employees won’t start looking for other opportunities when that storage room gets overcrowded.
1. Avoiding Difficult Conversations: At some point as a manager you’ll have to initiate difficult conversations. When people on your team are slacking off on a Friday morning, not pulling their weight on a project, or failing to get a report in on time, it’s up to you to do something about it. Avoiding these conversations and letting poor performance slide will allow small problems to become major issues. It will also create resentment amongst team members who are diligent and hard working. Besides, you’ll eventually have to explain to your boss why you didn’t deal with a problem when it first emerged.
2. Micromanaging: Oversight is a necessary part of the manager/employer relationship. Micromanaging, on the other hand, will destroy it. When employees are first hired, the probationary period provides a window of time to properly train them and ensure they can do the job. The intent of training is to get employees to the point where you can give them a task and know it will be completed within a reasonable period of time. If you continue to walk employees through each element of their job, monitor every little thing they do, and redo work because it’s not done exactly as you would do it—then you are a micromanager. Aside from all the eye-rolling that’s going on in your team, you’re also undermining their confidence, impeding productivity and pointing them towards the door.
3. Being a Bully: People make mistakes. It happens. How you deal with those mistakes determines whether your people will learn from them or simply learn to bury them or blame others. Shouting, terse emails, dressing people down in front of their colleagues; none of these build high performing teams and all of them can be perceived as bullying. Discipline should be private and saved for severe infractions. Otherwise you’ll end up with a culture of fear and blame and the only movement you see will be the revolving door as people leave.
4. Flagging Everything as Urgent: Ignoring the natural ebb and flow of productivity and staff energy levels, while overlooking existing workloads, is a sure fire way to make your team feel under-appreciated. Expecting people to deliver everything immediately may result in important balls being dropped, which a poor manager will typically blame on the employee who dropped them! Saying that everything is important is the same as saying nothing is important. Think about your priorities and clearly express them to your team so they can manage their time effectively and take on truly urgent work when necessary. If not, they’ll flag finding a new job a priority #1.
5. Ignoring the Human Factor: Your people are human, with complex, multi-faced personal lives, just like you. Illnesses, aging parents, sick children, moving house, difficult teenagers: all of these things have to be dealt with, irrespective of workloads. They can’t be avoided. Refusing to accept that employees’ personal lives will sometimes impact their work lives is like burying your head in the sand. Compounding an employee’s personal challenges by refusing to be flexible at these times is tantamount to holding the door open and inviting them to leave.
If your organization is experiencing high employee turnover, take a look around and see whether these five behaviors are common among managers and supervisors. It may be time to shake things up with some professional development for the management team. If your own team seems to be on a continual state of flux, it may be time to hold up a mirror and “take a look at yourself and then make a change.”
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 Michael Jackson, Man in the Mirror. http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/michaeljackson/maninthemirror.html