Managers make or break a workplace. An inspiring manager motivates employees and creates an environment where creativity and collaboration thrive. Poor management creates a toxic workplace where it's difficult for workers to shine. Bad manager behavior can be a personality issue and the result of hiring people who don't have the interpersonal skills to be managers in the first place. Also, lack of management skills can be the issue, and devoting resources to training can go a long way toward alleviating the problem.
Causes of Poor Management
Poor management may not come from individual managers at all but rather from company culture. A manager is unlikely to bring out the best in employees if higher management doesn't provide the resources to reward, value and encourage employees. There's just so much a manager can do to draw good work out of employees who are chronically underpaid, especially if it's clear to them that the business is earning plenty of money. Even if employees are well paid, a manager will have a hard time managing well if the company treats employees as if their work and needs aren't valued. Firing without sufficient feedback or process and creating a schedule that shows no respect for employee personal time are examples of business policies that set the stage for poor management.
Management issues can also come from the disposition of a manager. Even a single coworker with a bad attitude can affect the work experience of an entire company, especially if the staff is small and employees work closely together. Having a manager with a discouraging attitude has an even greater effect on morale. A manager who only criticizes and never praises employee work will be unlikely to motivate staff. A manager who is visibly unhappy with her job spreads an atmosphere of dissatisfaction. A distrustful manager makes employees defensive and unwilling to give their best.
Some examples of mismanagement in the workplace stem from inadequate training. Some people certainly take to managerial responsibilities more naturally than others. Understanding how to motivate workers and keep operations flowing smoothly are skills that can be improved with training. Management training can teach managers to deal with employees in more constructive ways by listening to their issues and integrating their concerns into short- and long-range planning as well as day-to-day routines. Management training can also teach managers to plan and communicate, making the most of their human resources.
Effects of Poor Management
When a business is managed poorly, this ineffectiveness reverberates throughout the organization. It takes an especially heavy toll on employee morale, resulting in inferior work from workers who would often rather be engaged and productive but have inadequate incentive to perform optimally because their efforts won't be recognized or rewarded. Your employees are the face of your company, and when their morale is low because they are working under ineffective or discouraging managers, your customers will be able to see that they aren't engaged in their work or enthusiastic about your products or services. An image of employee satisfaction cannot be faked because customers sense insincerity and false optimism. In addition to simply failing to represent your products in ways that appeal to customers, disgruntled employees create a negative image of your company as a whole, representing it as an unpleasant place to work.
Ineffective management increases employee turnover, especially alienating the workers you'd most like to keep – those who care about their work and can easily find employment elsewhere because of their experience and work ethics. Unnecessary turnover costs your business because you need to devote the resources to hiring and training new staff who may also be unlikely to stay if they're being supervised by the same difficult managers. Employee turnover is also expensive because inexperienced workers aren't able to see the big picture and make quick, thoughtful decisions that can come easily to more experienced staff.
Poor management can also cost your business money through faulty systems and unnecessary mistakes. Managers are responsible for scheduling. If you are overstaffed during slow times, you can incur losses due to bloated payroll, and if you're understaffed during busy times, you'll fail to leverage potential sales opportunities. A good manager knows the quirks, skills, strengths and weaknesses of individual employees and knows how to draw on these advantages and avoid potential pitfalls by assigning tasks accordingly. Conversely, poor managers waste opportunities by assigning the wrong job responsibilities to the wrong staff, hindering productivity and creating bottlenecks.
Correcting Bad Management
It takes a good manager to fix the work of a bad manager. If ineffective management is coming from the top levels of your company, it will be especially difficult to address and correct it because there may be nobody with the authority to do so. If your board has the power and the vision to recognize management difficulties and address them, you may be able to replace problematic personnel, although the process may be painful and cumbersome. Similarly, if your business has outside investors or shareholders and a management issue becomes unquestionably dire, they may demand changes in management. These may be difficult to implement but could work in the long-term best interests of your company.
If there is someone within your business with the authority and reach to take steps toward better management, you can either replace the manager who is causing difficulty or address the problem through guidance or training. A manager who discourages high-quality employees may simply not be management material. Alternately, that manager may benefit from a firm but insightful conversation with a higher-level manager who can lay out the issue clearly and even model good management behavior by instructing without criticizing too harshly.
You can also address bad management issues by hiring better managers in the first place. Learn to identify red flags. For example, if a managerial job candidate spends an entire interview talking about the incompetence of staff he's managed in the past, this attitude could suggest a management style geared toward criticizing rather than training and educating. Consider an applicant's work history, including average tenure in managerial positions. Check references and, if possible, even look for opportunities to speak to former employees who can provide a unique and valuable perspective on an applicant's management style.
Training is also invaluable in averting management pitfalls and reinforcing best practices. Develop a robust training program that covers everything from interpersonal dynamics to organizing work flow. Base your training on your company's culture and history and also on management theory. Study management styles and leadership approaches such as autocratic, democratic and laissez-faire, and decide which makes the most sense for your business. Put time and energy into training and education early in a manager's tenure because it's most effective to establish expectations and ground rules at the outset so you can refer back to them if issues arise down the line.
Look into management courses and training programs in your area, and offer incoming managers the opportunity to take them at the company's expense. Courses and education can be expensive, but they're not nearly as costly as losing employees and sales because your business is being run ineffectively. Show at the outset that you value your managers' work as well as the work of the employees they manage.
Devra Gartenstein founded her first food business in 1987. In 2013 she transformed her most recent venture, a farmers market concession and catering company, into a worker-owned cooperative. She does one-on-one mentoring and consulting focused on entrepreneurship and practical business skills.