One bad manager can demotivate a whole team and undermine everything you’re trying to do as a business. Oddly, many organizations don’t immediately recognize the manager as the problem even when the signs are obvious.
There are several possible reasons for this, one of the most likely being that the manager has been part of the team for a long time and is friends with their same-level colleagues and superiors. It doesn’t even occur to people that he or she is the issue because they’re such a long-standing staple. But if you’re familiar with the theory that we promote people to the level of their incompetence – meaning they excel in every sequentially higher position until they reach the one in which they reach their limitations – you’ll understand that once stellar employees often become problem employees once promoted to management.
Here are five seemingly obvious signs that you have a problem manager on your hands that you should probably cut loose.
The team isn’t producing results. If an entire team of people isn’t producing desired results, it’s most likely the fault of their leader. You didn’t hire, say, five totally useless idiots, right? The most likely problem is that they are not being properly directed, motivated, or inspired. If you hired a good copywriter who is suddenly writing bad copy, or a good salesperson who suddenly isn’t selling, they probably didn’t lose their skills overnight.
Morale is low. You can tell when people are up and when they’re down – if you can’t, you shouldn’t be in management or HR. There’s always a reason for low morale and good managers can usually pump people up, even in tough times, with recognition, small incentives, and kind words. Bad ones bring people down with bullying and criticism.
People keep getting fired. I once worked with someone who pretty much fired his whole team one by one but kept his job. It made no sense. You know that old saying, “If everyone else is an idiot, it’s probably you”? If one manager keeps finding fault in their team and letting people go, the problem is most likely the manager.
People keep quitting. Again, many senior teams just don’t connect the dots. If everyone on a team is filing out the door, there’s a good chance it’s the manager’s fault. After all, everyone in this industry knows a bad relationship with the manager is one of the main reason people quit jobs.
Employees are complaining. I’m not a champion of complaining to HR. I think offices should be staffed by grown ups and grown ups should handle their own conflict. So, if one person goes whining to management or HR about someone else, maybe they’re just a whiner. But if you have had two or more people come to you about one person, the problem is definitely that person.
Don’t ignore it or try to rationalize the problem away. You might really like this person and they might once have been great at their job. But in the end if they are not a good manager, and their team is not producing results, they will cost you. You have to cut them loose. If you don’t they will take you down with them and you’ll both be out of a job.