What Makes a Bad Manager?

What Makes a Bad Manager?


We have all worked for and with bad managers, and I would hope that the reason you are reading this blog is to find out how to become a good manager. In order to get better at something we need to understand what is the wrong way to do something so we can avoid doing things that will keep us from being the best.

I am sure that you can think of numerous bad managers that you have had to deal with throughout your career. Think about what made those managers bad. What were the traits they displayed, and what were the traits they lacked that made them ineffective in their job?

In looking back on my career I have identified five qualities that I believe make for a bad manager. In looking at these ask yourself if you display any of these qualities and if so what can you do to change them.

  1. Bad managers display a general distrust of all employees.

Bad managers believe that all people are inherently lazy and will avoid doing their jobs unless they have a strong armed manager standing over them to keep an eye on them. These managers do not develop strong relationships with their people. They often form alliances with a few employees that they feel they can trust and give favored preference to these trusted lieutenants. They often play one employee against another to try to motivate under performers and fail to create trusting, cooperative teams.

  1. Bad managers don’t trust employees to complete tasks independently without constant management oversight.

This goes back to the fact that bad managers see employees as lazy and work avoiding. It also reflects the manager’s belief that employees are not as smart or knowledgeable as the manager, therefore the manager feels they need to manage every aspect of a project in order for it to be accomplished correctly. By displaying a lack of trust these managers create an atmosphere that lacks imagination, creativity, and a willingness to try something new.

  1. Bad managers enjoy ruling over others and generally see punishment as being a good thing.

The enjoyment of ruling over people and seeing punishment as a motivator comes from the managers own lack of understanding and confidence in their ability to motivate people. It also come from a lack of real understanding of human nature and fruitful human interaction, and the response becomes that people need to be ruled over. When there is a lack of trust and belief in people then the leader feels that the only way to motivate people is to hold the threat of punishment over them. In reality, punishment is often not motivational and affects not just the individual, but the entire team as constant threats break down team morale.

  1. A bad manager isn’t honest with themselves or others about their own shortcomings or failures.

Bad managers blame others for mistakes without taking ownership for their own role in those mistakes. They always look to place blame on someone other than themselves. Did the manager fail to communicate properly or give clear instructions? Did the manager fail to see a problem and then looked to put the blame of their shortsightedness on others? Bad managers are often insecure in their own abilities and knowledge and therefore do not like to look in the mirror to see where they are falling short. It is much easier to criticize others than to take accountability for one’s own actions and take actions to change oneself.

  1. Finally, bad managers see every problem as a nail and therefore act like hammers.

Brute force of will and action is how bad managers respond to problems. Yelling, screaming, putting employees down is how it is manifested. Engaging in threats and force is how the manager responds to almost any problem. This creates fear and an inability for teams to act, because if they make a mistake the manager will come down on them in a disciplinary manner.

The overall general characteristic of a bad manager is a lack of honesty with themselves, and therefore a general distrust of people. Bad managers lack introspection and fail to take accountability for their own shortcomings. They project their insecurities onto others and act out in ways that discourage cooperation, creativity, and risk-taking, all essential elements to strong, successful teams.

By understanding what makes a bad manager we can begin to look at our own actions and see where we are acting as bad managers and take steps to correct those actions that are having a negative impact on our teams.

In the next post, we will look at what makes a good manager and steps we can take to improve our performance as managers and help us to create the strong, creative, and successful teams as engaged, open-minded leaders.

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