Managers Who Don’t Manage | Taking Issue

Fear of employees. Way too many managers have a case of it. From what I can see, it’s highly contagious. That’s the issue. 

Businesses hire managers to make sure the right work gets done in the right way. Managers don’t actually do the work (usually), their employees do. So, the manager’s job is to set direction and clear the way. 

Problem: Too many managers don’t manage.  Guess they’re just too scared. 

It’s epidemic. The good managers need to do something about it. 

The good ones see it: Managers who won’t step up to the plate and fix things. They just sit back and expect their employees to figure out which fires to douse. When the business results don’t come, those managers look for someone to blame. It’s never them. 

From what I’ve seen, poor manager’s: 

  • Have weak management skills and work to cover them up (Fear of discovery)
  • Nurture an inflated view of their position (Bosses gotta keep their distance)
  • Won’t confront problems and make changes (Fear of failure or backlash)
  • Can’t deal with employee problems, feedback, or disagreement (Fear of confrontation) 

So what do they do? Nothing…or maybe something which actually turns out to be nothing. 

Most everyone knows the managers who are afraid to deal with their employees. 

Here are the signs: 

  • Employees who don’t pull their weight are tolerated.
  • Those who don’t want to make mandated changes to the way they do their work don’t have to.
  • Every employee gets at least a satisfactory performance rating, regardless
  • All communication is done by memo, especially the sticky stuff
  • Work processes and people problems are never resolved
  • Complainers routinely get their way 

I’ve seen way too much of this in businesses, large and small. To be honest it really irritates me. The unwillingness of those managers, who should be leaders, to stand for fairness, quality work, employee growth, and high standards shows a gross lack of personal courage. 

So why do so many managers stay at arms length from their employees?  

They can’t or won’t connect. They are averse to building a professional relationship with employees. They have no idea how to motivate, engage, and support the people who work for them, the very people who can make or break their own success.

 Instead, they isolate themselves by staying in their offices, issuing direction by writ, and using others to deliver uncomfortable messages. 

They miss the reward of seeing an individual or team develop, succeed, and grow. Their own misconceptions of what a manager should be stand in their way.

Sadly, many of these managers fear discovery of their own deficiencies. 

I once managed a great group of employees who functioned as internal training consultants in a Fortune 500. 

One afternoon, one of my employees asked to see me after an unsettling meeting she’d just had with a key manager, her fourth meeting without any progress. 

When she confronted the manager about his resistance to training, he told her, “If I offer management training to my group, they will all know what a bad manager I am.” 

My guess is they already knew. 

Here’s the sad truth for all managers. 

Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman from the The Gallup Organization wrote the bestseller, First, Break All the Rules, a study of over 80,000 managers in 400 companies. One of their findings was that “…people leave managers, not companies.” 

When you have turnover in your business, either by exodus or transfer, you need know why. There are plenty of reasons why employees move on and why you’d want them to. But, if you want a high performing business that delivers great results year after year, a cadre of courageous, employee-focused, business fit managers will get you there. It’s a big part of a winning strategy. 

What do you think contributes to managers “fearing” their employees? What makes the courageous ones stand out?