Are you a bad manager?

“If it wasn’t for…”

“May and Arnold hired bad people.”

“It is not my fault”

Rarely has a bad manager took personal responsibility for their decisions and actions. This is not by accident. Bad managers fear looking bad or less than perfect. They do not want to accept responsibility for poor decisions. Bad decisions vary from failure to remove unproductive employees, failure to disciple, or nurturing a toxic work environment. Perhaps they took the laissez faire approach and chose not to interfere because they believed that it will all work itself out eventually. Laissez faire works in the capitalist free market, not in the workplace. A manager must respond to employee activities, both good and bad. Employees must see that their leadership team actively monitors employee conduct as well as workforce productivity.

Bad managers believe they are smarter than everyone else.

There is a famous quote that goes something like this ”Everyday I learn more about what I do not know.” Bad managers deny this truth, good managers accept the truth, and great managers seek to learn and improve with the knowledge of the truth.

In Carol Dwect’s book Mindset, she differentiates the poor managers in leadership positions from the great ones:

“Successful leaders believe that their intelligence is not fixed — that it can change and grow. Unsuccessful leaders, in contrast, believe that intelligence is fixed and that nothing they do or anyone else does can change it.”

Bad managers do not have a balanced sense of self.

Bad managers are usually those who view too high or low of themselves. Psychology Today explains this problem:

“Possessing little self-regard can lead people to become depressed, to fall short of their potential, or to tolerate abusive situations and relationships. Too much self-love, on the other hand, results in an off-putting sense of entitlement and an inability to learn from failures. It can also be a sign of clinical narcissism, in which individuals may behave in a self-centered, arrogant, and manipulative manner.”

As a result, a bad manager will tolerate and in some cases, nurture dysfunction within the workplace. They are too fearful of rejection (those with low self esteem) to address issues directly. In some cases, managers with low self-esteem feel superior through the trashing and demeaning of their subordinates. As a result, bad managers aggressively intimate others. Passive aggressive managers will allow other coworkers to do the dirty work by permitting inappropriate and hostile communication.

Managers with high self worth are too busy looking themselves in the mirror to be concerned with issues in the office. “Yesterday’s presentation was great, right?” and the only aceptable answer is “Yes, absolutely.” These managers only want to receive positive news about their leadership. These are truly vain people. When they are not looking in the mirror, they go to presentations where they will be lavished with admiration and praise. The brave people who call out their shortcomings are quickly silenced or in some cases, removed from the office.

Did you identify with at least one of the traits listed above? The good news is that all hope is not lost. Follow the tips below and you will improve your character as well as the office environment.

Reconnect with the other parts of your life.

Working (for yourself or an organization) has many benefits, such as social interactions with others, helping others and earning a living to support oneself. Most importantly you feel a sense of pride for a job well done. These are all good things. But it is unwise to derive your sense of worth solely from your leadership position. You are not your job. If you drop dead suddenly one day, the world will still move on. Accept this reality. It does not matter if your position will exist or end.

If you have not done so already, seek your identity outside of the walls of your office building. There are many ways to do this. Perhaps it is time to start a new hobby, build better family relationships, enjoy more outdoor activities, or get more involved in your local community. Whatever it is, remember that you are more than a manager, you are someone’s child, spouse/partner, dog, cat or bird parent, friend, parent, or lover. Identify your other roles and find more balance and perspective in your life.

Nurture an open and productive office environment.

Identify and dismiss toxic employees from your office promptly. This will send a clear message to that you employ productive and positive staff. There are no exceptions. If you are guilty of toxic tendencies, now is the time to get appropriate help in order to resolve your emotional issues. Time will not fix old hangups and pains. Seek counseling from your clergy or licensed therapist to fix your unresolved issues. You do not need to tell your employees about your emotional issues. Reconcile with and apologize to those you have hurt, regardless if the action was intentional or not. Do not ask for forgiveness, for that is a decision they will have to make for themselves. Take one step further and ask for accountability. For example, perhaps you have anger management issues and are known for making angry outbursts. Tell your staff “In the past, I have made many angry outbursts. If this happens again, please do not be afraid to tell me that my behavior is inappropriate.”

Cooperate before you operate.

A mentor of mine once told me “you cannot operate unless you learn to cooperate.” In other words, you need to be able to successfully work with others before leading a team. Similar to the toxic employees example, this is where you take responsibility for poor conduct. Recognize that kindness and respect is a two way street. Inform your staff that you value and respect the efforts of all team members. Moreover, excellent managers do not create factions within their team. They do not have favorites or those in the “naughty” list. Excellent managers work to make sure that each team member is successful in their respective work position.

Work alongside your staff.

Do you remember the television show “Undercover Boss,” where executives from companies conceal their identify and work alongside their employees? The executives developed a professional relationship with certain employees so they could better understand their work life. I am not saying that you should go to those extremes, but I am saying that you should be known as a sympathetic manager. This is someone who is not afraid to roll up their sleeves and work alongside the team. This sends two messages: a) you show by example how the work is to be done properly and b) you are not disconnected or unaware of staff work conditions. Be an excellent manager and use these moments to instruct, mentor and motivate each team member.

In conclusion, there are no bad managers, but there are poorly trained managers. Do you need individual help to improve your soft skills? Email denise[at] and let’s talk offline.

Do you have a general question or comment about poor managerial skills? I would love to read it. Please drop me a line in the comment section below.


Take Personal Responsibility, Don’t Blame Others

Psychology Today

Originally published at on February 5, 2019.



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store