12 Most Destructive Management Behaviors

Is the success of your business inhibited by destructive management behaviors?

Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me … Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful… that’s what matters to me.”

Steve Jobs pointed to what I believe is at the core of a good manager. A good manager works to position his team to do something wonderful. Something wonderful that taps into employees’ sense of purpose. Something wonderful that builds business success by reinforcing the company’s purpose, vision, direction.

It takes a selfless kind of management. It’s so simple it’s easily overlooked, over-analyzed, refuted. Enable and engage employees and their hearts, minds, and talents to do good for them, and in turn do good for the company.

Unfortunately, there are destructive management behaviors and beliefs that interrupt doing something wonderful. Here are 12 destructive examples. In italics are reactions to or perceptions of these behaviors, beliefs shared with me by employees.

1. Treating people like replaceable cogs

“She doesn’t have time to get to know her employees.” A manager once told me that he didn’t care if employees left. He could find and train another person easily. To him employees were widely-available, unspecialized cogs in his “factory.” People came and went. He spent a lot of time training, retraining, complaining, stressing. Wonderful and sense of purpose is not possible in this kind of work environment.

2. Self-serving agenda

“My manager’s needs are more important than the company’s or the teams.” Power in business will always exist. It has it’s place, but not when it undermines what’s good for the company, even employees. Self-serving agendas place the manager’s needs above others and the business. It destroys trust. It depletes workplace optimism. It limits success. No wonderful here.

3. Avoiding giving feedback

“Inappropriate behavior is okay. He thinks we don’t need to hear good news.” Feedback has negative associations for many managers and employees. Consequently employees go without feedback to improve performance. Or they go on without hearing praise and recognition. Mediocrity settles in. What’s at stake: loss of unity; confusion in expectations; muddied purpose.

4. Not making time for coaching

“I don’t have time to coach employees.” Translation: I’m too busy with projects and other demands. Developing my employees to contribute at higher levels is not important. My meeting-marathon is more important. I can’t prioritize meetings and coach my people.

5. Avoiding conflict

“It’s okay to undermine quality relationships by letting my fear of conflict matter more than people.” Workplace conflict can be difficult to handle. Letting it go unresolved, though, will chip away at team effectiveness. It lets dysfunctional behaviors poison teams and relationships.

6. Sitting on employees’ ideas

“My ideas don’t matter.” Employees involved in the daily operations of a company have invaluable insights into what’s working and not working with a company’s operations, products, or services. When a manager chooses to NOT share employee ideas with decision makers, they limit success, growth. Furthermore, they risk entrenching command-and-control leadership philosophies. This is the antithesis of “doing something wonderful.”

7. Short-term thinking

“Management is not interested in the consequences of today’s decisions.” Not all decisions need to keep in mind long-term impacts. Yet a decision like laying off employees is too often made with short-term mindsets. Overhead expenses may decrease, but quality, customer service, morale are hammered. The trade-offs can be more damaging.

8. Settling

“We just need to do what is expected.” Want to deflate meaning? Purpose? Want to create an uninspired work environment? Want to reinforce order taking? Managers who don’t share differing viewpoints or challenge making uninformed decisions are settling for mediocrity. Combine this destructive action with sitting on employee ideas and toxicity in the workplace becomes a real possibility.

9. Out of touch with employees

“He has no clue what what’s going on with us.” I recall an executive making a statement that his employees have saved money for these hard times. It was in a conversation about low employee morale and cutbacks. Stunned, his senior managers left wondering how he was informing other executives about the team’s performance and needs. Managers out of touch with employees’ realities risk turning bad into worse or good into bad.

10. Allowing meeting marathons

“Meaningful work? What’s that?” When managers don’t intervene with employees’ back-to-back meetings, they give up the right to question why work time lines slip. Similarly, they give up the right to question why work quality is down. Employees can only work so much overtime before flaming out. Flaming out and doing wonderful work is not sustainable.

11. Cynicism

“Everything has been done already.” Do you want to be bitter or better? Managers who let their cynicism on life, people, and business poison teams. It’s a selfish behavior that places a lid on performance. Meaningful work is hardly possible working for a manager who can’t manage his own cynicism.

12. Lacking Humility

“He’s climbing the corporate ladder. We’re a rung on the ladder.” Teams are critical for any department or business to succeed. No rocket science in that statement. A manager who sees his team as a means to moving up the ladder removes joy from work. He destroys trust making it impossible to do something wonderful.

We will always have managers who make their role about their goals. It’s a choice that limits growth. It limits possibility. In these complex times where traditional approaches to management and leadership are no longer enough, new ways are emerging. And as it should.

It doesn’t matter if you made management about your goals. You can always chose to help make something wonderful. You can always chose to tap into your employees’ sense of purpose. You can chose to redefine what success looks like that enables and engages employees and their hearts, minds, and talents.

This post first appeared at the great “List site” know as 12 Most.

Photo courtesy of  Vuk Adzic

Change Leader | Speaker | Writer Co-founder and CEO of ExchangeGain. Passionately explores the space where business & humanity intersect. Promoter of workplace optimism. Believes work can be a source of joy. Top ranked leadership blogger by Huffington Post. The Optimistic Workplace (AMACOM) out 2015

  • Steve Borek

    Lacking humility is one I see a lot. Leaders think they need to be perfect and have all the answers. The great ones realize they don’t know everything and look outward for innovative ways to improve.

    Your followers want to know you’re human. Show other sides of yourself and your team will knock down walls for you.

  • Dan Ryan

    Avoiding feedback is one of my pet peeves.
    People develop their own perspectives in the absence of sufficient feedback. We really deprive others when we leave them alone.

    I call it the mushroom treatment. Details omitted out of courtesy and decency.

  • Michael Teape

    Great Article and sooo true.
    I train management skills courses at all levels and it shocks me that some of the participant comments are the same as above. Cynicism is the top manager expression I hear.
    Couldn’t agree more with your article.

  • Harish Kanabar

    Hi Shawn,
    I am keen to use your 12 points or as many as I can and apply them to an educational management setting. Is this possible?

  • atlta aqua

    uhh.., What to do when one suffer all of them? Sadly, my company apply all the 12 points.

  • Dan

    I am not in management, but my biggest pet peeve with managers is not taking responsibility. I once had the misfortune of working with a manager who exemplified this flaw. He wandered around pointing out problems and claiming to be in control, but he never offered any solutions or made any decisions. It fell to everyone else to make decisions, even on his projects, yet when things went well, he took all of the credit. When things went badly, of course, you would find he had returned to pointing fingers, and in a demented light, he was correct, because he played no part in managing the failure–or anything else.

    People like this poison the well of trust and innovation, creating an artificial relationship between cause and consequence that always favors themselves. It encourages people to hold back their full potential and instead focus their attentions on politicking, secrecy, and CYA. Definitely a pet peeve and a horrific, tragic waste.

  • There’s a more human way to do business.

    In the Social Age, it’s how we engage with customers, collaborators and strategic partners that matters; it’s how we create workplace optimism that sets us apart; it’s how we recruit, retain (and repel) employees that becomes our differentiator. This isn’t a “people first, profits second” movement, but a “profits as a direct result of putting people first” movement.

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