Why Bad Managers Are Killing Workplace Productivity: Time for a Change

I have got a bee in my bonnet about responsible management. When I was in corporate, I saw the damage caused to employees’ personal lives by too many muppets masquerading as managers. Can we just be honest here and say not everyone is cut out to be a manager and such an individual should not be put into a management position. Sometimes, people end up in management positions because they were at the right place at the right time and there was no one else available.  Worse still, they could have ended up in that position because they were friends with the boss.


Regardless of how it happens, incompetent managers cause more harm than good. I have seen senior management close in to protect an incompetent  manager simply because the individual was seen as someone who delivered, but at what cost? They may have delivered a particular outcome but was it worth the staff turnover and the subsequent cost and destruction?


Gallup issued their State of the global workplace report  and surprise surprise, they found that 70% of the variance in team engagement can be attributed to the manager. They also found that when managers are engaged at work, non-managers are also more likely to be engaged. To me this is pure common sense hence my equation below, please indulge me:


Good management = Increased Team engagement = Increased Productivity = Increased Profits. 


So why will anyone put up with a bad manager when we are talking about a variance as high as 70%? It is because a lot of people don’t see the damage caused in real monetary terms. Yes there is a correlation, but it is not instant, these things take time and by the time financial reports have been issued perhaps a year later, so many other things might have happened that the link becomes tenuous.


Financial damage notwithstanding, it is the lives that are ruined by bad management that to me is unacceptable. A friend of mine was being bullied by her manager and inspite of the fact that she is a very competent manager herself, the effect of having a bad manager had her taking timing off for stress which in turn impacted on her family life. Her direct reports also had to adjust to a new manager on a learning curve, while she was off with stress which was more disruption for the organisation.


Luckily she got the support she needed to get her head back together and then transferred to a new part of the organisation under a different manager under whom she thrived. I wish I could say her previous manager was reprimanded for his behaviour but unfortunately he was left to carry on like it never happened. Did it happen again with another direct report of his? You bet!


Hopefully with reputable organisations like Gallup coming out with research and figures demonstrating the effect of bad management, organisations might start taking it more seriously and stop harbouring bad managers. Bad managers are costly on a financial and human level. Both the managers and non-managers need help to ensure that workplaces are vibrant hives of creativity. 


Managers need to be given the correct training, monitored and incentivised to be good managers. They need to understand that their role not only impacts their direct reports in the workplace but it carries on into their lives and believe it or not impacts their loved ones. 


Non-managers also need to be given the right support when they come across bad managers. They should never be made to feel they are going to make their manager lose their livelihood simply because they had the courage to pipe up about bad behaviour. It should rather be seen as the manager having a skills gap and the right channels put in place in a non-threatening way for the gap to be plugged.