It’s Not You, It’s Them. Bad Managers and the Bottom Line
When I was in a corporate environment over the years I worked hard to be a good manager and continually learn how to become a better one. Now I have my own business and I’m at home every day, so I haven’t had anyone to manage, really. It’s important to me to keep my skills up, so I appointed the dog Chief Barketing Officer and set to work.
My day now goes something like this:
After I’ve had my coffee in the morning, I go into my home office (once known before he went to college as my son’s room) and I start my day. I draw up a list of anything the dog had done the day before that wasn’t up to my standards (eating the Munchkins I left on the counter for instance). Then I call her into my office and tell her she’s a bad dog. I give her a set of confusing and vague directions that I’m pretty sure she’s incapable of completing given the fact she has no thumbs, but that’s not my problem. I have things to do because I. Am. Very. Busy. And too important to explain myself to her, so I tell her to figure it out and send her on her way.
Once she’s gone, I stew over the fact I haven’t come up with a good blog idea yet. I complain out loud that things aren’t going as well as they could. The blog’s not going to write itself and, for the love of god, can someone other than me come up with some good ideas for once. When the dog presents an idea – or as she quaintly puts it – “barks” – I throw her out of my office and shut the door, leaving her to Facebook for the rest of the day or whatever it is she does when I’m not looking.
Around mid-day I have lunch. I toss the dog a piece of crust, so she’ll think I don’t think she’s a total waste of space and hope that’s motivation enough that she won’t try to get out the front door for the rest of the day.
Later in the day when she hasn’t accomplished what I’ve asked her to, although I wasn’t really clear with her about what I wanted done in the first place. That’s because I wasn’t really sure what I wanted until I saw what I didn’t want. So, I send her a nasty email in ALL CAPS like some electronic howler out of Harry Potter. I berate her for her general lack of competence. If she whines, I point out that the door’s right there. If she can’t do the job, there are plenty of other dogs in kennels all over the country who can. Which, of course, is totally not true, but it makes me feel important and really, that’s what being a boss is all about, isn’t it?
I tell her if she doesn’t start doing better – although I’m purposely vague about what “better” is in case she should accomplish it and get all uppity because she thinks she’s actually good at her job – she’ll be back at the pound. I tell her to go back to her bed, think about whether she really wants to work here and tell me in the morning if she’s ready to shape up or ship out.
Then the cat and I will laugh about her over drinks at the local watering hole after work.
Let’s talk about bad management
Of course, anyone who even remotely cares about being a good manager knows this is an example of really bad management. Yet there are people out there who still think this is the way to manage employees. You probably know one or two of them. They make whole movies about these people – “Horrible Bosses,” for instance, or even “9 to 5.”
Let’s face it: Almost anyone – and I think statistics will bear me out – can be a boss. They don’t have to be good at it. Not every boss is a good manager and every boss is certainly not a leader. People are routinely made bosses because, frankly, their boss doesn’t know what to do with them. They’ve probably been there for a long time, the logic goes, so they should be promoted to something, even if they’re not really good at anything.
And that’s a great plan if you want to demoralize your employees, create a toxic work environment and sacrifice any productivity there might be.
If you don’t care about bad managers creating a work environment that even pay and benefits can’t solve, then you should be concerned about this: Bad managers affect your bottom line – and not in a good way.
Bad managers lead to disengaged employees and according to Mental Health America’s 2017 report Mind the Workplace; disengaged employees cost up to $500 billion annually in productivity losses. According to the report:
“Unsupportive and unstable workplaces fostered psychological distress and contributed to a decline in employee engagement. Among employees with lower levels of engagement, a majority (65 percent) reported that they spent between 31-50 hours a week distracted in their workplace, and 70 percent stated that they were thinking about and/or actively looking for a new job. Low levels of employee engagement were moderately correlated with overall workplace health.”
It takes as much thought and effort to be a good manager at it as it does thoughtlessness to be a bad one. Which doesn’t mean it doesn’t take some effort to be a bad manager: I’ve worked with a few and believe me, they put in a lot of effort to suck at managing as much as they do.
So, what are some things a bad manager does?
Here are a few things you might have experienced:
- Bad managers are always looking for someone to blame (other than themselves)
- Bad managers tell employees they can be replaced
- Bad managers don’t listen to suggestions
- Bad managers take credit for other’s work
- Bad managers threaten, bully, and belittle
- Bad managers don’t set expectations: they provide vague directions, so they have little accountability.
- Bad managers will always tell you when you do something wrong, but not when you do something right. (I worked at a place where I was actually told “If they don’t say anything then you’re doing ok.” True story.)
- Bad managers don’t care about work/life balance
- Bad managers ask for suggestions, then ridicule them.
- Bad managers berate employees in front of everyone
- Bad managers are too busy to talk to you – about anything
- Bad managers don’t promote good people
What do good managers do?
I’m a marketer and I specialize in social media marketing. It occurred to me that managers can take some lessons from good social media marketing practices when dealing with employees. After all, we use social media to attract customers and create a positive brand, why wouldn’t we use the same strategies to deal with our employees and create a good working environment? Conveying a positive brand starts from the ground up. Or the top down.
- Listen. Listening costs nothing but your time. With social media, it’s important to listen to our customers to be sure we are providing them what they want and need and that we are being true to our brand. In the same way, when an employee comes to you, listen. Look, we’re all busy, but almost no one has NO time to stop for a couple of minutes. If you absolutely can’t listen right then, provide an alternative time to meet. And they employee has an idea they think might help the company, remember: at least they have the good of the company in mind. Don’t ridicule the idea even if it’s so incredibly ridiculous you nearly choke on your coffee.
- Engage. Engagement in social media is very important. People who like your page but never engage, are not likely the people who will buy your product or be passionate about your brand. The important prospects are one that engage. The best workers are engaged workers. So, ask your employees for suggestions on how to accomplish a task or to fix the problem.
- Empower. Social media has given the power to everyone, young and old, to say what they think in a large forum. Yes, some people get carried away with that (I’m looking at you, Mr. Troll), but people feel now, more than ever, that they have a voice. With social media it’s a good practice to answer people who engage with you. Give your employees a voice. Allow them to speak out in a constructive way and in a way they feel they are being heard. Let them feel comfortable coming to you with a problem – and for heaven’s sake don’t get angry – even if they tell you the problem is you.
- Support. Social media gives people a platform that’s easy to use. Give your employees the tools – and permission – to do what’s needed. Do what you can to make take away friction from their tasks, so they can be more productive. Don’t hassle them over small purchases if it helps them do their job more easily and better. In the long run it’s cheaper to buy a new laptop then to have an employee take twice as long to complete a project because of computer issues.
- Reward. When someone follows your page or provides a positive review, thank them. It doesn’t cost anything, but it shows your followers you’re listening. Give employees something – even if it’s just heartfelt praise – when they do good work. It’s true talk IS cheap. Sometimes a small perk can mean a lot to an employee and it costs you nothing. Take Nina Hale: The Minneapolis-based digital marketing company recently granted employees “Fur-ternity” leave so they could work from home for a week after getting a new pet. Cost = $0; Worth = Priceless.
Use social media marketing best practices when you deal with employees and your employees will feel good about your company: they will fell valued and empowered. When they feel valued and empowered, they’ll be better engaged. When they feel engaged, they will go the extra mile for you, and they are far less likely to quit.
So, if you’re a company focused on an outstanding customer experience and great customer service, why should you treat your employees any different?
I better go check on the dog.