There’s an old saying in HR: “People quit managers, not companies.” The idea is that poor relationships with managers are a leading cause of employees quitting their jobs – after all, people spend lots of time with their managers, often in close quarters. Managers have more influence than anyone else over how the employee feels about his/her job, team and company.
So chances are, if you’re looking for a new job, your manager might be partly to blame. In fairness, it’s tough to be a manager. Especially if you’re conscientious about it, it can be time consuming and difficult to create structure for other people, supervise their work, coach them on how to improve, and constantly communicate the shifting priorities and explain the team’s changing role within the larger organization.
But if you’ve had it up to here with your manager and are looking for a new job to help you escape, chances are some of these behaviors will look familiar to you:
• Insecure: This bad manager wants to keep all the credit, glory and pay raises for herself; she doesn't want anyone smarter than her to steal her spotlight. Watch out for temper flares when things don’t go well – this manager is eager to steal credit and deflect blame (which is the exact opposite of what a good manager should do). When times are good, she’s trying to use her team’s good results to her own advantage; when things go wrong, she’s looking for someone else to take the bullet. She’s so worried about herself that she overlooks the best interest of her team – and sometimes the company as a whole.
• Inflexible: Unwilling to change with the times or roll with the punches, this manager clings to outdated ways and refuses to acknowledge more efficient methods of working. If you try to share new ideas with him, he replies with boilerplate from the company handbook as to why this is not acceptable. He’s a stickler for “by the books” processes and watching the clock – woe to the employee who stays 15 minutes too late while on a lunch break.
• Demotivating: This bad manager lacks emotional intelligence. He undercuts his employees' confidence with tactless remarks; he’s brusque and blustery and seems to enjoy pointing out people’s shortcomings and “areas to improve” rather than praising people for work well done. You might get along well with this manager if you deliver constant excellent results, but don’t expect a lot of kind gestures – and he’ll expect you to do even better next month.
• Remote: You never know where he is. His office is often empty, as he’s always travelling or meeting clients for long lunches. You rarely get to talk to him on a daily basis or work side-by-side; instead this manager maintains a chilly distance and never delivers feedback or offers guidance until annual performance review time (when it's too late to change anything).
• Disorganized: Her cluttered desk is a sign, not of creative genius, but of a constant state of indecision. She cannot set priorities and is constantly sending her team to put out fires that should have been anticipated and dealt with long ago. She might be personally engaging and fun, but her lack of organizational skills is constantly threatening the team with disaster.
These are all extreme examples, of course – most managers aren’t like this, and even the worst ones rarely exhibit all of these signs. But it’s worth asking yourself – if you’re looking for a new job, is it because of your manager? And if you’re a manager, do any of these signs sound familiar?
Ben Gran is a freelance writer based in Des Moines, Iowa. He is an award-winning blogger who loves to write about careers and the future of work.
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