OK, that was a trick. No one was going to click on an article titled 12 reasons your employees hate you. Call it bait and switch, regardless you need to read this article. Why? Because, just like you think you are a great driver, you think you are a great manager, you think your employees love you, they don’t. In my experience less than 15% of managers are good managers and less than 5% are great managers.
Until you get regular feedback that sounds like this:
<Insert your name here> was inspiring to me as a manager, and that’s not a small thing for me to say. The way he conducted himself, the way he cared for his people, the way he represented our team. He is completely genuine and transparent. He is the first manager I have worked for that at the end of the day made me say “I’d like to be as effective as he is, I’d like to be a great manager too.”
— you are not a great manager and even if you do you still need to bust your ass to be a better manager. Here are the 12 complaints I most often get about current or previous managers:
1. You are a micromanager. One of the hardest things to develop as a manager is a sense of “good enough”. One time I had a manager make me call back an email to change a few words. Yes his version of the email was slightly better but his action completely demoralized me. Going forward I started to question every action, should I ask my manger before doing x or y. Truth is my email was good enough and he should have saved the company time, money, and motivation by simply letting it go and then used his feedback as a coaching opportunity.
2. You do not respect diversity. I am not talking about race, sex, age, religion, sexual orientation, et al, if you don’t have a diverse team on these axis then you are simply hurting your performance. I am talking about diversity of style. This is WAY harder to develop. The typical forms of diversity have been practiced and developed for years so we notice when we are being irrational. In terms of style, we all think we are awesome and the way we do things is the only way to get it done. As a result not only do we not respect diversity of style we look down on alternative styles with disdain. At Microsoft people are actually proud of this disdain, its called “flipping the bit” which is code for sticking your fingers in your ears and saying “nah, nah, nah, I can’t hear you”. If you want to be a kick ass manager then you better start not only having respect for diversity of style but genuinely loving people for that very diversity.
3. You rarely laugh at the office. I got the greatest compliment of my career a few years ago. A partner was looking for me and my leadership team and the person they asked said, just walk down the hall and listen for the laughter. This is a hall mark of great teams, they laugh their asses off. You are with your team more than your kids, if you are not laughing work sucks.
4. You take yourself too seriously. ugh, god another manager with a fragile ego. This is miserable. You cannot coach them, you cannot tease them, you cannot do anything except say yes sir. If you are not letting a little self-deprecating humor fly on a regular basis, you take yourself too seriously. Boring…
5. You lack transparency. This is probably the most common complaint about managers I hear from employees, they just do not know what their managers are thinking. It sounds like, they play their cards close to the vest. This is not a good thing, its BS. If you think you are going to be the next great leader by being Machiavellian then you are stuck in the 80s. Millennials want a seat at the table, they want to understand the basis of the decisions even if they cannot affect the decision. They do not want to waste time reading between the lines.
6. You are a robot. Many managers come from the philosophy of familiarity breeds contempt and therefor keep their life private, show zero emotion and never show weakness. This is a Sun Tzu Art of War approach to management. God stop it. That book is about how you beat your enemies not your friends. It works equally well for both however, and in the end, you will have no lack of enemies and no friends to help defend against all the barbarians at your gate. Show empathy, compassion, show your human side. You have weaknesses, fears, hopes and dreams, let your team know. Human’s are comforting and people know a human will have their best interest at heart. Robots will ruthlessly cut them at a moments notice.
7. You have no interest in your team members lives. Another common fault is managers who think discussions about kids, hobbies, and life are just a waste of time. You know the type, they just want to get down to business and stop chit chatting… Sigh, this simply crushes me to hear. As I said above, we spend more time with our teams than we do our kids, making team members as important to our happiness and success as our families. I want to know how you met your partner, and your eldest is a soccer star, and your youngest has autism, and you have a fear of heights. I want to hear about your remodel, your backed up toilet, your broken down car. These are all conversations where we are going to bond and form a basis of relatedness. This is how we build a foundation of trust and without trust we are going to fail.
8. You play favorites. Not as in you have a core group of top performers you rely on more than others, as in you have team members you clearly like more than others. Everyone on the team, and I literally mean EVERYONE, has to KNOW that you genuinely love them as a person and you would do anything to help them succeed. You have to love who they are and want that exact person to be on your team. Team members who know that will walk on hot coals to help the team succeed.
9. You are emotionally inconsistent. You are the leader. In the halls the leader NEVER has a down day, ever. You have to be the energizer bunny exuding life in the halls to everyone you encounter. Even if it is a bad day you have to bring energy to your work. Its about being irrepressible, passionate, driven. No one wants to follow Eeyore they want to follow Yukon Cornelius!
10. You have no vision. So many managers lack vision. No vision for the team, no vision for peoples careers, no vision for themselves. I wrote a post on How to Tell If Someone Kicks Ass where I list qualities that demonstrate leadership and vision. People with follow a person with vision:
- a person with an opinion
- a person who has data backing their opinion
- a person who communicates that opinion so that everyone can understand
11. You have no respect for work / life balance. Another manager I once had sent out a great article about work life balance and then the next day, literally the next day, had me working on vacation. Seriously, this was so important I had to work on vacation? Not one day, but two. If your team is in such dire straights you must have people work on vacation to keep it from falling apart then you are in trouble and you better examine if you are the manager you think you are… Above all else, respect work / life balance without it, every employee will quit over time. That is not to say we don’t all put in long hours, its just to say people have an outside life, don’t chastise them for it. The old saying goes, no one dies saying I wish I had worked more.
12. You are closed minded. “I have made up my mind and we are going to stick to that decision.” Remember that manager, the one that made a decision but when confronted with new material facts refused to change course for fear of being wishy washy. This is being closed minded. You don’t want yes men, you want critical thinkers who help you find the best solution to the problem at hand even if the answer is painful to hear. Listen to the feet on the ground, they know more than you could possible imagine and that information will make you successful.
Sadly, the people who most needed this article stopped reading in the first paragraph. Don’t be that manager! Ruthlessly evaluate your behavior in these areas everyday. Call yourself on even the smallest infraction and find a way to improve. Greatness was only achieved through dedication and practice and that includes becoming a great manager.