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Am I a bad manager? 10 signs your leadership style needs some work

Updated 5/3/2022

If you ask just about anyone, chances are they'll have at least one story about an awful manager. In fact, we'd bet good money you probably have someone in mind right now.

Effective leadership is key in any successful business. As Simon Sinek puts it, 'Good leaders are as vital as good parents.'

Leaders should offer opportunities and make their people feel safe and trusted. They should provide space to grow, mentoring employees through their development and where needed provide discipline.  

Great leaders drive strong employee engagement, exceptional performance and solid workplace wellbeing from the top down. So, a lack of quality leadership can be a killer for business success. 

But, are you a great manager? Or, are you a bad manager? 

Identifying your own flaws can be difficult, especially if you're new to leadership positions. So if you've been asking yourself, "Am I a bad manager, or is this just imposter syndrome?" then here are 10 sure-fire signs you should look out for.

1: You can't keep turnover down

"A person doesn't leave a job, they leave a manager," or so the oft-spoken saying goes.

It's obvious but true. If you're looking at a room full of empty desks and wondering where everyone is, then the question of, "Am I a bad manager?" quite likely answers itself. A TotalJobs survey of UK employees found that roughly half had left jobs due to their managers. 

High turnover can have a lot of different causes, including other entries on this list. Losing some employees is unavoidable. But maybe you've had a lot of staff quit suddenly, or continually. Employees leaving your business usually means issues have been going unaddressed for too long.

You can't know what's bothering your staff if you don't communicate. Make sure to check in with them on a regular basis to help reduce turnover. If things still come to an end, run the all-important exit interview to learn where you've gone wrong. 

2: You can't stop micromanaging

Of course it's vital for businesses to check in with their employees. But it's always possible to have too much of a good thing. The global outbreak of COVID-19, has definitely made it more difficult to breathe down an employee's neck in 2020. But even so, the virtual equivalent can be just as much of an issue

You may expect your team to have short turnaround times on projects. But if they're constantly getting pencilled into video stand-ups and fielding messages asking for updates, that expectation isn't realistic. Micromanaging your employees a huge distraction. But it also communicates a certain level of distrust. This makes it less likely that employees will give you their best work.

Am I a bad manager or is it just imposter syndrome?

3:  You don't facilitate two-way feedback

Check-ins and performance reviews can really help an employee to develop. But they're also about a lot more than just critiquing your employees. Regular feedback should go both ways. Employees should be able to sit down with their managers to discuss any issues they have with leadership.

At the end of the day, the only people you can really ask, "Am I a bad manager?" and get an informed answer are the people you manage.

4: You lack consistency

Employees need to be able to rely on their managers. But that's hard for them to do if your standards are all over the place. Whether it's your communication, how you treat your staff, or how you carry out your responsibilities, it matters. At best, inconsistent management puts employees on edge, as they'll struggle to know what to expect. At worst, it can muddle the sense of transparency and create concerns of favouritism.

5: You play favourites

There's nothing wrong with liking the people you work with. In fact, it's pretty much the ideal state. But as a manager, it's important to separate personal preference from professional decision-making. Do certain people always seem to get the most interesting assignments or get first pick at booking time off?

Preferential treatment can be devastating for the engagement of your other employees. Unabashed favouritism can seriously limit the amount of discretionary effort people are willing to give. It makes it much harder to build an inclusive workplace, which isn't great for social wellbeing in your organisation. If you want to get the most out of your team, then go out of your way to make everyone feel valued.

6: You don't care about employee wellbeing

If you're genuinely asking yourself, "Am I a bad manager?" then it's probably fair to say you care about your employees at least a bit. As their manager, you have a duty of care to your staff. Workplace stress can be difficult to deal with, even with a supportive boss asking the right questions. So imagine how much worse that is for your staff if you're actively disregarding their physical health or ignoring their poor mental wellbeing. According to the CIPD, focusing on employee wellbeing can increase resilience. It can also reduce the number of sick days taken, and boost productivity.

Am I a bad manager? Probably not but check out this article to be sure.

7: You aren't flexible

To be a good manager, you have to be able to adapt to the challenges of the workplace. That often means putting your employees in a position to be able to adapt as well. Continuing on from our point about wellbeing, a good manager should be able to support the needs of their staff.

If an employee has a medical or mental health appointment, it's important to allow them to work around that. In fact, a truly committed manager should also provide any other support they need.

As you might have guessed, this also means accommodating flexible work arrangements for your staff where possible. It's fair to say remote work is definitely the big one at the moment. But flexible work arrangements seem to be getting more popular with employees by the day.

8: You don't lead by example

Embodying the "do as I say, not as I do" mentality is a sure-fire way of losing the respect of your staff. If you're constantly expecting people to stay late, but you always clock out by five on the dot, then employees are going to notice.

Double standards aside, the fact is that any significant workplace change needs to happen from the top down. That change could be opening up about mental health, or reducing the business's carbon footprint. In any case, managers need to take an active role to get everyone on-board.

9: You struggle to delegate

"Am I a bad manager" might be a bit of a strong question here. Many people get promoted to a management position after performing well in a specific role. And it can be a difficult mindset to get out of. But management positions tend to come with a broadening of responsibility.

Of course, everyone appreciates managers who can still serve customers, schmooze clients, or perform surgery on an impacted bowel. But you still generally need to be able to let your employees handle that side of things. If you're constantly doing their jobs for them, employees will start to feel like you don't trust them.

10: You don't encourage your employees

Here's another simple one to end on. If your employees don't seem to be giving you their best work, it's worth considering whether you're offering enough encouragement. After all, the right words can be worth more than gold. Literally, managerial praise is often more effective than financial incentives at boosting employee engagement.

Especially when it comes to your more ambitious team members, supporting their personal goals can go a long way. Offering guidance and helping them to develop their skills shows that you care about their career development.

Download a free copy of our 'Becoming a Better Manager' guide to supercharge your manager skills today.