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Am I a bad manager? 10 signs that your leadership style needs to improve.

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

Reading Time: 5 minutes

If you ask just about anyone, chances are they’ll have at least one story about an awful manager. You’ve probably got one in mind right now I bet!

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, make their people feel safe and trusted, 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, and 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 surefire 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. But while losing some employees is unavoidable, a lot of staff suddenly, or continually, leaving the 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, so make sure to check in with them on a regular basis to help reduce turnover and if things do come to an end, run the all-important exit interview to learn where things have gone wrong. 

2: You can’t stop micromanaging

As important as it is for businesses to check in with their employees, it’s always possible to have too much of a good thing. While due in no small part to the global outbreak of COVID-19, it’s definitely more difficult to breathe down an employee’s neck in 2020, the virtual equivalent can be just as much of an issue

It’s hard to expect your team to have short turnaround times on projects if they’re constantly getting pencilled into video stand-ups and fielding messages asking for updates. Not only is micromanaging your employees a huge distraction, it also communicates a certain level of distrust that makes it harder for them to really 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 about a lot more than just critiquing your employees. Regular feedback should go both ways, and 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, and can seriously limit the amount of discretionary effort they’re willing to give. Favouritism makes it very difficult 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, you need to 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, 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, and 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

“Do as I say, not as I do” 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.

But beyond simple double standards, the fact is that when you want to implement any major workplace change, it needs to happen from the top down. Whether it’s opening up about mental health, or reducing the business’s carbon footprint, 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 a boss who can still serve a customer, schmooze a client, or perform surgery on an impacted bowel or whatever. But you need to be able to let your employees handle that side of things, or they’ll 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.

For more information on managing employee engagement, we recommend visiting the Weekly10 blog.

Empower your people to request development opportunities with frequent, light-touch workplace feedback.

Head of People Science