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12 manager mistakes that kill team performance and morale

Whether they're in charge of a whole organisation or just one team, managers and other business leaders have a lot of responsibilities to juggle. And a whole host of skills to master. Many self-taught. So, if you're a current or would-be manager looking to fill some gaps in your understanding, keep reading to find out what common mistakes you can avoid as a manager.

Recognising your mistakes as a manager is the first step

Amid gruelling schedules, extra duties and pressures, it can be easy for managers to commit mistakes that have a negative influence on their people. The wrong sort of approach or attitude can kill engagement, depress performance, cause wellbeing issues, and lead to employees walking out the door for good.

If you spot yourself doing any of these, don’t panic. Grab a copy of our manager's guide to being a better manager at the end of this article. You'll get practical tips on how you can start to improve your own management style today.

  1. Failing to provide frequent feedback is a common manager mistake
  2. Not listening to employee feedback
  3. Bad managers spoon-feed solutions - big mistake!
  4. Micro-managing is a big manager mistake
  5. Being too hands-off is as bad as being too hands on
  6. An easy mistake is not building trust between manager and employee
  7. Forgetting to view employees as people
  8. Managing through power or ego
  9. Not taking responsibility
  10. Ignoring problems until they escalate
  11. Asking things of your employees that you don't expect of yourself
  12. Getting involved in social politics and picking favourites

1. Failing to provide frequent feedback is a common manager mistake

For employees, constructive feedback is the backbone of their personal development. But one of the most common mistakes a manager can make is failing to deliver feedback in a timely manner is going to seriously hamper their ability to improve.

If you've been making do with an annual performance review, then you need to seriously consider implementing more regular forms of feedback between reviews, such as an employee check-in and scheduled 1:1s to work in tandem.

2. Not listening to employee feedback

Failing to listen to employees is a clear sign of a bad manager, and one that your staff are liable to pick up on quickly. Feedback processes aren't just for telling staff members how to do their jobs better. They're also for monitoring employee sentiment and wellbeing, as well as identifying problems with workplace culture and obstacles to performance.

You could be missing out on vital cues that impact performance, and even your own effectiveness and career growth. It also erodes or squashes trust: one of the most valuable commodities any manager can possess. Would you put your faith in someone who doesn’t have time to listen to your ideas and opinions?

So, the next time you check in with your employees, ask questions about their experience, ideas and opinions.

3. Bad managers spoon-feed solutions - big mistake!

Good managers don’t serve everything to their employees on plates. Instead, great managers help develop and fine-tune employee skills in a way that they can resolve the trickiest of situations on their own.

A common manager mistake is telling their team how to do something, rather than giving them to tools and time to figure it out for themselves.

This habit of spoon-feeding solutions prevents employees from doing all the hard work of seeking the best solution themselves. If you always help employees with the solutions, you aren't allowing your people to put their thinking caps on and take ownership of the problem at hand.

4. Micro-managing is a big manager mistake

There's nothing wrong with wanting your employees to do a good job. But it's important to make sure you're not breathing down the backs of their necks while they do it.

One of the biggest contributors to workplace stress is a lack of control over how you do your work. Of course, as a manager, sometimes it's your job to make sure the projects that you hand out are on track to do what they're supposed to.

But if you're constantly demanding progress updates and vetoing the decisions of your employees, that frustration is going to build up. Of all the common mistakes by managers on this list, micromanagement is one of the quickest ways around to tank employee morale.

Intrusive observations, manipulations and exhaustive communication send a clear message to employees that managers do not back their capabilities, which can make them feel defeated, paranoid, and unappreciated. No employee can develop their skills when managers do not show complete faith in their teams and people.

5. Being too hands-off is as bad as being too hands on

If you're trying to avoid micromanaging, just make sure that you don't course-correct too hard. While it's great to give employees room to make the sorts of decisions their jobs should entail, don't forget that they're still looking to you for direction.

It's not uncommon for employees to be unclear on some aspect of their responsibilities, especially if they're new to the role. So, as their boss, it's your responsibility to set clear expectations on each project you assign, and to make yourself accessible to your team in case they need guidance.

6. An easy mistake is not building trust between manager and employee

If you're the kind of manager who can't help but view their relationship with their employees as adversarial, then you're doomed to work against yourself.

Managers should make sure their employees are engaging with their roles and working hard, but you're not their prison warden.

Not being able to trust your employees makes your job infinitely harder, as you have no ability to delegate reliably. And remember, trust (or a lack thereof) goes both ways. So, if you never give your team even an inch of trust, you can expect them to respond in kind.

7. Forgetting to view employees as people

While a company's bottom line is important, managers who struggle to see anything else can cause a lot of issues in the workplace.

It would be nice if forgetting that employees are people wasn't one of the more common mistakes that a manager can make, but it's often one of the major driving forces behind burnout and turnover.

Not treating your employees like people means that you'll inevitably fail to protect their wellbeing.

Whether that's allowing a culture of presenteeism to flourish, dismissing physical or mental health concerns, or not taking your team's financial wellbeing into consideration when determining raises, this is the kind of behaviour that needs to be curbed if you want to decrease staff attrition.

8. Managing through power or ego

When managers put themselves on a pedestal as the source for all the answers and best ideas it destroys morale and turns people against you. That's because we all have some level of selfishness residing within us. But too much focus on our own pride and ego in a team atmosphere influences our decisions, usually to a bad ending. This is one of the biggest mistakes that a manager can make.

"If we're focused inwardly on our pride and own brilliance... we become preoccupied with what we want and the things we think we need to protect us or to advance our personal agendas," writes Walt Rakowich, author of Transfluence: How to Lead With Transformative Influence in Today's Climates of Change.

9. Not taking responsibility

A good manager shares in both the successes and failures of their employees. But it's the second part of that which some bosses seem to struggle with. It's down to you to assign the right people to the right projects, and to intervene if someone is struggling.

Sometimes, things will be down to a chance mistake by one employee, but just as often, there are ways that bosses could have managed their teams more effectively. One of the more common mistakes made by managers is to react to negative situations by assigning blame. But employees often follow the lead of their managers, so if you never take responsibility when things go wrong, don't expect them to, either.

10. Ignoring problems until they escalate

While it can often be due to the hectic nature of managing a large number of employees, this entry on our list of common mistakes made by managers is still a problem that needs to be addressed.

Being able to react promptly to problems in your workplace requires effective communication and high level of awareness about employee sentiment and engagement.

This is another reason why it's important to check in with your staff regularly, and why this issue is likely to be much more prevalent in companies that still rely on annual performance reviews.

11. Asking things of your employees that you don't expect of yourself

"Do as I say, and not as I do" might roll off the tongue well, but it's a terrible management philosophy.

Employees are very good at picking up on workplace double standards, which we'll be talking about more in our next point.

Sometimes, we need to ask employees to go the extra mile. Just how receptive they'll be to that depends almost entirely on your rapport as a manager. If you're the kind of manager who demands their team works overtime while personally stepping out at 5:30 on the dot, then it's going to really impact morale.

But if you model the kind of behaviour you want to see, then employees are much more likely to follow suit.

12. Getting involved in social politics and picking favourites

Getting to know your employees is vital, and it definitely helps if you can have a laugh with them. And, of course, you're always going to naturally get on with some people more than others.

But as a manager, past a certain point, you need to be above it all, no matter how juicy the gossip is. As we've said, employees tend to be keenly aware of double standards in the workplace.

This is why workplace transparency is so important, because if your employees get so much as a whiff of preferential treatment, their engagement is going to crash and burn.

How to learn from your mistakes to become a better manager

If you spot yourself making any of these mistakes as a people manager, don’t panic. Reflect on why you might be doing these things. And read our blog on the key things great managers do. But quite a few of these points are often the result of breakdowns in communication and feedback. Use that as your starting point.

This article is taken from our latest best practice guide: How to be a better manager for your people. Get your free download below 👇