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Destructive management behaviors

Steve Jobs pointed to what I believe is at the core of a good manager. A good manager works to position his team to do something wonderful. Something wonderful that taps into employees’ sense of purpose. Something wonderful that builds business success by reinforcing the company’s purpose, vision, direction.

It takes a selfless kind of management. It’s so simple it’s easily overlooked, over-analyzed, refuted. Enable and engage employees and their hearts, minds, and talents to do good for them, and in turn do good for the company.

Unfortunately, there are destructive, unexamined management behaviors and beliefs that interrupt doing something wonderful. Here are 12 destructive examples. In italics are reactions to or perceptions of these behaviors, beliefs shared with me by employees.

1. Treating people like replaceable cogs “She doesn’t have time to get to know her employees.” A manager once told me that he didn’t care if employees left. He could find and train another person easily. To him employees were widely-available, unspecialized cogs in his “factory.” People came and went. He spent a lot of time training, retraining, complaining, stressing. Wonderful and sense of purpose is not possible in this kind of work environment.

2. Self-serving agenda “My manager’s needs are more important than the company’s or the teams.” Power in business will always exist. It has it’s place, but not when it undermines what’s good for the company, even employees. Self-serving agendas place the manager’s needs above others and the business. It destroys trust. It depletes workplace optimism. It limits success. No wonderful here.

3. Avoiding giving feedback “Inappropriate behavior is okay. He thinks we don’t need to hear good news.” Feedback has negative associations for many managers and employees. Consequently employees go without feedback to improve performance. Or they go on without hearing praise and recognition. Mediocrity settles in. What’s at stake: loss of unity; confusion in expectations; muddied purpose.

4. Not making time for coaching “I don’t have time to coach employees.” Translation: I’m too busy with projects and other demands. Developing my employees to contribute at higher levels is not important. My meeting-marathon is more important. I can’t prioritize meetings and coach my people.

5. Avoiding conflict “It’s okay to undermine quality relationships by letting my fear of conflict matter more than people.” Workplace conflict can be difficult to handle. Letting it go unresolved, though, will chip away at team effectiveness. It lets dysfunctional behaviors poison teams and relationships.

6. Sitting on employees’ ideas “My ideas don’t matter.” Employees involved in the daily operations of a company have invaluable insights into what’s working and not working with a company’s operations, products, or services. When a manager chooses to NOT share employee ideas with decision makers, they limit success, growth. Furthermore, they risk entrenching command-and-control leadership philosophies. This is the antithesis of “doing something wonderful.”

7. Short-term thinking “Management is not interested in the consequences of today’s decisions.” Not all decisions need to keep in mind long-term impacts. Yet a decision like laying off employees is too often made with short-term mindsets. Overhead expenses may decrease, but quality, customer service, morale are hammered. The trade-offs can be more damaging.

8. Settling “We just need to do what is expected.” Want to deflate meaning? Purpose? Want to create an uninspired work environment? Want to reinforce order taking? Managers who don’t share differing viewpoints or challenge making uninformed decisions are settling for mediocrity. Combine this destructive action with sitting on employee ideas and toxicity in the workplace becomes a real possibility.

9. Out of touch with employees “He has no clue what what’s going on with us.” I recall an executive making a statement that his employees have saved money for these hard times. It was in a conversation about low employee morale and cutbacks. Stunned, his senior managers left wondering how he was informing other executives about the team’s performance and needs. Managers out of touch with employees’ realities risk turning bad into worse or good into bad.

10. Allowing meeting marathons “Meaningful work? What’s that?” When managers don’t intervene with employees’ back-to-back meetings, they give up the right to question why work time lines slip. Similarly, they give up the right to question why work quality is down. Employees can only work so much overtime before flaming out. Flaming out and doing wonderful work is not sustainable.

11. Cynicism “Everything has been done already.” Do you want to be bitter or better? Managers who let their cynicism on life, people, and business poison teams. It’s a selfish behavior that places a lid on performance. Meaningful work is hardly possible working for a manager who can’t manage his own cynicism.

12. Lacking Humility “He’s climbing the corporate ladder. We’re a rung on the ladder.” Teams are critical for any department or business to succeed. No rocket science in that statement. A manager who sees his team as a means to moving up the ladder removes joy from work. He destroys trust making it impossible to do something wonderful.

We will always have managers who make their role about their goals. It’s a choice that limits growth. It limits possibility. In these complex times where traditional approaches to management and leadership are no longer enough, new ways are emerging. And as it should.

It doesn’t matter if you made management about your goals. You can always chose to help make something wonderful. You can always chose to tap into your employees’ sense of purpose. You can chose to redefine what success looks like that enables and engages employees and their hearts, minds, and talents.

Originally published at on June 11, 2012.

Written by

Marketing contrarian with over 15 years of developing leading edge and award winning digital marketing initiatives.

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