Managers Decoded-Part 2

So we were talking about managers. Last week we discussed a manager who had a positive influence on the employees.(Please read it here,if you haven’t) This time let’s talk about the traits of a few managers who are on the other side of the spectrum who in one way or other were just bosses and not real leaders. Most of the time what happens is that people who get promoted to the level of managers may not have the right competencies for the position. The main reason for that is what we know as the Peter’s principle. In simple words it is an observation that in an organizational hierarchy, every employee will rise or get promoted to his or her level of incompetence. They might be high performers in the current role, but may not have the right skills for the higher positions. It may not necessarily because that the position requires more difficult skills, but it just because skills required are different. A very common example given by Lawrence J Peter himself is that of a high performing engineer moved to the role of a manager which needs entirely different skill set. A large number of managers we come across may be “victims” of this organizational phenomenon and hence we can’t completely blame them.

Take the example of this particular manager. He moved into management role from a purely senior technical role and he was undoubtedly the best technical resource the company ever had. But his team members had a real tough time with him as the manager. He never shared the knowledge with his team and always remained aloof from them. The team members always used to be hesitant to approach him for any solution as what he used to do was to solve the problem himself and not explaining the same to person who approached, making him/her feel inferior. Probably, he was scared to share his knowledge as he found it as his source of power. The result of this was so bad for the team as after one point, the team members even stopped looking for solutions and things went out of control.

Now look at another case. This manager never let his team mates talk or share their opinions. He would ask team mates for ideas and the moment they start talking he would interrupt, saying that it would not work even before hearing it properly. He would always have his own ideas and would want the team to do things as per them. ’My way or high way’!!This worked for him for some time when he was managing a group of youngsters fresh out of college and a few handful of interns. As he was given more experienced people to manage, you can imagine what could have happened. Most of his team left the organization in the first year itself!

Here is another one. This guy was handling a very critical project with a team of highly dedicated and hardworking individuals. He was always a very high performer and a highly knowledgeable person. Because of the nature of the project, most of time his team had to work extended hours every single day and most of the weekends too which his team members were willing to do too. But this manager was very strict on the in timings. How much ever late his team worked the previous night he wanted all of them to be present in the office early in the morning at the start of the official work hour. And it was not that the company had such a work culture, in fact flexi timings were highly prevalent in the company. This approach took a toll on his team and most of them were worn out soon. More over their motivation to work for extended hours reduced as they felt that it was a one sided flexibility.

This list can go on and on as you know; the credit taker, the biased ones, yelling ones, the privacy intruder.. you just name it. Now you must be thinking that I wrote just one story of a good manager and an endless list of the ones on the other side. Well, this was not intentional, just that more often we hear stories of managers being the villains rather than what they actually should be. And more important that, the impact a bad manager can have on employees and business as a whole can be humungous. Check out this video from to see the startling numbers about bad managers. It says

  • 3 out 4 Americans say that their boss is the most stressful part of their job
  • 44% of workers that they have been verbally, emotionally or physically abused by their bosses.
  • 31% say that their boss doesn’t appreciate them. (I felt 31 % is less for this category, isn’t it?)
  • Bad working relationships with managers cost the American Economy approximately a whopping 360 Billion dollars each year.
  • It takes 22 months for people to get back to normal stress levels after having a terrible boss. Adding to this number, another study from says workers who have bad relationships with managers are 30% more likely to get coronary heart diseases!!(Now, that’s something you need to worry about now if you have a bad boss!!)
  • com also says that 65% employees take a new boss over a pay raise.
  • A study by Gall up reveals that 60% of employees working for the U.S. federal government are miserable — not because of low pay, poor workplace benefits, or insufficient vacation days — but because they have bad bosses

So why is it so that bad managers outnumber the good ones? One important reason for this is as I mentioned in the beginning of the post is how managers are picked up to their positions. Gallup finds that companies fail to choose the candidate with the right talent for the job 82% of the time. Organizations need to have a well-defined process for identifying the right talent with managerial potential. And this should not be based on seniority or the performance in the current role or how s/he maintains relationships with senior management etc. It’s definitely not an easy job to be on the seat of a manager. You are answerable to many people, you are responsible for many people and you would be playing with numbers and this would get tougher and tougher as we go up the ladder.

It is really motivating for someone to be promoted into a managerial role, but it may be overwhelming too. Organizations need to ensure that they equip their managers with the right support system to perform their roles in the best possible way. This is where the role of HR comes into the picture in this context-identifying the right people with potential and developing them to be future leaders of the organization. Management development programs (MDP)/Leadership Development Programs (LDP) and succession planning can have a huge strategic impact on organizations. HR needs to develop the competency framework for each managerial role and ensure that there are right trainings in place to help individuals to be better managers. As the custodian of the human capital of the organization, this is the responsibility of HR.It may be true that employees leave managers and not the companies. But next time before pointing fingers at your managers for attrition, have an internal analysis to check if you have the right mix of systems and processes in place to develop and support the managers in your organization!


The Ardent HR

Cartoon Courtesy : Mark Anderson



  • You write well and have made good points. I think the last line sums it up well. “But next time before pointing fingers at your managers for attrition, have an internal analysis to check if you have the right mix of systems and processes in place to develop and support the managers in your organization!”

    Looking forward to more…..,


    Thank you Vivek for dropping by and for the kind words.Looking forward to learning from you too.

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