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Bad Management: The Poison that Kills a Team

November 12, 2010

By: Carletta Clyatt

Ok, so no one needs to read yet another article on the price paid when a manager hires someone who’s wrong for a job -- we all know the devastating effects. But how about one that addresses what is a less discussed but perhaps even more important question? 

What happens when it’s the big boss...the manager who’s unfit? 

According to a Monster poll, a staggering 70% of workers think they have a “toxic boss.”  And the ripple effects are extensive!

When the person in charge is a horrible manager, team morale suffers while company production and income plummet. If a very large group of subordinates is involved, there may be scores of miserable workers functioning on autopilot, commiserating, or threatening to leave in masse. And it can be even worse for small departments where angry underlings may feel so powerless they simply suffer in silence or mask their growing unhappiness with frequent illnesses and absences. 

Unfortunately, bad managers can come deceivingly packaged as good ones. They may display what look like desirable traits -- a friendly disposition, authoritative stance, accommodating attitude and desire to succeed -- but none of these ensure management strategies that will be beneficial to a specific team. 

Some of the seemingly most ideal managers can do the most harm. 

4 Mistakes Every Bad Manager Makes:

  • Treats every worker the same way
  • Focuses on weaknesses
  • Micromanages
  • Fails to fit the right person to the right job 


Treats Every Worker the Same Way

One of the most common mistakes bad managers make is to neither recognize nor capitalize on the unique differences of each employee. They consciously paint everyone with the same wide brush (perhaps thinking this is the equitable thing to do) and all but eliminate any chance for personalities to set themselves apart and bring their individual talents to the team. Most employees who are all treated the same way eventually start feeling unappreciated, misunderstood and overlooked. 

For example, more assertive employees will jump at the chance to assume additional responsibilities or exercise their power. They need managers willing to quickly assign extra duties and develop any potential leadership skills. Passive workers, on the other hand, prefer to stay in the background. A manager who adds assignments more gradually and takes the upper hand will keep these more prudent workers on board. 

Recognizing different traits and different needs, then managing them correctly, is key. 

Focuses on Weaknesses

Bad managers dwell on what a worker can’t do instead of what he or she can do. They also talk brazenly about how they’d like to change people. The problem is they never bother to uncover what it is that really motivates an individual, and miss out on opportunities to benefit from innate talent and specific strengths. 

For example, rather than growing frustrated with a worker who takes her time and prefers routine, good managers will use this person for repetitive tasks or those that are tedious. Chatty employees enjoy talking to people; good managers appreciate their social skills and routinely funnel client relations roles or telemarketing calls their way. 

When good managers uncover someone’s natural assets, they can more readily devise opportunities to help the person increase these skills. 

Because one of the primary responsibilities of managers is to motivate and develop staff, offer them extensive training on how to better understand human behaviors. Make sure the person who’s in charge of any size staff can be flexible enough to share at least some common ground with every member of the team. 


Most workers are happiest if allowed to have at least some say in determining their own path when it comes to accomplishing objectives. They’ll want a varying amount of oversight from the boss, depending on their specific level of self-confidence and individual desire to take some calculated risks.

Good managers explain the ground rules to everyone then decide which workers might want extra guidance and which don’t. Self-directing team members need chances to devise their own methods, improvise, and learn from their mistakes. The worst actions a manager can take are to hover over them, tether them to stringent rules and become a constant presence in their day. Of course a general agreement on goals is in order, as well as an adherence to check points for feedback, but close scrutiny of everyday actions and responses can make good, self-sustaining subordinates feel their manager doesn’t trust them. 

More cautious workers will want extra feedback from and interaction with their boss. Functioning as a resource and giving advice when asked can boost lower levels of confidence. Provide clear instructions, backup and reassurance that you know they can do the job. Monitor progress and provide input, but don’t do so to an excess. Keep in mind that even the most fearful, self-doubting worker needs some room in which to breathe! 

Consider rewarding managers who develop the abilities of others to perform on their own and meet personal goals.  

Fails to Fit the Right Person to the Right Job

Any worker mistakenly placed in an ill-suited role will struggle, fail to meet expectations and, sooner or later, likely seek employment elsewhere. Good managers know the personalities of their team members and place each one in a role designed to play into their innate talents and interests. They set them up for success, instead of for failure. 

Not everyone can function in high-stress situations. Not everyone can lead. And not everyone can withstand others’ critiques or nasty remarks. 

Be sure the workers hired to be collectors exhibit the levels of assertiveness, tenacity and resilience that job requires. Your behind-the-scenes researchers, on the other hand, probably need an analytical mind, penchant for details, and, perhaps, the ability to work alone for extended periods of time.

There are also environmental conditions to consider before promoting an employee or hiring someone new. Is the person you have in mind for the job apt to fit in with the existing team? Might there be generational issues to address? A more mature worker, for example, could have trouble taking direction from someone young enough to be a grandchild. And eager new graduates may expect fast promotions, immediate answers or big rewards for their efforts.


Knowing who’s right for a job limits the risk of mutual misunderstandings, arguments, disappointments and regrets. 

Today, the typical workplace employs a wide range of individuals who are not only from various generations but also of different perspectives, cultures, backgrounds and economic levels. With such an eclectic collection of sometimes conflicting personalities, it’s more important than ever that managers know how to correctly read people, trigger hot buttons and adapt to changing needs.

Are all the managers on your team fit to do the job?

Carletta Clyatt

Carletta Clyatt, a popular seminar speaker, is the SVP at The Omnia Group. She offers clients advice on how to manage more effectively and gain insight into employee strengths, weaknesses and behaviors. For more information about employee behavioral assessments, call Carletta at 813-280-3026 or email:

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