Why Managers Suck

I think one of the biggest problems in today’s world is managers. Yet everyone out there wants to be a manager. Everyone thinks they can do a better job (and probably can in some cases) than their manager. In a few studies done of why people choose to leave a company, not liking their manager has consistently ranked as the top reason why people leave. This has to beg the question: If managers are so important, why don’t companies actually do something about it?

I have to admit that I wish I knew why, because it’s a huge problem. I know it’s a problem because in my last two jobs my managers were the biggest reason I either left, or wanted to leave. So let’s review a couple of common errors businesses make in their managers.

  1. A manager role is viewed as a right of passage. You’re good at your job, so let’s put you in charge of other people that do that same job. The biggest problem with this is that they stop doing what they were good at and fail at the managing part.
  2. Managers have to report to the people above them. That’s where their promotion came from, that’s who decides their bonus. That’s where their loyalty is. Unfortunately, because this is the mentality, most managers make the terrible mistake of treating the employees under them as mere pawns and objects, not as people. They are more worried about pleasing the top than they are about managing the people correctly below them. Ironically, they would actually please the top more if they were to manage better, but we’ll get to that.
  3. Managers confuse implementing the ideas from the top with the ability to exercise power and authority over those below them. Managers should manage, not dictate. Sadly, we hardly see that these days.
  4. Managers sometimes believe “I got here because I’m good and that makes me smarter than you.” Listen up, no matter how smart you are, you aren’t the smartest. Besides, it’s not about being the smartest, or having power, it’s about getting your team to perform the best it can.
  5. Companies hardly get to hear the problems from beneath the manager. Hierarchy levels prevent a good feedback loop from occurring. I say, if my manager gets to evaluate my performance, why can’t I evaluate my manager’s? I think it would help a ton.

With all this being said, we must ask ourselves, what can companies do, or I do as a manager.

As a Company

  1. Face the hard facts, most managers are not good managers.
  2. Provide training for your managers and teach them how to be an effective manager.
  3. Create larger feedback loops to understand how managers actually do their managing.
  4. Make time to talk to managers about their employees, if you listen carefully you can tell if a manager actually cares or not.
  5. Make good management a priority and expect it from your employees.

As a Manager

  1. Face the hard facts, you probably aren’t that good of a manager.
  2. Read books and seek to improve. Books like Leadership and Self-deception: getting out of the box, are great books to help you understand how to think as a manager.
  3. Humble yourself and learn that being a manager isn’t about receiving praise, get off your high horse and stop being a pain.
  4. Talk to the employees under you, see what they think, ask for feedback and here’s a novel concept, actually listen and thank them for their feedback!
  5. Learn that it is your job to help your employees be successful. Stop going off to all these meetings and doing a whole bunch of stuff. The more time you spend not helping or working with your employees, the worse they will be.

These are just some simple ideas I’ve had this morning. There are many more. I just hope that someone out there will learn, we can always improve.

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Author:Gareth Borcherds

I once was in heavy debt, in a crappy job, and not very happy with life. I came up with a plan to get out of debt, improve my life, and make sure I am happy. I've done that, now I want to share what I've done with others.

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  • http://shoxty.com Will

    I love this article. I recently got placed in more of a “manager” role where I work so a lot of the things you talked about really rang true to me. Thanks for all the great thoughts.

  • Anonymous

    Glad you liked it :)

  • http://shoxty.com Will

    Oh and as a shameless plug for my site because its related to this article, if you have any really terrible manager/boss stories we are giving away 3 copies of “The Office” season 6 to the top 3 best stories. Theres only 3 days left in the contest and we haven’t had very many entries so your chances of winning are pretty good. http://thereelplace.com/news/78

  • http://www.dustingtaylor.com/ Dustin Taylor

    I think the “Peter Principle” applies to most managers… it basically says, “in a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to their level of incompetence.”


    This should probably be a post in and of itself, but it’s true… why do we promote people out of the job that they’re doing SO WELL. People are promoted until they don’t do as well as before so, therefore, they cannot be promoted further. Interesting concepts… :)

  • Barrythegreat

    1. The Peter Principle (that people are promoted to their level of incompetence) is unfortunately very much operative in most companies. Rare is the individual who demotes themselves because they realize they are more valuable to company where they were than where they are.
    2. Great article in WSJ last week or so about how employees climb the corporate ladder because they are nice to fellow employees and don’t try to exert power, but once the top dog, they forget what got them there.

  • John

    This is so true. Luckily I finally have a good manager that will help train me, and accepts feedback.

  • Inside_outside50

    I agree, a lot of managers are not great
    at their job. However a lot of their workers
    are not great either. If you are always blaming your boss
    for your troubles at work maybe you
    also need to look in the mirror and ask
    yourself why bosses treat you poorly.

  • Don

    Hey so good, summarized so succinctly. I have been around in the workplace for 30 years and in most cases managers always end up acting like managers – that is ‘bad managers’. I don’t think it is a fact that only employees recognize this. I worked for someone at one time and had numerous of this type of discussions. In the end, he recognized all this, but, as he put it, ‘ he didn’t want to do the long laborious hours and effort it would take to get somewhere in the long haul’. Looking for the short cut to wealth and success. Although this might seems like poor rational in reality it wasn’t according to him. If he hit the jackpot with lets say, ‘short cutting’, that’s what I want. If I have to work too hard at success, ‘then it’s not worth it to me’ he says. Managers often are like this with lots of ‘big speak’ and ‘salesmanship’ that’s how they got to be managers, and their bosses are looking for the same thing, that’s how the system propagates itself – in general. Fast results are the order of the day. When panic hits, forget the rules, managers act like managers who act like people in general.

  • Aman

    Two years ago my manager was my peer and did my training when I joined the organisation back then. He used to not do a lot of things and often said no to management if something was not do able in short span of time. The moment he became manager he started expecting me to do all that which he used to not do when he was my peer.

  • Aman

    My manager always blame me, for him I am always responsible for anything bad that happened.

    If someone else need something from me as per my manager it is my responsibility to reply back to them and that too within a day and they should not have to send me an follow up email even if I am swamped with work. Also if I need something from other person, even in that case it is my responsibility, and if that person do not reply then I am expected to follow up with him.

  • Aman

    I guess managers do not like to get feedback from their employees even though thy know that they are not doing correct to their employees. As per them doing that will make employees under them not take them seriously.

    99% of the managers suck and those 1% are gems and I would really like to work under them or be like them some day. One think all managers needs to learn is that mistakes are part of our life and instead of blaming people we should be focusing on solutions to the problems.