It takes a genuine and honest individual to be an encouraging and effective manager. Sadly, few managers have what it takes to carry this great responsibility forward.
I’ve worked under a lot of people over the years. I’ve had managers, editors, supervisors, publishers, whatever you want to call them – people with experience managing other people – and I can honestly count on my fingers how many of those people were truly fit for the position. As such, I learned to identify the traits of a poor manager and a good manager, so, from own experience, I’ll try to break it all down into four different pillars that could hopefully help others identify whether they are in a healthy work environment or a toxic one.
1. Distrusting One’s Own Team
I’ve seen this a lot, and experienced it on my own back. A manager who lacks the knowledge and experience in their own field will micro-manage a team of fully-capable, experienced and knowledgeable employees because they will refuse to admit their own shortcomings to themselves. This kind of dangerous ego often causes problems for everyone else, as issues that would otherwise be easily handled by willing, skilled employees end up spiraling out of control. There’s a difference between not giving an inexperienced employee free reign, and not trusting well-trained employees with even the smallest task.
What a good boss would do: Both teach and learn at the same time. Teach those who are struggling and need guidance, but also learn from those with lots of experience and respect their opinion for what it’s worth. Put own ego aside.
2. Teaching Dishonesty & Unethical Habits
This one’s one of the worst and really gets under my skin, because it turns good people into unprofessional and toxic individuals, thanks to one person’s example of poor leadership. A manager who encourages lying to people; to customers, to other employees, even in one’s own personal life; for the sake of protecting the company’s reputation or their own, or even saving a few bucks. This is a whole other topic in itself, and how it happens every day all around us, so for now I’ll keep it within the spectrum of this discussion. Being dishonest is only part of it, as a poor manager also allows for unethical behavior in the workplace; notably disrespect for others, which just as easily devolves into unchecked racism, sexism and general discourse in the workplace.
What a good boss would do: Recognize bad habits and behaviors among subordinates and air them out through discussion, education and, if needed, disciplinary action. Encourage respect for others above all else and embrace the responsibility of providing healthy examples for all to follow.
3. Having Zero Gratitude for Others
Saying thank you and recognizing other people’s efforts isn’t a written rule, nor can it really be taught. It has to come from within. Unfortunately, that instinct isn’t built into everyone. Regardless of what someone will do, or how hard they’ll work, their blood and sweat goes unrewarded and unnoticed by their manager. Not a single “thanks for staying late working on this”, or a “good job on that project” over and over starts to wear on people, leading to depression and general unhappiness.
What a good boss would do: Shows his/her appreciation for their team’s collective work and effort on a regular basis by at least acknowledging it. Occasionally takes his/her team out to lunch or dinner, or even some beers as a token of gratitude. After all, a good boss never trespasses on good faith.
4. Ignoring Feedback from Own Team
Let’s face it; no one really likes going to their boss to complain about something their own boss is doing. We all make mistakes though, and managers are no exception. Being a good manager is not only about leading, but also about listening.
In this case though, poor managers will actively ignore all feedback from their subordinates, even react aggressively towards their complainant with threats of dismissal or other kind of punishment. This kind of ego-driven mentality breeds fear among other employees; fear of being reprimanded or judged; it breeds insecurity and distrust, and no one will come forward again, even with the most serious matter.
What a good boss would do: Actively has discussions about their management style and what they can change in their modus operandi. When provided with feedback, even if negative, managers will try to adapt as much as possible to make not only their work environment better and safer, but for those working under them as well.
At the end of the day, all four pillars converge to make up a single work environment. It’s something I bring up quite a bit in my blog, because it’s so important. No one wants to work for someone who is ignorant of their feelings, their work, who is dishonest and disrespectful, who builds a breeding ground of fear, hatred, division and dissolution.
Recognizing these pillars in our own workplace is the first step in accepting that we all need a safe, encouraging and positive work environment.