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10 Signs That You're a Bad Supervisor

written by: •edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 8/26/2011

Learn to recognize the warning signs and identify what makes a bad supervisor so you can avoid these career traps. Companies want to hire leaders who motivate others, exhibit high moral standards, deliver results and accept responsibility for their actions as well as those of their teams.

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    Left Behind

    Fired stamp 

    Do you wonder why others in your organization are promoted to better paying, more challenging positions while you are continually passed over? If you find yourself in this position, it is time to do a self-analysis. Are you suffering from some or all of the symptoms of being a bad supervisor or in danger of being fired?

    If there are too many valid complaints about your leadership style or if you are not producing measurable results, you will be perceived as a bad manager.

    Good managers complete projects on time, delegate authority appropriately and groom their team members for promotional opportunities. The best way to insure your next promotion is to help someone achieve a higher level in his or her own career. Make sure that your job performance is a good reflection on your immediate superior's performance if you want to move up in your organization.

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    Control Freaks and Blame Shifters

    Good supervisors understand how to motivate their teams with positive reinforcement and recognition, while bad ones resort to threats or intimidation. Watch for warnings signs such as using anger to manipulate your subordinates or bullying them verbally either publically or privately. The use of aggression or derision is a red flag that warns of a power-hungry, ruthless individual who is concerned only about his or her own job status.

    Bad supervisors display a lack of respect for their employees by disciplining or humiliating them in front of others. Good managers support their team members publically even when they are in the wrong, and then handle any feedback or corrective measure in private.

    Poor leaders may even try to shift blame to their team members to avoid accepting the responsibility for their mistakes and failures. These behaviors not only destroy team spirit but they signal upper management of one's unsuitability for promotion.

    A good example of this is President Obama’s recent performance during the debt debates. He not only refused to step up and assume his leadership role in the debt debacle; he blamed, criticized and reprimanded (publically) his fellow politicians.

    The debt debate was followed by another drop in his approval ratings, which according to the Rasmussen Daily Presidential Tracking Poll of August 23, 2011 shows that only "... 19% of the nation's voters strongly approve of the way Barack Obama is performing his role as president." A Gallup poll for the weekly averages of the period of August 15th to 21st of 2011 shows 40 percent of those polled approved his job performance, 53 percent disapproved, and 7 percent had no opinion.

    How about you? How would your team rate your job performance if given the chance?

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    Dishonesty

    Lying, cheating, and other unethical acts identify the poor manager. These corrupt managers pressure their employees to cover up their mistakes and refuse to be held accountable for their actions, which leads to a lack of morale and respect on the part of their staff. Good leaders accept responsibility for all the results that happen on their watch whether they are positive or negative, which is an approach that encourages respect and trust from their subordinates.

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    Closed Minds

    Poor managers are not open to other’s ideas and creativity and may even boast of a management style that is based on “my way or the highway." They are arrogant and insist that their way is the only way to handle a project or task.

    In many cases, they have never actually had to perform the job or task, which makes their attitude unacceptable to their team. However, good managers know how to tap into the resources of their team members and understand that someone else’s answer may be the key to unlocking the best solution.

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    Communication Issues

    Bad managers either can’t or won’t communicate effectively, and this is usually because they refuse to listen to another individual’s point of view. An employee may approach them with a valid concern or problem but the response is indifference or disdain. Effective leaders practice active listening and exhibit good communication skills.

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    Glory Hogs

    If you finding yourself taking credit for other’s ideas and achievements, face the facts. You’re a poor leader. Nothing crushes a team's spirits faster than pulling together to complete a project on time and on budget than to have the manager hog the limelight and claim the credit. Good managers know that promoting the team’s efforts is the smartest way to advertise their own accomplishments.

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    Where's Your Staff Going?

    Are most or all of your team members asking to be transferred to other departments or company locations? Even worse, is your company losing skilled employees who choose to look for another job because of your poor managerial style?

    While there are bound to be some personality conflicts and differences of opinions in any group of individuals, a high rate of transfers from your departments are clues that a change in leadership style (think yours) is needed.

    Another facet of this leadership flaw is this managerial type's propensity to hire in their own image. Poor hiring decisions combined with weak, inefficient leadership skills are a recipe for disaster.

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    Pretenders

    This is the most dangerous type of poor manager because he or she has learned how to camouflage his or her weaknesses. They are able to portray a veneer of competence and expertise, but they never produce any measurable results.Their leadership path is marred by missed deadlines, unfocused employees, budget overruns and shortfalls and general chaos. Left to their own devices, their careers typically self-implode and the corporation is left with the task of trying to put the pieces of their team or department back on track.

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    Selective Blindness

    Many poor managers do not have a clue that they are such inefficient leaders. They can quickly pounce on characters flaws and weaknesses in their team members but are selectively blind to their own shortcomings.

    A classic example of this is the manager whose superior calls him or her into the office to be fired for poor performance. Typically, the individual is dumbstruck because he or she did not realize how bad their managerial style was. However, an even sadder scenario is the one mentioned previously where the individual never progresses any further up the corporation ladder because of his or her lack of leadership skills.

    Good supervisors avoid this trap by welcoming and encouraging feedback from their team. They listen to constructive comments with an open mind and then choose to accept or reject the opinions based on their previous history and success.

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    Reactionary Reflexes

    Poor managers are like firemen because they run around all day putting out fires. These crisis managers bounce from situation to situation making knee-jerks decisions that may or may not resolve the crisis and could, in fact, exacerbate them. Because their time and energy is invested in reacting to problems, they have none left for planning, directing or motivating their team or for implementing proactive measures to prevent future issues.

    While these individuals are poor bosses, they are not as bad as the manager who is never available to handle a customer complaint or a manufacturing setback. They are content to allow others to take the heat or try to resolve the problem and quick to assign blame when a situation disintegrates into a disaster.

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    The best way to transition from a bad manager to a great manager is by identifying your areas of weakness and disciplining yourself to conquer them one by one. For instance, is dealing with anger in an appropriate manner a challenge for you? Learn to master it and you improve yourself as well as your managerial style.

    Study the life and leadership skills of great leaders like Mary Kay Ash or Ronald Reagan. Emulate their techniques to establish good habits to replace the poor ones that are holding you back and impacting your success.

References

  • McGarvey, Robert, "The Adams Principle," Entrepreneur, http://www.entrepreneur.com/magazine/entrepreneur/1997/september/14544.html
  • Lagace, Martha, "Beware the Bad Leader," Harvard Business School Archive, http://hbswk.hbs.edu/archive/4390.html
  • Galllup Poll, Presidential Approval Ratings, http://www.gallup.com/poll/116479/barack-obama-presidential-job-approval.aspx
  • Image: Fired stamp by saliko under public domain
  • Rasmussen Reports, Daily Presidental Tracking Poll, http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/obama_administration/daily_presidential_tracking_poll