5 steps to dealing with a bad manager

28 / 08 / 18

Our last blog discussed the types of bad managers we have all undoubtedly encountered so far in our careers and the catastrophic impact this can have on morale, motivation, sickness rates, staff turnover rates and productivity. The following blog aims to discuss how, as an employer, you can go about preventing and resolving such relationships issues.

Talent acquisition

As a business grows, the need to recruit new talent will arise and there are some alarming stats which state that 82 percent of companies don’t believe they recruit highly talented people. For those companies which do, only 7 percent think they can keep it. More alarmingly, only 23 percent of managers and senior executives active on talent-related topics believe their current acquisition and retention strategies will work.

Rather than having to work towards finding a remedy for a bad manager, be it a ‘climber’, a ‘bully’, a ‘micromanager’ or a ‘dysfunctional manager’, it makes sense to ensure you’re recruiting the right person from the outset. Therefore, ensuring you’re hiring the right talent is imperative. Just think of all the work, upset and money you’ll save yourself in the long-run.

So how do you do this? Bringing in the perfect candidate to fill a role in your company is not an easy task. Potential hires that look good on paper do not always guarantee the right fit:

1. Job analysis

Why have you decided to hire and what duties does this person need to undertake within the specified role? Ensure you undertake a full job analysis and as a result, are able to construct a detailed job description and person specification.

2. Advertising

Are your ideal candidates actively searching for new roles and challenges? If they are, are using specific job sites, recruitment agencies or social media platforms such as LinkedIn? If they are not, it may be necessary to headhunt in this case, which is the best social media platform to use LinkedIn or Facebook? Whichever route you choose, make sure it’s the right path for the type of person you’re targeting.

Wherever you are advertising make sure the job description and person spec is spot on and if you’re using a recruitment agency, ensure you brief them fully.

3. Structured interview process

Please don’t just wing this……It’s such a crucial element of the recruitment process! Follow a clear set of guidelines throughout the interview process. For example, Google uses the same set of questions for each candidate interviewing for the same role to avoid treating candidates differently or letting their own opinions cloud the process.

Ensure the questions asked are well-planned and remember that they will help you to separate desirable candidates from average candidates.

4 Behavioural alignment with company values and culture

When interviewing candidates, drill down to understand their ‘why’ as this will give you an insight into their values to check alignment with those of the Company. Also, make sure you include some questions about preferred working environments and preferred ways of working and communicating to see how well their culture fits the Company culture.

5. Do some detective work

Review your candidates application and credentials. Make sure you complete ‘background checks’ including references and even an exploration of social media. If you use social media to check a candidate’s suitability, make sure they are made aware beforehand that applying for a job with your company may involve your doing this as part of the recruitment procedures.

6 Job & candidate profiling

Sometimes on paper a candidate’s skills and knowledge are perfectly aligned with the role being applied for, but if you want to know if their personality is suited to a particular set of circumstances e.g. lone working or how well the candidate will fit into the existing team, then psychometric assessments are useful tools. Make sure that all candidates being psychometrically assessed receive feedback from a qualified person.

6. Work ethic vs skills

When it comes down to choosing between someone with a good work ethic versus the right skill set, the most successful businesses go for the former. Of course, a perfect mix of the two is ideal, especially when recruiting a manager, however, when it comes to finding the right candidate, attitude is a better gauge than the right skill sets. Technical know-how can be imparted, but a good work ethic is an innate quality that can’t easily be taught.

Talent retention

One way to ensure you are retaining your best employees and those managers who are a true asset to your company, is to create the best culture possible. After all, superior talent is up to eight times more productive. And if you want to keep your best employees, ensure they don’t simply feel like an overhead - They should be made to feel secure.

They should understand how their role fits into the overall goals and aims of your business and make sure you allow them to feed into this strategy- be open and listen to new ideas. Create an open and honest work environment and ensure an effective communication process is in place – After all, it’s all about communication. Give feedback on work performed and be willing to listen, really listen, to the concerns of your employees as well as being available when your employees ask for guidance.

Ensure your employees are able to learn and grow and you have an effective learning and development programme in place, no matter how big or small the business. Let your employees know there is room for advancement in your company.

You need to continually reward and recognise good work - Monetary bonuses are always nice, but recognition of doing a job well goes a very long way to creating loyalty, mutual respect and good will - Everyone needs to feel respected and appreciated, those who don’t will quickly begin the search for new employment. They need to see the ‘bigger picture’ and feel that their contributions to the business are important and this recognition needs to be entirely sincere.

The above section has gone some way into discussing how to avoid hiring a bad manager and ensuring you retain your talent and now we will go on to talk about how, if you do already have a bad manager in place, you can go about effectively managing their negative behaviour.

Conflict resolution

Do you have a manager overseeing a team who is having issues with their employees? Are you being pulled into conflict for example or are valuable members of the team continually off sick and/or looking for alternative employment?

Whichever situation you find yourself in, it’s not ideal and so it’s time for you to get involved. And, it may be that you can’t do this alone. If you’re in a large organisation, you will undoubtedly have HR resource at your disposal. However, if you’re heading-up a smaller organisation, you may need to engage with a third party to act as mediator if you’re not entirely comfortable taking on this role or if it’s not appropriate that you take on this role due to the severity of the conflict etc.

Before you do anything, you need to fully understand the source of the conflict and the more information you have on this, the more easily you can help to resolve it. Essentially you will need to interview each of the ‘injured’ parties and build a full picture. Of course you will need both parties to give their account of the incident/ongoing issue whilst demonstrating your impartiality.

It’s important to look beyond the incident, as more often than not, it’s the perspective on the incident which causes anger to fester. The source of the conflict might be a minor problem that occurred months before, but the level of stress has grown to the point where the two parties have begun attacking each other personally instead of addressing the real problem.

The next step is to get each party to identify how the situation could be changed. Make sure you question the parties to solicit their ideas to ensure they feel involved in the process. You can then highlight the merits of each of the ideas for both parties and the business itself.

Finally comes the agreement from each party that the conflict will end as well as the steps they will take to re-build their working relationship and ensure such conflict doesn’t happen again in the future.

It’s important to note that a mediation process and conflict resolution process works well with both groups and individuals and works particularly when considering ‘bullies’, ‘micromanagers’ and ‘climbers’.

Learning and development

Some managers just aren’t natural leaders and it may be that they never will be. However, there are those managers who just haven’t had the support they require to actually be an effective manager. So, for ‘dysfunctional managers’, ‘micromanagers’ and even ‘climbers’, you can take steps to helping them become an asset to your business in terms of their style of management.

It could be that the manager in question has never undertaken a leadership position before and they just don’t have the understanding of how they can be an effective manager and the positive impact this will have on their employees, the performance of their department and as a consequence, on the business overall.

Coaching, education and personal development are key to realising this and without offering this opportunity, you may just be missing a trick. You could transform these managers into strong and effective leaders.

Many new managers have been promoted because they’ve been successful in their roles as individual contributors, not necessarily because they’ve demonstrated the ability to manage others. Give them the opportunity to ask for help, for feedback, for training, and give them the freedom to fail. When managers do those things, their teams will see them as leaders they want to follow, because they’re focused on the good of the team, the organisation, and the community.

Performance management

If all else fails, it could be that you have to take more drastic action. There will always be situations whereby the manager in question is not the correct fit for your organisation or they have overstepped the mark one too many times. This is most often the case where ‘bullies’ are concerned, but of course, can encompass all types of managers.

Managing performance should be an ongoing process. It doesn’t just ‘happen’ once or twice a year at appraisal meetings. Both the employee and employer should ensure they are communicating effectively with one another consistently on both an informal basis and a formal basis, such as 1-2-1’s or department meetings for example.

If a business has concerns about a manager (or any other employee for that matter) then it shouldn’t come as a shock to them because these concerns would have been raised to them on previous ocasions as part of the performance management process. And, this may have included conflict management and/or learning and development to try and improve the situation.

However, if all else has failed and every avenue has been explored in terms of trying to resolve and improve the situation, then you may be left with only one potential option – to initiate the formal performance management procedure, which may lead to the manager's dismissal on the grounds of capability.

Some employers avoid the use of process and instead just make life difficult for an employee, in the hope that they will get the message and leave. This is a risky approach given the potential for a constructive dismissal claim and the vast majority of HR professionals would seek to dissuade the employer from such actions.

Document everything. It is very important a proper trail is created to document all performance issues, both positive and negative. It’s also imperative that you follow the correct process and document this also. Given today's propensity to litigate, you want to make sure a disgruntled former employee cannot distract your business from its path to success. In other words, it’s vital that you strike a balance between supporting the needs of the business as well as managing potential legal and reputation risks.

Each of the areas tackled in this blog, including talent acquisition, talent retention, learning and development, conflict resolution and performance management, basically sum up the job of the HR Practitioner….And, we have only touched on each area in conjunction with how to manage the situation of a bad manager.

We could in fact, write for days on each of these areas. We also appreciate that because of the scope of each of these areas and potential legal risks, you may well need the support of an external HR resource, which is where we can help. So, if you feel you need HR support in this area, please do contact us on 01453 297557 or send an email to enquiries@peepshr.co.uk


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