7 Habits of a Bad Manager

by Dwayne Kilbourne on July 5, 2012

Being a manager can be a tough task. In many cases, managers are charged with the responsibility of the actions of a number of employees. Every one of these employees has his or her differing work ethic, knowledge set, educational level, background history, cultural upbringing, learning style, and personality. Managers have to multitask and make things happen. But, not all managers are created equally. Some are amazingly awesome while others simply suck! Here are a few habits of bad managers that you should definitely avoid:

Lack of People Skills

First and foremost, a manager has to be able to properly and effectively communicate with his or her subordinates.  In the case of bad managers, you tend to find people who simply communicate without [first] thinking. Sure, that person is the manager, but he or she can’t just talk down to the employees just because he or she is the top dog or because it’s “my way or the highway!” That sort of thing only demotivates the employees; we all know how that leads to decreased productivity and disloyal employees. A manager’s people skills can go a long way towards determining his or her success within the organization. No matter if you are a front line manager or the CEO, you have to be able to show respect for your employees – they tie their shoes the same way you tie yours. There will be times when the employees mess up, and a good manager finds a good way of speaking with that employee. That does not mean that you have to be soft, but it does mean that you have to find the right way to approach the employee and have a civil conversation about things. Show your humanity, actively listen to the employees concerns, and admit when you are wrong! Speaking about communication, managers need to find the appropriate time to speak with individual employees if they have concerns. Demoralizing and yelling at an employee in front of their peers are really not the way to conduct business.

Lead By Example

This concept appears to be a rarity these days! Yikes!  I see so many managers just bark out demands to their employees while concurrently practicing opposing conduct. When you are a manager, your actions speak so much louder than your words. Good managers do not mind getting their hands dirty and will work right with their employees. Remember… this is a team game, so everybody has to be a team player Leading by example can will help motivate employees when times are tough and challenging. But, if your conduct and actions contradicts your words, watch out, for the employees will have little or no patience before shutting down and looking for work elsewhere.

bad managers are not team players

Lack of Reason & Common Sense

Being reasonable is not required in the workforce, but it is important if you actually plan to accomplish something. It is okay and normal to ask your employees to multi-task and use common sense, but managers need to be reasonable in their requests. It is okay to have stretch goals, but they have to be realistic. If they are borderline, the manager should have some additional information or reason to back up the claims and expectations. While this expectation of a manager seems to be straight-forward, there are some people who merely just don’t get it.

Unreasonable Expectations

Going along with the previous habit, specific expectations need to be reasonable! If the organization is brand new into the marketplace, the organization cannot expect it to be the industry leader within one month. Sure, that is remotely possible, but the likelihood is minimal. Similarly, a manager has to be reasonable in his or her expectations in the workplace. If he or she asks an employee to stop working on the current project and help him or her out in a different area, that employee can only be in one place at one time, so it should be expected that the original project would be delayed or that the employee would need additional hours to complete the first task. Sometimes, you will see a manager pull an employee away from a project to do something else only to later yell at the employee for not completing the first task as originally required. A reasonable manager notes when he or she pulls an employee away from one task to reassign him or her to another task. If the original assignment is very important and approaching the deadline, maybe that manager puts give the employee some extra hours later to ensure that its deadline is maintained… or the manager might even add more employees to that original project in order to help get it done on time! Either way, the manager understands the concept of opportunity cost and leads accordingly.

Micromanaging Employees

Have you ever heard of empowering your staff? Or are you a major control freak? Well, snap out of it! It is funny when the manager gets annoyed at employees for bothering him or her with questions on decisions and approval requests throughout each day yet wants to be part of each decision. The manager cannot have it both ways; either you empower and delegate or you rule with an iron fist, looking for total control at every turn. And, just in case you did not know, the latter option is usually not the best choice! I could lecture about this topic forever, but I will refer you to the basic rules of common sense!

Lack of Consistency

A good or great manager treats his or her employees fairly. He or she does not select favors nor provide preferential treatment to some. Using such a method only divides the department or organization, and that rarely is a good thing. Also, the way in which a manager approaches various situations should be relatively consistent too.  If a manager’s decisions are all over the place and are completely illogical and unorganized, the employees will be on pins and needles as they attempt to figure out the direction and expectations of their manager. Switching things up from time to time is great, but it usually should not be the norm.

Inability to Share Appropriate Blame or Praise

It is all about sharing. As a manager in many different roles, I found myself getting praise for my team’s great work, and I always did my best to go out of my way to let the people giving us praise know that it was a team job and that I would relay their appreciate on their behalf! I then did my best to go to each team member to


So, there you have it – seven habits of a bad manager. I’m certain that there are many other bad habits that could be listed. Which habit do you see exhibited most prevalently by subpar managers? Which habit did I fail to list that needs to be mentioned?

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  • ConnorMarc

    So often the list is the other way around. This list helps to identify what NOT to do. Good one!

  • dwaynekilbourne

    I appreciate your compliment. You are right in that so many will write from the other perspective; for me, I do my best to show all sides when possible.

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