Most managers have achieved their positions by coming up “through the ranks.” They were chosen for promotion, typically, because their supervisors recognized them for their high energy, their ability to solve problems, and their “can-do” attitudes.
Unfortunately, however, none of those qualities – important as they are – are guarantees that they will be very good at supervising other people. In fact, when an employee becomes a manager, he/she is likely to make a number of serious mistakes. Here are the ten most common:
1. Being too authoritarian. Power can go to a manager’s head, and he/she can become over-bearing and domineering. Some managers relish the idea of being “boss,” and become strict and over-controlling. Their dictatorial style quickly leads to their being feared and disliked. Since the employees cannot openly defy the manager’s orders, staff members will tend to react to them passive-aggressively, having “perfectly good reasons” for not doing as the boss wants.
2. Being too undemanding. Fearful of not having their authority respected, some managers hesitate to ask their employees to do what they’re supposed to, and fail to require them to perform up to snuff. Ultimately, this style of supervision leads to poorly run operations, lowered staff morale, and a sense among employees that “anything goes.” Rather than require a high level of performance, such managers accept poorly executed operations and, ironically, lose the respect so badly wanted.
3. Being too fearful of being disliked. We all, to some degree, want to be liked and accepted. When managers have too strong a dose of this need, they may hesitate to give undesirable assignments to staff members for fear that they will not like them or will become angry. This often results in managers assigning themselves the least desirable tasks in an attempt to avoid garnering negative feelings from employees. Managers with this trait usually end up blaming themselves for their work unit’s poor performance; depression often follows, sometimes leading to total burnout.
4. Being friendlier to some employees than to others. Like all humans, managers find themselves feeling closer to some employees than to others. Unsurprisingly, they tend to have lunch with them often and spend more time with them – resulting in other employees feeling left out and believing that their manager plays favorites. This management style breeds resentment in the other employees and an unwillingness to give maximum effort to the job. This style will also tend to produce conflicts within the staffs, between those who are “ins” and those who are “outs.”
5. Focusing on doing, rather than leading. Because managers are people who were good in their previous positions, e.g., direct animal care, they want to keep on doing that job: it’s always satisfying to do things at which you know you are good. Often, the underlying problem is that managers realize that they don’t know a whole lot about managing other people, and so, keep doing the much-enjoyed technical work and neglect their managerial responsibilities.
6. Failing to delegate. By definition, a manager is someone who gets things done through others. Because most managers are superior workers, they know that if they take on specific tasks themselves, they will get them done quickly and to their own high standards. They also know that if they delegate them to an employee, they will need to take time to train that employee, and the task will probably not be performed up to their level of excellence. But by failing to take the time to delegate and train others, managers end up doing various tasks long-term, and feel overburdened.
7. Failing to reprimand. Reprimanding an improperly behaving employee is probably the managerial function most dreaded by managers. After all, who wants to be seen as the policeman, watching others and enforcing prescribed behavior? Yet, when employees violate rules, such as by showing up late for work or failing to follow the required laboratory safety procedures, they must be reprimanded. Failure to do so is seen as condoning the improper behavior. Other employees may feel, “If Jim can get away with that, why shouldn’t I?” This results in a general laxness and poor discipline. The manager is also apt to experience a loss of respect, for allowing an employee to “get away with” breaking an organization rule.
8. Neglecting employees’ motivation. Having been strongly energetic, self-motivated workers themselves, many managers assume that others are similarly motivated. Of course, that just isn’t so, and managers must continually strive to improve their employees’ motivation so that the employees become more involved with their work and feel really good about doing it. This means coming to understand what motivates each employee to do his or her best. Without strong motivation, employees may become apathetic and just go through the motions.
9. Setting a poor example. Managers must understand that their behaviors and attitudes will be emulated by their employees. If they tend to ignore rules, e.g., by over-extending their breaks or not strictly following the dress code, they are practically inviting their employees to do the same. Managers must be aware that their behavior is very closely observed by their employees, and sets the standards for the organization’s general work ethic. The culture of any organization is founded on the model provided by the manager; how managers behave will be imitated by their employees.
10. Failing to exercise true leadership. Managers must be true leaders. This means taking the time to get to know each of their employees, training them to perform better, motivating them to love their jobs, and setting a great example of hard work and personal integrity. It also means showing loyalty to the organization, applauding extra efforts, and rewarding useful innovation.
Moving from being a worker to being a manager is not easy, and not all who are promoted will be successful in their new roles. But, by being aware of these common mistakes, managers can hope to avoid them and greatly increase the odds of their being successful in their managerial careers.
About the author: Besides his clinical work and university teaching, Dr. Martin Seidenfeld provides consulting to organizations on management issues and on managing organizational stress. www.docmartyseminars.com.