I recently wrote an article The Dysfunctional Manager – Part One, in which I helped you to diagnose week managerial links. So here’s part two, my thoughts on how to deal with them!
It may be that you need to use the performance management system to challenge their style. It’s helpful if you have some form of statement that defines the style of management in the organisation – a description of management competencies and style that describes what good management looks like in terms of respect, engagement and consultation with colleagues. If you are heading down the outplacement route, you will need to show categorically that they failed to meet the expected standards of a manager and it may be a long battle. You will need the strenuous commitment of senior leaders to follow through but it is worth parting company with this type of manager for the good of your colleagues.
At the very least, the managers’ boss needs to use some form of evidence from the work floor to guide and direct this employee. Best of all, if the employee recognises that his or her performance is dependent on producing a highly engaged, high performing team and that personal schmoozing or positioning will not compensate for failing to do that. You might seek a coach that is willing to have the tough conversation along these lines:
… A theme that emerges is that people see you as self-oriented and not team-oriented. What specifically do you do to enable such a view of you to emerge? … How does this fit with what directors and boards are looking for in the next level of management? … How would you prefer to be viewed and what can you do to achieve that?
Using colleague opinion in promotion boards helps. Most people are reasonable and not revengeful.
It may also help to counsel the most senior managers to be aware of the engagement levels of this manager’s team (if they are not) and to be conscious to not encourage “climbing” behaviour. I once supported a CEO saying to a director: “I judge a manager by the quality of their team, not by how they present their own brilliance. Part of my job is to be aware of any disparity between how people self-present and the reality on the ground.” This refocused the manager in question immediately.
When faced with such a person, you have to ask honestly “is this rectifiable or is this a recruitment/promotion mistake that is unlikely to be resolved with support and development?” If your honest answer is “mistake”, you have to act quickly to redeploy or move them on. It’s not fair that an employer should affect the working lives of team members by supporting an under-performer with little hope of recovery.
If you think the situation is rectifiable, it must start with an honest conversation about development needs. The person should be in no doubt as to how their performance is regarded. Then a structured and supervised development programme starting with the high-impact items can be put in place. It can mix self-development with external support. It works well to anchor this in an Improvement Action Plan that needs to be reviewed against evidence of practice periodically.
Some aspects that require attention are: What is driving this behaviour? Is it anxiety that the team is not likely to perform? Is the anxiety well founded and, if so, what is the manager doing about this? Is it a style they have inherited from a previous context that doesn’t fit around here? Is it an aspect of their neuroticism? Retraining – either through participation in a course or through coaching can be successful if the manager can adopt a full understanding of
the adverse impact of their micro-managing behaviour
situational leadership and
a well-formed delegation routine.
As we can see, problem managers are indeed a problem. They are hard to rectify and it is not always possible to develop them out of negative behaviours. However, you will find it invaluable to be able to base conversations on well-collected feedback, coupled with clear guidance on what is and is not acceptable in terms of relating to colleagues. Google has a “no jerks” policy. More colourfully, you could adopt what Dr Robert Sutton of Stanford University calls A No Asshole Policy in a book of the same name. One of the greatest services we can do to a business and to our colleagues is to help refuse entry or otherwise sort out these individuals when we see them. It will certainly be life-enhancing and it could be life-saving!