Business Bites: The impact of poor management Part 1

Nick Walsh FBDO
ABDO sector skills development officer

Workers today expect to be treated with respect and honesty

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel,” Maya Angelou

How do you describe a good manager? How do you describe a poor manager?

In her article, ‘The supportive manager‘, Debbie Therrien states: “The number one factor employees cite as negatively affecting their work productivity is poor management. Would you consider yourself a supportive manager? Research would suggest that that might not be the case, since only one third to one half of surveyed employees gave high marks when asked if their manager was supportive.

“Good management technique used to be simple. The boss told employees what to do, and they complied. No one worried if somebody’s feelings were hurt along the way. Authority was obeyed. Fear often ran the work setting. What could be simpler? Then things changed.

“Workers today expect to be treated with respect and honesty. If they don’t get it, they just switch jobs. Or, worse yet, they shut down and stay.

“Hierarchy and top-down management practices and policies are outdated and simply do not wash with today’s workers, who want to be consulted. ‘Companies must do a lot better job managing their people or they won’t be able to recruit or keep who they have,’ says Linda Duxbury.”

Changing your thinking

Modern management styles require a change in thinking.

Managers should be:
• Facilitators, not dictators
• Enabling, not ordering
• Trusting
• Believing

Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely,” is the best known quotation of the 19th century British politician, Lord Acton. But is this necessarily true? Managers and leaders need to be very aware of power vs authority.

Power for some may act as an anaesthetic to feelings and make them insensitive to others. Be careful how you use your power; would you be happy for your friends and family to see how you treat others?

A poor manager can very quickly create a toxic environment at work, which will lead to poor health in others, be that physical or mental. This may be evidenced through bullying, absence from work or high staff turnover.

It should be recognised that high staff turnover could be very damaging to the business and very costly. If your business starts to get a reputation for high turnover of staff, this will affect the company reputation negatively – leading to a loss of trust and even a loss of business.

From a cost perspective, the following are very real:
• There is a loss of skills
• There is a loss of continuity
• There is a loss of productivity
• There is a cost in recruitment, be that advertising, your time to interview, your time training new people.

Employees need to feel supported rather than threatened. A lack of empathy from a poor manager will lead to a lack of confidence for team members. The lack of confidence within individuals will reduce productivity and quality; people will begin to do only what they are told to do and how they are told to do it. This results in a lack of initiative and improvement – but also lack of innovation in a business.

Allow diverse opinions

Many leaders may be unaware of how they surround themselves with ‘yes people’ or how the power of their personality may overwhelm people. It is essential that people can provide the diverse opinions that may be needed for an organisation to break out of a slump, or to make a meaningful difference in the marketplace. Leaders may say that they value other people’s opinions but then be quite shocked to discover that they have unwittingly given a covert message that disagreement will not be tolerated.

There is a concept known as the Abilene Paradox that should be mentioned here. “The Abilene Paradox refers to a situation when a group makes a collective decision that is counter to the thoughts and feelings of its individual members. The Abilene Paradox occurs because individuals do not want to ‘rock the boat’ or ‘be a killjoy,’ even though their perceptions of the other members’ feelings are incorrect,” HRZone.

Have you ever ended up agreeing to something that you felt really wasn’t the best idea? It’s quite common and is called the Abilene Paradox from Jerry B. Harvey’s 1974 article The Abilene Paradox: The Management of Agreement.

The point is that, as individuals, we tend to mistakenly believe that our opinion is in the minority – and so we often choose not to voice our thoughts. When the group consensus appears to be saying ‘yes’, we start to feel uncomfortable about being the sole voice saying ‘no’.

There are three ways to avoid the negative impact of the Abilene Paradox and we will look at these in more detail in part two of this article. We will also consider the importance of management training.