Are managers really that bad at their jobs?

I recently spoke at an event and asked the question – who is responsible for the happiness and fulfilment of your employees?  The reply was ‘management.’ (There were more enlightened answers, after all it was a CIPD event, but this was the one that stuck with me.)

This wasn’t surprising, as one of the keynote speakers had already made a case that the reason why companies were failing to address well-being in the workplace was due to poor management. They used a quote that stated ‘Your manager is potentially dangerous to your health’.

A theme was building.  I had recently downloaded Gallup’s latest report on managers, which stated that organisations fail to choose a manager with the right skills 82% of the time. They went on to state that companies try to fix managers with training, but nothing fixes a bad manager.

Instead of nodding and agreeing I thought why are managers getting such a bad rap? Surely there must be something that can be done to help managers manage, rather than write them off?

There are 2 things that we could do.

1. We need to work with managers to give them the language to be able to talk about the way they interact and interrelate with others.

The key aspect to being a great manager is the level of self-insight. When a manager understands their own strengths and weaknesses, they are able to work with others to ensure they exploit strengths and contain weaknesses.

Let me give you an example:

A detail orientated manager without strong communication skills who has a high level of self insight should work closely with someone who is a natural communicator. Both bring something unique to the relationship, and the team will benefit as a result.

2. We should recruit the right managers in the first place.

But this takes time and isn’t always achievable. Managers tend to be managers because they’re naturally talented at their ‘job’; they’ve been around for a long time; or it’s part of the succession plan to get a higher grade and hence a higher salary.

They may not have been chosen for their natural managerial ability (shock, horror!).

So instead of pointing the finger at managers and blaming them for everything, we should be helping them. Helping them find time to understand their position within the team. Helping them find their strengths (and this includes asking others for their feedback). Helping them communicate these strengths, and helping them to find working relationships which will benefit the team. Just writing them off isn’t helping anyone.

Rant over.

Next steps

Belbin can help. Pick up the phone and have a conversation: 01223 264975 or email We have a workshop aimed at managers to help them get the most out of their team - take a look, it might just help!


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