The 5 most common ways to lose a good manager

Posted 12 November 2015 by
John Hackston Head of R&D at OPP

Managing managers sandwichSometimes, being a manager is like being the filling in a sandwich: you get squeezed from both sides, and you might get squashed. Of, course a sandwich isn’t a sandwich without any filling, and an organisation cannot function without any managers. If, however, you think differently, and want to see what your organisation might be like without any managers, we can offer you some handy tips. We’ve looked at the research into why managers leave their jobs, and come up with five sure-fire ways for you to lose your best managerial talent.

  1. Don’t bother to manage your managers. Some organisations seem to assume that those who have made it into the management cadre have achieved a state of grace, progressing to a higher level beyond the workaday concerns of mere mortals. Wrong! Managers need good management themselves, and are just as likely as other employees to leave if they have a poor relationship with their own manager. In fact, new managers, coping with a fresh and unfamiliar role, may need more support than most. Deny them this, and you’re sure to lose them.
  2. Ask them to do your dirty work. Part of a manager’s role involves making difficult decisions, including some that will impact negatively on people. However, managers do not leave their ethical and moral values at the door when they are promoted, and will start to look elsewhere if they are asked to carry out tasks they consider unethical or against their values. OPP’s research shows that, in MBTI terms, senior leaders are likely to have a preference for Thinking, and may not realise how important values are to direct reports who have preference for Feeling. And of course, even those managers with a preference for Thinking will have values and standards of fairness that they seek to uphold. So if you want to lose a new manager, push hard on their moral boundaries – and do emphasise that you don’t want to get your hands dirty.
  3. Allocate responsibility, but do not allocate authority. Make sure your managers are held responsible when things go wrong, but don’t give them the authority to change things so as to avert the crisis, or to stop it happening next time. If possible, keep heaping on more and more responsibilities, preferably without allocating any additional resources – most managers will try to cope somehow, and if they become burnt out and start making mistakes, well that’s their fault. If they try to talk to you about it, ignore them or tell them it’s their job to sort things out; ideally, do this as publicly as possible. If you want your managers to leave, make sure they feel disrespected, disempowered and disenfranchised.
  4. Don’t reward managers. Most managers will be looking to develop their careers and will be motivated by promotion or by professional development in their chosen field. Denying them these opportunities is a good way to frustrate them and encourage them to leave. This works even better if you talk about the prospect of development when you hire them, and then don’t deliver. Not rewarding them financially can be almost as effective. However, do be careful how you use the ‘no reward’ method: applied wrongly, you may simply reduce your managers’ self-esteem to a point where they stay put but feel unqualified to make any decisions.
  5. Don’t make their work interesting. Managers are people, and like anyone else they can easily become bored. So, avoid giving them stretching (but achievable) targets, and don’t give them work that is challenging and interesting, as this will only increase their motivation and make it less likely that they will leave.

In addition, the TMTM (Think Manager – Think Male) approach deserves a dishonourable mention – it only misses the top five because it impacts just half the workforce. When an organisation consistently ascribes stereotypically male characteristics to its view of a good manager, and sees female characteristics as associated with failure, good women managers will go elsewhere.

There are, of course, many other ways to lose a good manager – which is the most popular in your organisation? Let us know by leaving a comment below.

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