Why Managers Fail – A Look at Common Misconceptions in Management

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Failure at the management level is at epidemic proportions, according to a 2014 Gallup poll. As the study explains, companies make the wrong choice in selecting managers 82 percent of the time. The study also found that managers account for 70 percent of employees’ issues with engagement. Low employee engagement leads to low productivity, which is bad news for the bottom line. Here are four common missteps that explain why managers fail.

Expecting Employees to Come to Them

Managers who fail believe that establishing an open door policy with employees will suffice. They expect employees to come to them when problems arise, but that typically isn’t the case. Approaching a manager can be a daunting task. Employees aren’t always inclined to waltz into a superior’s office, interrupt her work, and vent about something negative. To stay apprised of what’s going on, you need to reach out and search for issues, since it’s unlikely they’ll come to you. Walk through your open door and engage with your employees to find and solve problems.

Making Employees Apprehensive

One of the most important responsibilities of a manager is to set the tone of the work environment. If the climate of the office is one in which people are terrified to look ignorant or incompetent, that will impede progress and helpful discourse. Employees in that environment are reluctant to ask for help, admit mistakes, or even share ideas. Part of good management is nurturing a psychologically safe environment to encourage these meaningful interactions. The payoff for doing this is substantial. One study showed that a positive work environment can improve financial results by nearly 30 percent.

Being (or Acting) Too Busy

A manager who acts or actually is too busy makes the people around her feel unimportant and unheard. Further, a manager who is constantly preoccupied is less visible to employees and out of touch with what’s going on. If you’re overscheduled as a manager, try to delegate less critical activities, and instead schedule time to simply walk around your office. You’d be surprised what you can learn by engaging with your people regularly and making it clear that your employees are your top priority.

Overemphasizing Personal Accountability

Often, managers who love to say “I expect personal accountability” only do so to pass the buck to employees. Placing an unfair amount of stress on employee accountability allows the manager to wash her hands of responsibility and discourages employees from talking about problems. When employees don’t assume responsibility, it’s typically because managers don’t empower them to succeed and then blame them for any failures. Rather than touting accountability, managers should instead try to show some of their own.

Sadly, manager failure is the rule, not the exception. However, avoiding these four mistakes can make a world of difference in managerial success and thus employee engagement. Managers who seek out problems, are accessible and accountable, and engage with their employees in a positive way can do wonders for the bottom line.