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5 Bad Management Practices That Undermine Great Culture

Written by
George Dickson
George Dickson

It's all too easy for a few bad managers to wear away at your company culture.

Poor management practices can create a negative employee experience for everyone. Let's take a look at five of these practices, why they're problematic for employee engagement and company culture, and how you can spot them before too much damage is done.

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Poor management practices, and how to fix them

1. Focusing on punitive measures

While punitive measures may produce short-term results, they overwhelmingly inspire resentment and apprehension. Over the long term, it doesn't pay off.

Teams often aren't at fault when they don't meet the goals that have been set for them. Sometimes they're not given the resources they need to reach their goals; other times, the goals are too aggressive.

Instead of focusing on punishing employees who don't act in accordance with the guidelines they've set or fail to meet their goals, great managers work to find where their own performance can improve.

The best managers support their teams and inspire them to embrace accountability naturally by helping them see and appreciate the purpose behind their work.

2. Not embracing diversity

The lack of diversity in modern business is particularly prevalent among tech companies and startups.

As much as it is a vital social issue, diversity is also a business issue.

When managers choose to hire and train homogenous teams, they're missing out on a major strategic advantage. A business with team members that all look, think, and act alike are at greater risk of failure.

The broader skill set and perspective of a diverse group of talented individuals is a major asset when challenged with adversity, or presented with opportunity.

You can expand the perspective and the capabilities of your organization by actively seeking out and embracing diversity.

3. Ignoring imbalances

It's one thing to have outstanding employees that you can expect exceptional performance from, but another thing entirely if you continually expect more from your employees than they're able to deliver.

Individual and organizational goals should be ambitious, but not at the price of driving your team into the ground.

✅ Check this out: the ultimate retention checklist for managers

Whether it's due to an avalanche of small assignments coming in at all hours, or massive assignments that require round-the-clock work, if people aren't given opportunities to unplug from work, they'll eventually burn out, and either disengage or quit. 

Button's Stephen Milbank shared with us how a lack of balance can cause issues both at work and home, and why he and his team focus on keeping a healthy perspective on expectations at work:

We wanted to help influence a good work-life balance with our employees. Work is often something that people put on a pedestal to take precedence, giving it an undue pressure in regards to the equilibrium of the demands of their life.

From developing your company policies to distributing workloads and making hiring decisions, it's crucial that you consider and prioritize balance for your employees.

4. Keeping a distance

Dr. Andre A. de Waal, MBA, Associate Professor of Strategic Management at the Maastricht School of Management, and Academic Director of the HPO Center explains how bad managers are perpetually "busy" and "involved in many, many projects; in fact, they're so busy that there isn't enough time to work on regular tasks!"

Managers have a responsibility to their teams to be accessible and supportive. This doesn't mean they should be on-call indefinitely (managers are equally susceptible to imbalance), but it is crucial to provide those opportunities for connection with the team. When managers are too busy to provide that, they're doing their organizations a disservice.

Make sure you're able to provide your team with the access and guidance they need to excel. If you can't provide it yourself, it's time to practice your delegation skills and find someone who can.

5. Freezing with indecision

Although it's important to give employees the autonomy they need in order to do their best work, it's equally important for them to have a sense that someone is driving the bus, and that person is good at what they do

Kate Carruthers says it well:

Part of a manager’s job is to make decisions; this is one of the reasons that they earn more money than other staff. Managers who are either afraid to accept responsibility or are afraid of the consequences of decision making are viewed as ineffectual by employees.

The takeaway

Management is an extraordinarily challenging profession, but it can be exceptionally rewarding. By avoiding some of these basic pitfalls and always working to improve, anyone can be a great manager.

retention checklist for managers

Originally published on May 27, 2022 → Last updated May 27, 2022

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George Dickson

George is dedicated to strengthening organizational cultures with thoughtful leadership and frequent recognition. George formerly managed content and community at Bonusly.

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