I’m not leaving the company, I’m leaving my manager.

Yes, most of us have heard that ‘people don’t leave companies, they leave managers’. Yet despite the loss of great people that would have inevitably added value and contributed to the company’s success, managers with high staff turnover still retain their positions. Why is this the case?  We could blame it on the initial recruitment process when it comes to managers, the lack of key performance indicators when it comes to the measurable application of management or leadership skills,  or exit interviews that simply don’t provide sufficient information to pinpoint the problem.

One of the major flaws in the initial recruitment or perhaps more so when it comes to internal promotions to management positions, is the assumption that individuals with strong technical skills naturally make good managers. These kind of decisions are usually based on the view that the individual will require less training time on technical aspects of the job and the existing team will respect the individual due to his or her technical skills. Initially this thinking is not flawed. However, after getting over the honeymoon phase, the team will require their new manager to have certain interpersonal and leadership skills. Without these, it is most likely that both the time and money saved on training and respect for technical skills will not be sufficient to account for the lack of engagement and the low morale.

Here are three management approaches that will have a negative impact on team morale and possibly lead to the loss of key contributing staff members:

  1. The Expert of Everything – Yes, a manager was chosen for a reason and this reason may be her extensive technical knowledge and skills. However any manager needs to realise that she do not know everything about everything. No matter what the title is, there’s always something to learn.
  2. The  My Way or the Highway – Managers with this approach are more likely to micromanage even the smallest task. This is detrimental to their own productivity and nips any innovation or creativity in the bud.  These managers have specific views on how a task should be performed instead of focusing on the outcome of the task. They expect team members to tow the line (often a tight rope over a canyon) and use subtle threats to ensure that their instructions are followed to the letter.
  3. The Self-Server –  This is where a manager will do whatever it takes to make themselves shine in their own boss’ eyes and they don’t really care if they have to use someone else to do it. They will take all the credit for the good things that happen, but they won’t hesitate to abdicate responsibility and point fingers at others—including their own team—when goals aren’t met.

The good news is that many managers actually want to have a positive impact on their team and provide a positive environment where growth and development take place.

However, there are managers that are fully aware of their behaviour and the impact it has on their team, but feel that the organisation and their position condones their approach. If this is the case and you find yourself reporting to such an individual, then you will need to make some tough choices and take certain steps.

  1. Start by recognising that you have the right to a professional environment in your workplace. You are not the problem. Your manager is and you need to deal with him or her.
  2. You can try talking with your manager about the impact that his actions or words are having on you or your performance. The manager might care enough to work to modify his behaviour. If he does decide to work on his behaviour, hold him to his commitments. Don’t go to war publicly, but draw his behaviour to his attention as soon as you have the opportunity, privately.
  3. If the behaviour does not change, appeal to her supervisor and to Human Resources. Describe exactly what she does and the impact the behaviour is having on you and your job performance. Allow some time to assess whether anything has changed.
  4. If you think the problem is that your manager can’t — or won’t — change, ask for a transfer to another department. This recommendation presumes that you like your employer and your work.
  5. Finally if you’ve made numerous good faith efforts to improve things and nothing has changed, it may just be time to go. Leaving an intolerable situation is usually liberating.

Remember, gaining control of your own career can take many forms. Managing the way you are managed is an important one of them.

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