4 Signs Your Manager Is A Poor Leader

Originally posted on Forbes.

Leadership is everywhere.

In large corporations there are multiple tiers of leaders. In small businesses new leadership pops up faster than you can say “startup.” Leaders are even known to arrive unsolicited.

So, what do you do with all these leaders? And how do you know if they are a leader you should admire or learn from?

As a career coach, I speak to many clients in the workplace about their daily challenges. One topic I hear my clients struggle with most is about how to create a positive work relationship with their manager. This comes as no surprise, since three out of four employees report their boss is the worst or most stressful part of their job.

What you need to be aware of is that strength and leadership look like a lot of different things. While many leaders put on a show that they are strong and effective, they are also human, and often full of fear. When you consider that 76% of employees blame their boss for a toxic work environment, it’s no wonder that your manager is vital to your career success and overall happiness at work.

If you are struggling with enjoying work, it might be a sign you have a poor manager, not an inspiring leader. Here are 4 signs to know:

1. No one is asking for help.

Your team isn’t collaborating, and the leadership isn’t asking for input into big decisions that impact the workplace.

A weak manager couldn’t step in to do your job, nor could they provide guidance if they were asked for actual advice or support. According to research, your boss’s ability to do your job is the strongest predictor of happiness at work. Why? If a manager cannot execute on your technical tasks, they certainly cannot give you feedback when you feel lost. This means your career growth may suffer under their watch.

On the flip side, they are never going to ask you, or anyone else, for help.  Instead, they will craft a solution all on their own and say “this is it.” This conversation might feel really similar to childhood memories of being told by a parent, “no…because I said so.”

Begin to turn toward your coworkers to help one another and build morale back up.  Chances are, they feel the same sense of frustration and loss that you do. Take the lead and put together an after work happy hour or a morning coffee meet up. Avoid the urge the vent or say mean things about your manager and instead focus on the positive aspects of each team member. Better yet, if it feels appropriate, invite your boss, they may benefit from more personal time with the team and simply need to build more authentic relationships.

2. The blame game is always being played.

A weak manager has one goal in mind: to protect themselves. So, when something goes wrong, they will immediately seek out someone or something else to blame. You can point out a blamer by noticing if their sentences when there’s an issue. They often begin with “You..”, “If only..” and “They…” as opposed to taking responsibility, and starting with the pronoun “I…”

Instead of taking responsibility for their actions, or the actions of the team, they seek out a distraction or something to place the fault onto. In some cases, they may even fire an individual as the carrier of the blame. The good news here is that true leaders will likely notice this within the organization, and your weak manager unlikely to grow beyond their role as a result.

In some cases, you willingly accept the blame for something that wasn’t your responsibility. This is a pretty common action, even among large companies, where 30% of executives have reported accepting blame to protect others. If your leader is never stepping up, but instead pointing fingers, be aware of where you put your trust with them. If you’re blamed for something you absolutely did not do, it may be time to talk to your manager, or if necessary, human resources.

Be careful about making a habit out of being the savior on the white horse protecting others, if you do this too often, your job may become at risk. Do what you can to move the focus towards the positives amongst the team and give credit where it is due. Take the lead and compile a status report to share accomplishments each team member has done on a regular basis. This not only highlights the good things your team is doing, but also shows your skills as a leader.

3. Everything is micro measured and micromanaged.

Every minute of your day is planned out for you, your project’s progress is reviewed every week and the overall flow of your work feels out of your domain. You are being micromanaged, and it is likely by a weak manager. Micromanaging means the manager is holding employees responsible for doing a job, without giving away the authority to actually do so. This leads to destroyed teamwork, reduced productivity and a drop in overall morale.

A solid leader is going to stay focused on the big goal and have trust in the team to reach it.

If the micromanaging is something you’re experiencing, turn inward and take an honest look at your job performance. When you get honest with yourself, If you think you are actually slacking in certain areas, this may simply be their way of trying to help you. Ask to have a conversation with them and learn where you can improve.

4. Apologies don’t happen.

Many people think that apologizing for an error (and let’s face it, we all make them) will make themselves appear weak in front of employees. However, it is quite the opposite. Studies reveal that a boss who apologies for their mistakes is able to improve their own well-being and that of their team Why? Because if your boss makes it safe to be human, you will feel the emotional safety to be one, too.

If you haven’t heard your boss usher the words “I am sorry,” chances are they are hiding their weakness. The truth is, a leader is someone who stands up and isn’t afraid to admit their faults or defeat. When a mistake is made on their behalf, they are the first person to step up, acknowledge the truth and apologize.

Compassion and trust are two of the most valued traits people look for in a strong leader. Take the onus upon yourself to start providing these traits to your team, and to yourself.

What does all this mean for you? Well, 84% of companies expect to experience a shortfall in leaders in the next five years— and less than 10% of the positions have a viable successor in mind.

Shift your perspective from frustration with this manager to viewing them as an example of what you don’t want to be. You can decide to take these four characteristics as a sign that it’s time to work for someone else, or you can choose in this moment to step up as the leader you wish you had.


Ashley Stahl helps job seekers find their purpose, land more job offers and launch their dream businesses. Sign up here for her free jumpstart course on how to land a new job you love.

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