LinkedIn is full of little pithy sayings about how to be a great manager.
With the sheer volume of people posting little tips about the importance of appreciating employees, empowering employees, being a good listener, etc., you’d think there are great managers all over the place.
Unfortunately, based on my own experience in more than 10 companies, and years of listening to others talk about their managers, great managers seem to be much more of a rarity.
And however much people talk about how they want to be treated, there is really one core reason why there’s only a handful of great managers across the business landscape:
Fear of confrontation.
The one thing most people are afraid to do is confront issues. A manager who will take an employee aside and talk to them about a behavioral issue or a way they’re interacting with others is a rare manager, indeed.
I once took a management job, and when the outgoing manager sat with me to review the department, he called out one 30-year employee, in particular, to say, “Good luck with that one. You’re going to have your hands full.”
He went on to tell me that she has a terrible attitude, poor work ethic, and was very disruptive.
Unfortunately, after he left, I discovered he also left me with a personnel file full of five years of amazing reviews he had given her.
People shy away from confrontation. It makes them uncomfortable, and the path of least resistance is just so much easier.
The problem is that when you have a manager who won’t confront issues, it leads to an employee base who’s left feeling powerless and helpless as various members of the team or company run roughshod over everyone, causing problems and lowering morale.
In absence of any potential solutions, the employees are left to complain until, inevitably, the more motivated (which, not coincidentally, are usually the better employees) take off for different company environments (to find different bad management).
The reason I’ve found success in management is because I’ve never been afraid to take an employee aside and address an issue with finality (whether it’s agreeing on a solution or parting ways). When you do that, your employees get excited and respect that you will champion them.
I’ve found it keeps people motivated and happy to know that distractions or obstacles won’t linger for long. It also makes them feel more confidence in telling you how things could be better.
The ability and willingness to confront issues in the workplace is the single most important management skill. Unfortunately, it’s also the rarest. And I don’t think any number of LinkedIn posts is going to make a dent.