No such thing as a bad manager?

bad manager

A new YouGov survey reports that 75% of people have considered leaving their job because of their bad manager while 55% actually left because of poor management.

I’m surprised these aren’t higher figures. We all have anecdotes about poor managers, often with us at the receiving end. Ever heard the one about the team where four out of ten left within in a five week period? All citing the manager in their exit interviews? That story ends with a fifth leaving shortly after. Guess who? Yes, the manager, when the higher ups realised just how much it was going to cost to replace two fifths of the team.

That’s a true story. But it is probably extreme. What’s less extreme is the long-term, deep-rooted unhappiness caused by bad management when people don’t leave. Outside pressures force people to stay in jobs and teams that they hate. There’s often no way out. It’s hardly a recipe for success and productivity. People perform at their best when they are happy and healthily challenged in their roles.

Is a bad manager really bad?

I’m going to go out on a limb here. I don’t think most ‘bad managers’ want to be bad. I don’t believe that they ‘don’t care’ about the harmony of their team. More likely is that they don’t know how to do anything differently. It’s easy enough to go on a generic management skills course, but if you don’t have an accurate picture of how a team sees its manager, how can the leader change? The leader must have a starting point from which to develop.

Example: Taking charge of decisions

Team leaders need to make decisions. Sure. But team input is vital for good decisions. Yet, it’s easy for a strong personality (think McQuaig Pioneer profile) to assume that they have team buy in, when actually what they have is a team who are too scared/browbeaten/disillusioned to engage in the decision-making process.

It’s a vicious circle. The less the team feel able to engage, the more the manager dominates, therefore further suppressing engagement. How can the team relay this to manager? Let’s face it, the weekly team meeting isn’t likely to be the most effective forum.

The 360 McQuaig Leadership Review

Traditional 360s have a mixed reputation. They end with a set of scores that have little meaning and often no direction as to what to do next. The McQuaig 360 Leadership Review is different. Reviewers can give anonymous and meaningful feedback that a leader can read & digest.

Using the example of ‘ taking charge of decisions’, reviewers have the opportunity to explain to the leader what to less of, more of, or keep the same. Here, all speak with one voice. ‘Tom’ needs to let others in on the decision-making process. Armed with this insight, Tom can make some very powerful changes that will really help to develop his leadership skills.


Leaders can pick some easy wins from the report for a fast fix, and then focus on more challenging areas in the longer term. It gets even more powerful when you link the 360 to the McQuaig Word Survey to give a layer of detail that helps the leader to take practical and sustainable action.

Perhaps it’s time to stop condemning ‘bad managers’. Perhaps it’s time to actively help them to be the good leaders that they, and we, want them to be.


About the author:

Catherine Hordern is Holst's Marketing Co-ordinator. She remembers some interesting managers over the years, some of whom would have greatly benefited from the McQuaig 360 Leadership Review.



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