Getting to the Root of Bad Management Styles

Posted on Wednesday, January 12, 2022 by Graham Quinn

Identifying the root of management problems can be complex. Are they down to your recruitment process? Is it that your managers weren’t selected based on the right skills and don’t have the right traits for success?


Can your existing managers be trained to change their style? Can the problem be isolated in management, or is the whole company culture preventing positive change?


We provide answers to these pressing questions and help you get to the root of issues with poor management. This means you can then invest resources where it’s most effective.


The link between Bad Management and Poor Retention

Since resignation rates reached an all-time high during Covid, HR researchers have been keen to get to the bottom of employee dissatisfaction. Although the push factors are varied and complex, poor relationships with managers figure highly.


Research conducted by Totaljobs found 49 per cent of UK employees have left their job due to incompatibility with their immediate boss. In a survey by Gallup 75 percent of participants also confirmed the most stressful aspect of their job was their relationship with their boss.


Many companies keen to address this situation have enlisted the help of corporate management consultants. In fact, Management Consulting Services Global Market Report found the management consultancy market is expected to reach $895.5 billion in 2021.


Research shows improving employee manager relations can bring significant positive effects for your business. Not only by increasing productivity through lower absenteeism. Gallup discovered links between employee satisfaction and higher profitability, production quality and fewer safety incidents. According to Gallup, when employee satisfaction is raised, everything gets better.


If you suspect your management is to blame for high turnover and other negative effects, it is time to get to the root of the problem.  

Identifying the Nature of the Problems

You can’t find the right solution until you know what the nature of the problem is.

Conducting walk arounds, speaking to employees, speaking to people who are leaving, reading reviews all give added insight into management-employee issues. Executive leaders who really knows their employees can be very valuable.


Nature or Nurture?

If you know management are causing problems, the question is, can your existing management really be trained to change their style?


Before you start browsing for management training consider this statistic from Gallup; only around 10% of people possess the natural capacity for good management. This seems to suggest that improving management needs to be tackled during the recruitment process. Managers are often hired or promoted for their success in a non-managerial role. However, being a successful sales person, programmer or engineer doesn’t test whether they have the traits to be a good people manager.


The Gallup study suggests focusing on the following five skills in your management selection process:


  • Motivator
  • Assertiveness
  • Accountability
  • Relationships
  • Decision-Making


It found these skills were the ‘greatest predictors of performance across different industries and types of manager roles.’ These 10%, when put in manager roles, ‘naturally engage team members and customers and boost company performance.’


Does this mean the staff you employed in manager roles will never be up to scratch? Thankfully, no. According to the same Gallop study ‘another two in 10 people exhibit some characteristics of basic managerial talent and can function at a high level if their company invests in coaching and developmental plans for them.’


However, a basic approach to identifying people with the propensity for leadership is to assess a manager’s social skills.  Honesty, being supportive, listening and empathy are the building blocks of any good relationship and therefore valued by all. It’s common sense really, because when you have a boss who is understanding and supportive, you feel gratitude and respect for them, which results in caring about the work you do.


Candidates and existing managers who demonstrate this type of emotional intelligence therefore have the potential to be effective in leadership positions. However, sometimes problems within a company’s culture can cause these emotional capacities to be suppressed.


Toxic Cultures

In can be difficult to change management styles in isolation. Good leadership often stems from a good company culture. Attitudes need to be consistently positive from the very top to trickle down to managers and employees.


Here are some company culture problems which can stifle positive growth. Plus, what you can do to change them.


Authoritative Style Cultures

Creating an aura of power and rigidity are behaviours often used by leaders. This can be especially true of managers who previously excelled in similar roles to their reports. While this style can give the impression of being respected, it actually prevents the building of trust.


However, managers with this style may struggle to learn that empathy and supportiveness can be more successful than an authoritative stance. This will be especially challenging if managers lack role models of a more emotionally intelligent leadership style from directors. The authoritative approach, being more traditional, often becomes deeply ingrained in large organizations.



Give managers the skills to develop a less authoritative style through training, but back good behaviours up with incentives. Add evaluation of their reports’ satisfaction in the workplace to management performance assessments. Reward managers for showing a more compassionate approach to employees.

However, positive company culture can only be maintained when everyone from the top down displays the desired behaviours. Leadership needs to be able to demonstrate and explain what changes they want to see in behaviours. Managers also need to know what the company will gain; that a supportive culture leads to happier and more productive employees.



Know-it-all Culture

Sometimes cultures develop where people feel afraid to admit mistakes. They can feel this will damage their image in the eyes of the company. This type of culture is often compounded by ‘know-it-all’ managers who feel the need to assert their superiority over employees. This lack of honesty about problems then erodes the quality of work and manager-employee trust. Problems with tasks and processes are perpetuated rather than addressed which affects overall productivity. Also, pretending nothing is wrong leads to employee dissatisfaction, stress and eventually resignations.



This type of toxic culture can be remedied by embedding a culture of learning. It is important to communicate that the company prefers employees to admit their difficulties so that problems can be identified and dealt with.


As with all culture changes, this needs to come from the top down. Leaders and managers must also be willing to admit to gaps in their knowledge or to seek help when employees have issues they don’t know how to solve. A learning culture must be for everyone. Such mutual openness can really relieve workplace stress, restore employee satisfaction, and reduce turnover. This approach motivates staff to improve their skills instead of hiding gaps in their knowledge, which results in employees feeling supported to produce better quality work.



Changing management styles often means addressing the whole company culture. Although such issues do take time to change this can have a big impact on improving workplace relations. It may be necessary to make changes in senior management, by bringing in C level managers who have a track record of changing business cultures for the better. Your recruitment partner can help you develop the right recruitment strategy when made aware that these changes are needed and continue to recruit people that demonstrate the appropriate leadership qualities. In the meantime changing the culture and incentivising more positive manager behaviours will make a difference. Successful transformation can be achieved when these behaviours are shown to be valued and modelled by higher leadership.


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