How do you handle management issues? Rather than report it to HR, employees often discuss a manager’s failings amongst themselves, which negatively impacts productivity and job satisfaction.

Eight in ten employees readily divulged what they believed to be their boss’ greatest weakness when prompted by researchers in a new study by VitalSmarts.

Nearly 30 percent of employees felt their manager was overwhelmed or unqualified for the position. “For some reason, our management has promoted an unqualified individual to be in a position of authority,” one employee said. “They have sent her to Green Belt training and she cannot even get her presentations in order. Everyone rolls their eyes, but no one says anything.”

While managers can speak frankly with direct reports when it comes to performance feedback, direct reports can’t do the same. As a result, employees discuss a manager’s failings amongst themselves, which negatively impacts their productivity and job satisfaction.

Issues with Management

Most frequently, employees took issue with managers who delayed decisions or didn’t respond to employees needs because they were stretched too thin.

Almost 25 percent of employees felt their manager was a poor listener or biased and unfair. One employee said their manager multi-tasked instead of listening, both during important calls and in one-on-ones. Another employee had an issue with a sexist manager, they said, “My boss dominates over female team members. He will blatantly talk over women when trying to make his point.”

Over 20 percent of employees felt their manager was distant and disconnected or disorganized and forgetful. One employee pointed out how a manager’s disconnection with the team resulted in issues with workloads and pushed employees to the brink of burnout, they said, “Because she is so disconnected to the daily workflow and details, she continually piles on extra work. We have multiple team members headed to burnout including one who has already had a medical episode brought on by work stress and tension.”

How to Handle Management Issues

Employees openly discuss issues with managers amongst one another (or with researchers like VitalSmarts), but why aren’t they bringing these issues up to HR? Employees most commonly gave five answers:

  1. Speaking up would offend their manager (47%)
  2. Speaking up would cause their boss to retaliate (41%)
  3. They don’t know how to bring it up (41%)
  4. Speaking up would hurt their career (39%)
  5. The culture doesn’t support people who speak up (38%)

Most of the reasons employees gave for not addressing an issue with a manager point to an absence of process. Without a clear procedure for reporting issues with management, employees feel bringing attention to the issue leaves them vulnerable and puts their job at risk. Establishing a formal process for reporting an issue with a manager isn’t enough to prompt employees to address shared complaints. There needs to be a cultural change as well. When introducing a new or improved process for reporting management issues it’s important for leaders to stress that feedback is encouraged and that those who give it will be protected from retaliation.

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How to Improve Gender Diversity in the Workplace

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