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  • Writer's pictureShona

How to Manage Your Managers

Updated: May 7, 2022

Near enough every person you speak to has had a "bad" manager at some point in their working life (unless they've been lucky enough to work for themselves forever)!

But it's not very often that they're a bad manager simply because they're a terrible human. I'm sure there are some out there, but the majority are direct victims of the Peter Principle.

The Peter Principle, put plainly, is the process of promoting people to a point of incapability.

Say that 5 times fast after a Merlot or two!

What generally happens in the place of work is that an employee becomes incredibly good at their job, but they reach the point where there's no more progression for them. We don't want to lose such knowledge and talent from our business, so we promote them into management positions in which they have absolutely no skills, training or experience.

We assume that if someone is a fabulous Marketing Executive, they'll be good at management despite it requiring a completely different skill set!

So then we end up with a company full of unqualified managers who used to be really good at their jobs and lots of generally grumpy and unhappy employees.

It's no wonder that most people leave their jobs because of their manager. It's no wonder that most of the grievances I have dealt with have been relating to the relationship between a manager and a subordinate.

The main reason problems occur between employees and their managers is that the employee expects the manager to know what they're doing and to behave in a certain manner. As soon as those expectations aren't met, you've got a problem.

So what can you do about it?!

As an employer, the best thing you can do is have some sort of management training programme that people go through BEFORE you promote them into management. It would be pointless putting me in your Head of Finance role, so why put an inexperienced manager in a management role before assessing their skills? Training, support and lots of useful resources in your business will help you to create a highly skilled and highly engaged team of managers who will not only support you, but can actively build the teams under them.

If you're an employee having issues with your manager, for whatever reason, the first step is always communication. It will be the most awkward, gut wrenching, cringe worthy conversation you ever have, but you need to communicate your concerns to your manager. Otherwise how else will they know how you feel? How else will they know to change their behaviour?

I remember having to sit one of my previous managers down to do just that when I was about 22. I was sweating profusely throughout the whole meeting! But my manager just wasn't managing me in a constructive or supportive way, and I knew that not saying anything would annoy me more! I hated every second, but I did it, and it worked for a while! But the company had a whole team of unqualified managers, going all the way up the chain!

So first things first, have a chat. Keep it factual, give examples and offer ideas for ways to move forward together. No one likes a negative Nelly, so always look for how you can move forward in a positive way.

If that doesn't work or if you don't feel able to talk to your manager directly, speak to your manager's manager (if they have one).

Failing the informal approach, you might want to put something in writing to your manager. Whether this is a formal grievance or whether it's just a case of writing down what you feel you can't say, follow the same kind of format. Be factual, provide examples and suggest a way forward.

If you do decide to raise a formal grievance about your manager, the relevant person in your business will communicate with you as to next steps. This normally involves an investigation and a hearing. If your manager is the top dog in your business, the grievance will need to go to your manager and will normally be handled by a third party such as a HR Consultant.

These situations are always difficult because there is usually so much emotion around the subject of the grievance. But it's not about right and wrong. It's about acknowledging that people are different and finding ways to work together in a positive way.

So before you lose it with your "bad" manager, consider that they might be a poor unsuspecting victim of the Peter Principle and use your communication skills for good. Have a chat with the aim of moving forward together. In my experience, biscuits always help.


P.S! If you have a problem with an underperforming manager or maybe you've received complaints from employees about a member of the team - you're gonna want to jump on a FREE HR Up-Level Strategy Call with me before the month is out.

Grab a beverage and let's chat about your business and how HR can help you AND save you money 👇

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