6 things that will doom a manager

It doesn’t take much to lose the boss job you thought you could do. Here are six common things managers do that will put an end to their careers.

1. Building a fiefdom. This is an easy trap to fall into, especially if you’re a new manager. Face it, being a boss can be a lonely job. So often a manager will select a few star employees or other subordinates who have similar interests and form a de facto club. Or at least, that’s how the employees who aren’t part of it see it. The trouble starts when the bulk of your staff senses the favoritism. The schism that follows is irreparable.

2. Unfairly blaming employees. Employees know when they’ve done something wrong and deserve a dress-down. But in the name of covering your butt, never toss them under the bus. This is a major trust-buster. Owning up to your errors in front of your employees will go a long way in gaining respect, the cornerstone of leadership.

3. Badmouthing the organization. This tactic may seem to establish camaraderie with your staff. After all, they may see the same follies you do. But here’s the catch: Your employees now know that you are untethered to upper management. The sharp ones can clearly see that they can go over your head to undermine you. And they will.

4. Misunderstanding motivation. If you’re using the one-size-fits-all approach to motivating, stop it right now. One employee may respond best to a stern lecture; another may need reassurance, followed by softer words. Hey, motivation is nothing more than manipulation. Find out what works best for each employee. Crossing wires on this front will only demotivate, then alienate.

5. Ignoring trouble spots. Employees expect you to straighten people out: the laggard, the early-leaver, the long-lunch-taker, the “I’m so swamped” phony, and others. What’s more, they expect you to be keen to all these shenanigans. When such behavior goes unchecked, your good workers, one by one, start seeing what they can get away with. You may be surprised by how much that will be.

6. Dishonesty. This is the ultimate poison. And the worst line you can spew at employees? “I never said that,” when you did, and they know it, and you know they know it. Your reputation as an honest leader is fragile and your job as a boss depends on it.


Cal Butera is the editor of Business Management Daily’s Office Manager Today, Manager’s Legal Bulletin, Managing People at Work and Communication Briefings newsletters. He has been with Business Management Daily since 2007 and worked 22 years for midsize daily newspapers as sports writer, news reporter, layout and design editor, copy editor and city editor.