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What makes someone a bad manager?

Updated: Aug 3, 2023

Last month I finally tuned into Adam Grant's Work Life podcast - and I'm already in love. Adam is incredibly skilled at taking big topics and breaking them into small, actionable nuggets.

In one of my favorite episodes, Adam interviews someone whose company force ranks all their managers based on performance - and how, at one point, he came in dead last. The worst manager of the bunch.

The episode is focused on learning to love criticism and how this particular manager handled his ranking, but it sparked a different question for me.

What metrics are you using to evaluate your managers?

How do you define a bad manager?

Is it how many employees they retain? The amount of money their team generates every quarter? How supported their direct reports feel?

Most companies want their managers to be great, but rarely do they define what great actually looks like in the organization. Do you want your team leads to spend more time focused on supporting and growing their team members or do you expect them to still be extraordinary individual contributors - the reason they most likely were promoted to begin with?

And if they're expected to do both, do they know that?

One of the biggest things I struggled to learn in my first management job was that my success was no longer measured by my individual contributions, but rather by the success of my team.

I had spent so many years as a high achiever – knocking my individual expectations out of the park – that I struggled to let go once I became a remote manager of a team. While I went out of my way to support them (being a great manager was really important to me), I also killed myself trying to tackle things that I probably should have delegated.

I was so used to being in the spotlight, that moving out of it felt like failing. While I should have been shifting big projects to my team and playing a supporting role from the sidelines, I clung to anything that felt really important – telling myself that I was protecting my team from being overworked.

In all reality, I was still seeking the validation that I was worthy.

That I deserved to be the boss.

It turns out, I'm not alone in this. It's actually why a lot of bosses micromanage.

Of course, I didn't realize any of this until I was out of the role reflecting back. That's the beauty of hindsight. But it means that I went through that entire experience without really thinking through what success looked like as a manager vs an individual contributor.

Luckily, you have the opportunity to do that with your managers now!

As you start thinking about your goals and plans for the rest of the year and next, I highly recommend sitting down to really define what great management (and leadership) looks like at your company.

Not only will the clarity help your managers focus on what's most important, but it will likely allow their team members to step up in new and unexpected ways.

To happier employees,



Are you as obsessed with company culture as we are?

A man in a green shirt sighs and rests his forehead in his hands. His laptop is open. He probably just got a super micromanager email and he's doing the 3-3-3 breathing method to calm down.

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