Being a (project) manager requires you to be a master of all trades. You need to have a handle on accountancy while being an expert strategist, motivating a team, and managing the time of many people. No one says it is easy, and managers often fall into bad habits. Self-knowledge is critical to taking control. Find out how to set yourself apart from the (project) managers your boss considers the worst performer on the team: don’t let that be you! I found a great video from Jennifer Bridges PMP, CHPC, founder of PDUs2Go.com and director of ProjectManager.com. You can have a look at the video right here.
Nobody’s perfect. But imperfection is not the same as perpetuating bad habits or behaviors. Here is a list of eleven bad habits Jennifer identified which make a “worst” (project) manager:
- Playing favorites
- Allowing favors
- Becoming the bottleneck
- Demeaning your team
- Micromanaging experienced people
- Ignoring the team
- Pleasing everyone
- Avoiding conflict
- Selling out the team
- Circumventing process
- Eliminating tracking
Many people find themselves running projects and leading teams without formal training. There are also plenty of people who are highly certified and experienced project managers who perfectly embody the “worst” in (project) management. I handpicked one of my favorites.
What is a micromanager, and why do people micromanage? Micromanagement is one of the worst, most damaging, and morale-sapping ways of managing people. This sinister way of managing employees can infiltrate any workplace or organizational culture. It can seriously affect productivity and employee retention and, ultimately, damage people’s health. A project manager’s job is to provide guidance and support. Their role is to facilitate a healthy environment where employees can perform at their best – reaching their potential by having true autonomy and building their confidence. Unfortunately, micromanagers achieve precisely the opposite.
When you look around you can divide managers into several categories. You find some who truly adhere to the definition of leaders, have the vision for the team, are business people, with clear understanding of what needs to be done and doing it even when it is unpopular. Then you have those who abuse the management position, the jerks, who go after their personal goals regardless the costs. Finally, you have the people pleasers. Managers and leaders who subscribe to the notion that their main task is to make their teams happy because that will produce results, and make the manager popular.
Happy people are productive people. That is probably true. Various studies has shown that happy people are more likely to be more productive than unhappy people. However, happiness is one of many paths to strong company culture and high-performing teams. There are better ways to achieve great results than focusing on keeping people happy. Happy people won’t leave. That is to some extent also true. Until the moment they stop being happy. The problem is with keeping people in the company by trying to make them happy with various perks, fancy office space, or not telling them the hard truth. This approach leads to creating a culture of entitlement. You are building no resiliency. The moment business doesn’t go as planned, and you need to do something that will make people unhappy, you are done. These things are complicated even in cultures with resilient people and will destroy the team’s productivity and atmosphere in a culture of entitlement for months or even years to come.
Managers must respond to the conflicts that arise within their sphere of influence. Yet, some avoid conflict at all costs. There are numerous reasons for this, such as:
- Lack of confidence and skill in addressing conflict.
- Being an absent or laissez-faire manager leaves team members to fend for themselves.
- Wanting to be a “people pleaser” or perceived as “nice,” or similar need for acceptance.
- Fear and anxiety about confronting conflict.
Naturally, there are costs to the organization for unattended conflicts, such as loss of productivity, strained communication, and turnover as the “best and brightest” leave. That should motivate any manager, but the personal and intangible consequences should also give leaders pause. When managers stand by the wayside and leave employees to their own devices to address unproductive conflict, employees lose respect, and the leader’s reputation, credibility, and relationship capital diminishes. Good judgment and appropriate action to intervene when warranted are hallmarks of effective managers.
Favoritism in the workplace is exactly what it sounds like favoring someone not because they are doing a great job but for reasons outside of the job performance. For instance, a manager consistently offers an employee the best and most highly-regarded projects, even though that employee does not perform well enough to deserve them. An employee may be offered a promotion over someone who has been at the company longer and has more experience. Often, favoritism occurs when a manager and an employee have developed a friendship beyond the workplace.
Being the bottleneck
The term bottleneck refers to the narrow opening at the top of a bottle. It is the part that lets the liquid out and controls the flow rate when you pour from the bottle because it’s the tiniest opening. If we think of this in terms of leadership, it’s different. We are limiting the flow to or from our team. If a leader is being a bottleneck, they usually limit productivity or communication and slow things down. A few issues can arise when a leader becomes a bottleneck for the team. Firstly, the leader may limit the productivity of the team. This could happen when a leader wants to review everything the team produces before releasing it into the organization. Being a bottleneck can also cause issues by limiting the team’s communication with the outside world. For example, the leader may choose to be the only person who speaks to senior executives or other important stakeholders instead of allowing team members to communicate with them directly. Bottlenecking can occur in decision-making too. When a leader decides that they need to be involved in every team decision, this limits team members’ potential. When all decisions need to be made by a single person, team members might need to wait for sign-off before making any progress.
Inexperience causes many young managers to exhibit weak manager skills. However, managers of any age are prone to personality flaws and bad habits. Plus, bosses are human, and humans have bad days. However, when the bad days outweigh the good, chances are that the manager is not a good boss. The good news is that self-improvement is possible and almost all flaws are fixable. With self-awareness and hard work, bad bosses can become better. The only truly bad boss is one who is unwilling to change.