5 Things Managers Do That Just Kill Employee Engagement

Angry boss bad manager

Over 2 million people quit their job each month, and the No. 1 reason is the quality of the relationship they have with their direct supervisor.

It stands to reason, as managers are more likely to have daily interactions with employees, and they are usually the benchmark employees use to judge a company’s culture.

However, only 32 percent of employees are truly engaged in their work, and we suspect it has something to do with these five (5) manager behaviors that kill engagement:

1. They don’t recognize and reward employees

A recent Interact/Harris Poll of 1,000 U.S. employees saw more than half (63 percent) of respondents agree that not being recognized for achievements was a pressing concern in the workplace.

The most basic unspoken agreement in the workplace is the employee does good work, and management recognizes that work with sincerity and compassion, rewarding where appropriate. Managers simply can’t operate in a modern workplace anymore without this essential skill.

Before they can do valuable work, employees must first know they are valued – currently, only 20 percent of them feel that way, and a 35 percent consider it the biggest hindrance to their productivity.

2. They don’t communicate well, or at all

It’s just physics: Managers who don’t set clear expectations get muddled results.

In a European Leaders study, 64 percent of the 2,000 full-time employees surveyed claimed their overall performance would improve if senior management communicated more effectively, and other studies have shown it’s a primary catalyst for morale issues among staff.

Without a strong grasp of the fundamentals of communication, managers are ill-equipped to motivate employees.

3. They don’t practice emotional intelligence

Yelling at or berating an employee should not be a management style anymore.

Practicing emotional intelligence involves four key skills:

  1. Perceiving and expressing emotions;
  2. Understanding emotions;
  3. Using emotions; and,
  4. Managing emotions.

Many researchers believe proficiency in these skills is more important than overall IQ when it comes to individual success. When a manager can’t express his/her feelings in a professional manner, or stay cool in the face of adversity for that matter, motivation and productivity might as well be off the table.

4. They micromanage

More than half (59 percent) of employees have worked for a micromanager. Of those who have been micromanaged, 68 percent said it decreased morale and 55 percent said it lowered productivity.

Micromanagers demotivate employees and create needless paranoia by acting as a controller of behavior instead of a leader of people. Some employees may thrive in that environment, but we’ve never met any. Most micromanagers do so out of a need for control that often has more to do with them than the performance of their employees.

So to all those micromanagers out there: stop it please.

5. They don’t let employees pursue their passions

Many employees — especially Millennials — use their day job to primarily support a parallel career or personal passion of some kind.

Providing employees the opportunities and support to pursue their passions greatly improves their overall happiness and productivity. Yet many managers still feel the need to force employees to work within a little box, limiting their ambitions.

Like any abusive relationship, they want the employee to believe that there is nowhere else to go and they should give up trying. Smart employees know better, and smart managers know that 65 percent of employees cite a lack of flexibility as a reason for quitting.

Caveat Emptor

Having said all that, it’s important to note that frontline managers don’t have an envious position.

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Sometimes called “America’s most neglected employee,” managers are notoriously undertrained and frequently go unrecognized for their contributions. A Root Inc. survey of 200 training executives reported that 83 percent of them had less than a quarter of their training budget set aside for manager training sustainment, but only 18 percent felt they were successful at it.

Furthermore, reducing overhead (57 percent) and making technology upgrades (48 percent) were more likely to be prioritized over investments in manager training.

Building better leaders

Experts cite the lack of well-trained managers as a main cause for the perennially low engagement levels that plague modern workplaces, but we don’t hang that jacket squarely on them.

The problem is systemic – managers need the same kind of motivation and support from senior leaders as they give to employees for the whole feedback mechanism to work properly. All too often organizations promote employees to management without the proper preparation and tools to succeed, and leave them to their own devices.

With a little thought and preparation, we can all learn to be better leaders of people.

This was originally published on the Michael C. Fina blog.

  • Kenneth Edwards

    I really enjoyed reading the post because many people can connect with having a “bad boss.” In a previous banking organization that I worked for managers were usually promoted simply because they showed success in their sales results, not because they were great managers of people. This is important to note because as “bad” managers move up the ladder, the company typically will spend less and less to actually train them to be “good” managers and actually hold on to their teams. It was always evident that that manager’s workgroups made results, but it typically short lived and they quickly lost their fire. To the point of the article, a well-trained manager can make a potentially good employee, which in turn makes results for the company. Why aren’t they able to see that? Thx for the management pointers.

  • Suzie Sawyer

    I have been at my current job for over two years, I have worked many sites, as a flex officer. I have been covering a position for over 14 months until people could be hired , I have trained 2 supervisors, refreshed two officers, and trained 4 officers for the position, Never once in 14 months were there complaints from clients or branch management. A new manager was hired, ( never been a security officer) , He has been with the company and field for less than 90 days, has come into this position, speaks to me as if I am stupid,” Do you know how to use the phone for pictures?”, well” if you do the patrol in this sequence, it will be better”, yet the client doesn’t want it that way, hence the complaint calls, Now it is his idea, that he has set the sequence up the way it was originally done before him, and “His ” math says he developed it, I am told I can not stop to take a break, my break is in the car driving,I am told I am HIS employee, I can not accept hours from any site without going thru him. I was never offered this permanent site, He is keeping my hours at 16-24, I was hired for 40, This company will lose me as a employee, several complaints has yielded his vindictiveness toward me. Do I go above branch management to district mgemt, or give up all together?