8 Ineffective Management Styles to Root Out of Your Organization
Strategic HR leaders understand how influential managers are in a business. They can make or break a team’s ability to perform and be a driver—or killer—of employee engagement. So, it’s no surprise that 60% of you said manager effectiveness was your top priority in 2023.
We spend a lot of time studying and discussing why manager effectiveness is important. But what about manager ineffectiveness? What might that look like in your organization?
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at some management approaches that are common in today’s workforce but typically fail to deliver highly engaged, high-performing teams.
How many of these ineffective managers do you recognize?
When employees are led by an ineffective manager, employee engagement and performance suffer, and turnover increases. Ineffective managers make it harder for their team members to meet goals and grow professionally. And worse, some management styles can have a negative impact on employees’ mental health and well-being.
To protect your culture and people’s ability to thrive at work, keep an eye out for the following 8 ineffective manager types in your organization.
1. The micromanager
Ah, the infamous micromanager. Most of us have had one of these at some point or know someone who has. Micromanagers feel compelled to constantly monitor their employees to ensure they’re getting their work done or doing it the way they want. (Managers under scrutiny from their bosses are especially susceptible to micromanaging those below them.)
While the manager’s goal may be to increase their team members’ productivity, micromanagement tends to have the opposite effect. Employees who are micromanaged often feel their manager doesn’t trust them or believe in their abilities. This can hinder performance and engagement and create a work environment that generates burnout. While it’s important for managers to ensure their teams are meeting high performance goals, they must be willing to put their insecurities aside and trust and empower their direct reports to get the job done.
2. The authoritarian
An authoritative management style is a top-down, “my way or the highway” approach. The decision-making process typically involves the manager making all the decisions and handing down orders to the team with little to no collaboration or input—and no questions asked.
Authoritative management is not conducive to creativity or growth and, therefore, not sustainable. Under an authoritarian manager, employees will become disillusioned, disengaged, and, eventually, leave the organization.
3. The hands-off manager
When it comes to decision-making, a hands-off or laissez-faire management style is basically the exact opposite of authoritarian management. Instead of the manager making all the decisions, hands-off managers let their employees call all the shots and own every aspect of their work.
The hands-off leadership approach can sometimes work if the manager’s direct reports are all very experienced, but even the most senior employees need leadership and support. Effective managers are able to find the right balance, giving employees as much or as little guidance as they need at any given time.
4. The neglectful manager
A neglectful type of management style is basically the opposite of micromanagement—these managers are just MIA. They never make time for their team members and often have no idea what’s going on with team dynamics or work performance. They may not find out about an issue that’s come up until it becomes a huge problem.
While giving employees a little independence is good, too much of a good thing can become problematic. Employees don’t need to have their hands held, but they do need a manager who is willing and able to support them.
Without regular guidance—and a little nudge when needed here and there—employees are less productive. And when managers aren’t available to help set goals and prioritize work, employees may waste time focused on the wrong things.
5. The critic
An overly critical manager is constantly devaluing or belittling an employee’s performance. While managers should hold their employees accountable and provide feedback when mistakes are made, criticizing a person or their work will not make that work better.
Some employees will try hard to please their critical manager, which may result in some quick wins, but over the long term, they can become resentful and disengaged. Dealing with constant criticism can not only be demotivating for employees but can also be harmful to their mental health.
6. The transactional manager
A transactional management style turns leadership into a barter system. Transactional managers often use financial incentives or rewards to motivate their direct reports. It’s an “I’ll scratch your back, you scratch mine” relationship between the employee and manager. While this management style isn’t necessarily harmful, it’s also not very effective.
Extrinsic motivations—like bonuses, prizes, etc.—typically only work in the short term (just long enough for the employee to “cash in”). This approach isn’t sustainable for long-term engagement and performance. Intrinsic motivations—like a sense of purpose or accomplishment—are necessary for employees to remain engaged and productive for the long haul.
7. The know-it-all
It’s common for an individual who was a top performer in their department to be promoted to manager. Unfortunately, sometimes these individuals struggle to let go of their rockstar contributor status to don the leadership hat.
When knowledgeable managers feel they’re more capable than their direct reports, they often fail to lead them effectively. They opt to do the work themselves so it’s “done right” because they don’t trust their team to do it as well as they can. This is demeaning and demoralizing to employees, not to mention unsustainable for the manager. It strips job satisfaction away from employees and deprives them of what could be an excellent opportunity to learn from someone with more experience.
8. The inflexible manager
An inflexible manager is unwilling to accept feedback or make changes—even when those changes could benefit their team or the business. They refuse to adjust their mindset or behavior and like to keep things status quo because “that’s the way we’ve always done it.”
This management style doesn’t allow for personal or professional growth and limits employees’ ability to innovate and make improvements that could benefit the entire organization. Employees who work for inflexible managers often feel they have limited opportunities to take ownership of their work or develop professionally. And when people are no longer learning and growing, they tend to look elsewhere for more rewarding career opportunities.
Ineffective managers aren’t a lost cause
Just because a manager uses an ineffective management style today doesn’t mean they can’t change. The problem isn’t that they’re destined to be “bad managers”—they’re just not getting the training or coaching they need to lead effectively.
One 15Five study found that 65% of managers feel underprepared and struggle to perform in their roles. Many managers would welcome training and coaching with open arms if only it were offered to them. Our research even uncovered that 76% of candidates for open manager roles would be more likely to accept a position when management training or coaching is offered.
To develop more effective leaders, HR teams must enable managers with the right expectations, learning opportunities, and tools to continuously improve. They need a cohesive manager enablement program built around effective management styles for a modern workplace that includes manager education, training, and coaching—powered by user-friendly tools and actionable data.
Get the Manager Enablement Playbook
When it comes to manager effectiveness, where should you focus your time and budget? How can you distinguish between an effective manager and an ineffective one? And how can you replicate the success of great managers at scale?
We created a guide to help you answer those questions and give you tips and tools for measuring key talent metrics, improving manager effectiveness, and creating a continuous learning environment for your managers.