Top 5 Worst Behaviours in a Manager

October 25, 2018


One of the most important decisions any business or organisation makes is who they hire, however, of more importance, is who they appoint as a leader or manager. The main reason people leave a job is due to difficulties with their direct line manager. A Gallup survey found that only 13% of staff are “engaged” and that low level is attributed to the poor quality of managers and leaders. The flip side is that the driver of staff engagement and productivity is a high-quality leadership team.


A survey conducted in the US of over 5000 workers between February 2018 and October 2018 asked what the worst quality in a manager was. Of the top 5 responses, one trait stood out amongst the rest as the worst trait and that was having a boss who was a micromanager: 39% of respondents said being a micromanager was the worst behaviour. The top 5 worst traits were as follows as rated by percentage of respondents:

• 39% – Micromanager
• 21% – Overly critical
• 16% – Disorganised
• 14% – Know-it-all
• 11% – Impatient

This was a US survey and the results of surveys are only as good as the questions asked and the nature of the sample, however, it is reasonable to assume that the results would most likely generalise to Australian, and other western, workplaces. But even if they don’t, the main issue is not the actual traits or percentages, because people were asked to rate negative behaviours so of course the results will generate negative outcomes, but that most managers and leaders will exhibit some traits and behaviours that will annoy their staff.

How can you know how your staff would rate you in a similar survey? Surveying your staff in a non-anonymous survey will most likely not yield much honesty. How much self-awareness any of us have is an interesting topic and one for another day, however, regardless of how well you think you manage others, your staff may have a different opinion.

Gossip Test

One approach to think about how you may be perceived is a thought experiment called the “gossip test”. Everyone gossips. It is a part of our nature and is a way of building and maintaining friendships and allies. You cannot stop people from gossiping, although you do need clear rules about malicious and unacceptable gossip. But, that aside, your staff will talk about you.

To do the gossip test you need to ask yourself the following:
• What do you think your staff say about you?
• What you would like them to say about you?
• Does your behaviour and actions reflect what you would like others to say about you?
• Would you like your family or friends to see you at work?

What you think they will say and what you would like them to say can help you reflect upon your behaviour. Are you a micromanager or are you overly critical or disorganised? Perhaps on the other hand they may say that you are always there for them and you can be trusted. It can be a confronting exercise, but it can be a useful way to help you think about how you manage your staff and interact with others.