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Do Bad Managers Cause Bad Morale?

Posted by Insightlink on 02/10/23

There is an old adage that "people don't quit their jobs, they quit their manager". But is it completely true? In reality, the number one reason people quit their jobs is due to lack of career growth and development opportunities. In a survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management, the most common reason cited for quitting a job was "limited opportunities for advancement."  We've found the same in our 20 years of conducting employee exit interviews. Leaving because of a bad manager relationship is often mentioned but it's not even in the top 5 reasons cited. 

Employees want to feel that they are growing and developing professionally, and a lack of advancement opportunities can make them feel stagnant and unfulfilled in their current role. Additionally, a lack of clear career growth path and development opportunities can also make employees feel like they are not valued by their employer, leading to low morale and a desire to seek out new opportunities elsewhere. 

bad manager bad morale

Photo by Icons8 Team on Unsplash

It's important for employers to offer employees opportunities for growth and development, both through training and skill-building programs and through clear paths for advancement, in order to retain top talent and maintain a positive work environment.

That's not a reason to ignore the effects of bad managers, however. Lets take a look at some of the reasons bad management can negatively impact employee morale.

Can a bad manager make people quit?

While it is true that people don't necessarily leave because of management overall, they often do leave because of their relationships with direct managers or supervisors. One survey found that almost a third of employees who quit their jobs mention their immediate supervisor or manager as a contributing factor. So why might this be?

Employees often form strong connections with their colleagues, but the manager plays a critical role in setting the tone for the work environment. A bad manager can create a toxic work environment, leading to low morale and high turnover. On the other hand, a good manager can foster a positive and supportive work environment, leading to higher job satisfaction and employee retention.

It's important for managers to be aware of their impact on the team and to work towards creating a positive and supportive work environment for their employees.

It's not productive to focus on negative scenarios, but here are a few ways a bad manager can harm morale in the workplace:

  1. Micromanagement - Constantly monitoring and second-guessing employees' work can lead to feelings of inadequacy and a lack of trust.
  2. Favoritism - Showing preferential treatment to certain employees can breed resentment and foster a divisive work environment.
  3. Poor Communication - Failure to effectively communicate expectations, provide constructive feedback, or keep employees informed can lead to confusion and frustration.
  4. Lack of Recognition - Failing to acknowledge employees' efforts and successes can make them feel undervalued and unappreciated.
  5. Inadequate Support - Not providing employees with the resources or support they need to do their jobs effectively can lead to increased stress and decreased job satisfaction.
  6. Inflexibility - Refusing to accommodate employees' needs or being inflexible with regards to work-life balance can lead to burnout and decreased morale.
  7. Hostile Work Environment - Creating a hostile work environment through bullying, harassment, or discrimination can lead to a toxic workplace culture and decreased morale for all employees.
  8. Inconsistent Policies - Inconsistent application of company policies can breed confusion and frustration among employees.
  9. Failure to Address Performance Issues - Failing to address subpar performance can result in decreased morale for high-performing employees who feel that their efforts are being devalued
  10. Failure to Invest in Employee Development - Not investing in employee development and growth opportunities can make employees feel unvalued and limit their future career prospects.

It's important to note that not all managers engage in these negative behaviors, and that good managers can have a significant positive impact on employee morale. If your employee survey reveals a problem related to bad management or lack of management skills, consider investing in management training or conduct 360 multi-rater surveys with managers to assess their skills and relationships with peers and direct reports.


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