How to stop employing toxic managers

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LinkedIn appears to be full of articles providing advice on what good management looks like and how a bad manager can turn a workplace toxic.

We’ve all experienced poor management at some point or other and as employees we generally grumble and bitch and when it gets too bad we leave. So what can we do to prevent the wrong manager being engaged?

There’s lots of things companies already do to prevent the wrong person getting the job including tiered interviews, taking references, psychometric testing, etc, but still we see the same problem people in the top jobs. Maybe it’s time for a new approach.

360 degree reviews were established some time ago by industry to try and give employees a voice, make them feel better engaged and to try and manage the manager’s performance, but this is a lagging control. We need controls to stop the wrong manager from getting the job in the first place.

So why doesn’t industry provide the employees with an input into who will lead them?

It seems Senior Executives generally do all the interviewing and appointing of managers. They engage people because they believe they can align with the Executive’s strategy and have a reputation for delivering, but unless that strategy is to shut down their department, achievement of those objectives is normally reliant on the support of their staff. So why wouldn’t you give the staff an input into who they want to lead them?

Consultation is known to bring about better engagement and outcomes. We do it in the safety world so that we are all on the same page. We do it to ensure we’ve thought of all the issues before imposing change. We do it to instil a sense of ownership and responsibility for the change. Shouldn’t we also use this technique when engaging managers?

Workers who are consulted about the engagement of their manager will be more likely to make an effort with them and more likely to support the change rather than oppose it. More likely to help the manager than disengage.

The manager may benefit too in feeling more supported from the outset, knowing staff chose them over other candidates.

I’m not saying that staff should have the final say as to who leads them, but by taking staff opinions into account you are more likely to hire a manager the staff can get on with and whose views are aligned. You are also telling your staff that their opinion is valued. That ultimately has to help deliver the strategy.

Sometimes a manager is hired to be a disrupter, but that doesn’t mean you all the potential impacts of the disruption have been considered. Employees may identify other benefits or issues which hadn’t previously been considered.

My dear Mum used to work in Social Services and when her boss interviewed candidates for a position they always went and asked how the receptionist found them. It was an attempt to get a fuller picture of the candidate, away from the false environment of the interview room, but it also served to show that everyone’s opinion mattered in the organisation.

A new manager who will be given the power to improve your business or lose your best talent, the investment of another round of interviews by the people they will ultimately manage must be worthwhile.


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