Are Bad Managers to Blame for Low Employee Engagement?

Are Bad Managers to Blame for Low Employee Engagement?

]EngagementAccording to Gallup’s recent State of the Global Workplace study, only 13% of employees are engaged at work. While this number is higher in the US and Canada (29%), those numbers are still surprisingly low. When you think the time we spend working, it’s shocking to realize that so many people are simply slogging through those hours.

As I researched this subject, more and more, the biggest detriment to poor engagement became clear – poor management.

A study by Dale Carnegie Training found the number one factor influencing engagement was employees’ relationships with their immediate supervisors. While poor management shouldn’t be an excuse for lack of engagement, it needs to be addressed for more fulfilled, productive employees.

Why are bad managers such a big problem for so many companies? 

In a recent article from, Gallup CEO Jim Clifton weighed in on leadership and its impact on employee engagement. He states, “What companies will inevitably find is that the only way to make a person happy is to give them a job that matches well to their strengths, a boss who cares about their development, and a mission that gives them feelings of purpose.”
Too often, people in management positions are not hired or promoted because of their leadership abilities. Rather, it’s simply because of their seniority or achievements in previous roles. This begs the question, what are important criteria for promoting employees into management roles?
The Harvard Business Review also found that the emphasis on working hard doesn’t lead to good management. Executive Coach Marshall Goldsmith found that “many of the behaviors that propel high-achievers up the corporate ladder are the same ones preventing them from reaching the top.”
He cites behaviors like winning too much and goal obsession can actually be detrimental to good management

How can we improve this?

Jim Clifton emphasized the importance of interpersonal skills, stating, “going forward, we must insist on hiring caring managers. Managers must be driven, love productivity, profitability, and competing,” he added. “[But,] they must also have an inclination to maximize the potential of every person on their team.”
A good leader should engage his or her team and find and nurture the strengths of their individual employees. Also, a successful manager provides an employee with a sense of where they fit in and the value they provide. This encourages engagement and wanting to help the organization succeed.
In an article for the Harvard Business Review Randall Beck and Jim Harter from Gallup found that great managers also “have the assertiveness to drive outcomes and the ability to overcome adversity and resistance” as well as “make decisions based on productivity, not politics.”
Furthermore, however, they cited Gallup, who found that only one in ten people have the necessary traits to be a good manager. While not ideal, it does mean that there are people within your organization who have the right qualities. They may just need some cultivating.
The biggest takeaway from this research is the need to stop and think before handing out promotions. Promote not just because someone is good in their current role, but also for their management skills. And for those employees with potential, it’s important to provide extra training.
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