With Halloween just around the corner, many of us will be stepping out of the house dressed as vampires, zombies, or dead brides. At the end of the night, the costume will come off and we’ll return to our everyday selves.
Yet for some of us, being a monster isn’t just a costume. In fact, some of us are monsters 9-5, five days a week. And there’s no worse work terror than a “monster” manager. Like vampires, they drain the energy of the team. Employees can find themselves haunted by them, unable to forget their negativity at work or at home.
What to watch out for: 5 monster manager warning signs
1. They are intensely emotional
No one wants to give their manager bad news. However, if an employee has to worry about reporting even minor delays or setbacks, it’s stressful and demoralising. It may cause communication breakdowns, as employees delay delivering the news, or even wasted time as they devise strategies to break the news gently.
Equally, while a manager’s excitement for a projects can be contagious, if team members suspect that enthusiasm will soon turn into stress it can lose all effect – or even leave employees fixated on how to keep the manager in a positive mood rather than focussing on their projects.
This can be made worse by the fact that an overly emotional manager’s decision-making ability can be impaired by their intense but short-lived emotions. The manager may find themselves unable to decide or making an irrational choice – meaning those stressed-out employees have even more work to do in a shorter amount of time.
No employee should have to manage the manager’s emotions; it’s demotivating and an unproductive use of time and energy. To avoid this, look for average to high levels of emotional intelligence in your potential leaders.
2. Their self-confidence is low
Without a confident team leader, decisions will be slow, initiative won’t be taken, and the team won’t receive the motivation and reassurance they need during challenging times. Employees will find their potential stifled and their team cohesion dropping, while the company will notice that the team seems unfocused and inefficient.
Even worse, when conflict resolution is required, the manager will fail to establish themselves as an authority figure or to speak persuasively. If they make a decision, their self-doubt means they are likely to change their mind later. As a result, the probability of a fair outcome is greatly reduced. In turn, this may cause resentment and a poor work environment.
3. They are too firm
While firmness is usually a good trait in a manager, if it verges into rigidity it will have negative effects. Managers can become too authoritative, refusing to accommodate others’ needs or even developments in the industry.
A certain adaptability is crucial for innovation, responding to change, and making team members feel listened to. If there’s anything worse for an employee than an overly strict manager, it’s approaching that manager with an ingenious proposal only to have it rejected out of hand.
4. They don’t know how much to trust
Managers should be the ones in control. Taking responsibility, checking up on others’ performance, and making difficult decisions are all part of the role. Yet other tasks are just as important, such as increasing efficiency, motivating team members, and developing talent – and for this, it’s important to trust employees with a little responsibility.
On the other hand, when a manager trusts their team members too much, it can result in slipshod work and stressed-out employees who feel out of their depth. Their needs to be a good balance between stifling (or even offending!) employees and overwhelming them.
5. They’re too optimistic – or not optimistic at all
When a project is struggling or a team’s lacking energy, the manager needs to inject positivity into the group – not drain employee’s motivation even more. Optimism is important for team building, surpassing expectations, resilience, and even adaptability.
Yet optimism unfettered by rationality can lead to poor decision-making and a lack of appropriate quality checks – causing problems for the company and the team members alike. Employees who have to curtail the negative impact of their manager’s poor decision can end up overworked, resentful, and pessimistic about their future with the company.
Look for managers with average to high levels of optimism – and make sure they know when to indulge that optimism and when to be a little bit cautious.
What can you do if you have a monster manager?
If you discover these traits in someone you’ve already hired, don’t despair. Personality may be fixed in adults, but behaviour and emotional intelligence are not. The HR department can work with the manager in question to effect change. From formal training sessions to self-reflection, there are numerous ways to do this.
The scariest films are about the monsters inside, because we all have them. But unlike in horror films, being aware of someone’s inner monster can be the best protection you have. It will help you to decide whether to hire them, what position suits them best, and how to confine that monster – without silver chains or garlic.
Tanya Newton, Editorial and Communications Assistant, Central Test UK