The Skilled but Detrimental Manager: How to Fix the Problem

Have you ever come across a very skilled Manager, who was detrimental to your work environment?

An individual who perhaps is very good in a technical area, but impacts team members negatively around them through their behavior or response to others.

I think we have all, met at least one Manager like this.

The first question that I commonly hear is: Why would someone make him/her a Manager?

The Skilled but Detrimental Manager: How to Fix the Problem

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People Get Promoted within Organizations for the Wrong Reasons All the Time

  • They know someone or are related to someone in Senior Management
  • They have worked for an organization for many years, in spite of their shortcomings
  • They have delivered in financial areas of the business 
  • They have privileged information about the CEO or have worked closely with them and have made themselves indispensable to them.

In this article I will share an actual case study I lived through in my experience in management and the consequences the organization experienced by entertaining a “skilled, but detrimental” Manager.

Our environments are becoming more diverse every day and this is a very real constraint for management teams. Having a challenging management team member is a challenge that needs to be overcome, if you want your business to scale.

A Manager's inability to perform in areas outside of their technical skill set, hold everyone back in ways that can be difficult to measure, but exist nonetheless.

The good news is that they can overcome their challenges, but it requires training and intervention.

I have personally come across such individuals as an employee, as a middle manager, and even as a senior level manager. These challenging Managers in the workforce become communication and efficiency bottlenecks, because team members avoid them daily and work around them at all costs. These managers sever productivity daily. Ultimately, these managers skill set becomes less valuable, because of the avoidance factor.

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One Person cannot Make Up for an Entire Workforce

It never has and it never will. Their skill set will not make up for the loss experienced in all other areas combined.

Very simply stated, you will not maximize the output of a Manager who cannot work well with others.

Some challenging team members lack self awareness, but most lack the training and tools to work through their limitations.

Managers need training to overcome these areas in order to really develop your workforce for the overall good of the organization, long term sustainability, and profitability.

Here’s a real life case study of an experience I witnessed, experienced, and observed:

I was employed by a midsize firm some years back. All of senior management had worked there for over 10 years.

I was coming in as a new middle manager. As I began to observe and analyze the environment, I recognized the lack of administrative and operational infrastructure in place. I noticed that the management team was hesitant to voice their concerns honestly in meetings. They would not dig in and quantify issues when a specific senior team member was around.

They did not want to “get him” going.

I was amazed at the level of influence this team member had over the other management team members and the opportunity to be solution oriented they were missing out on.

As I worked longer with the team and became familiar with the environment I learned that this particular Manager was difficult to speak to and very short, even rude at times. He had very close ties to the CEO and had managed his financials for years. I also learned that this was his one and only professional role since he was 18 years old, which explained the lack of flexibility. He had a single professional experience to draw from. He lacked insight.

He would quickly get defensive, raise his voice, and had very little patience or time to deal with an issue brought up to him by other team members, whether it was a fellow manager or not.

He had been allowed to act like this for so long, he did not see an issue with it.

This made him unapproachable and feared, especially by the entry and mid-level team members. He was a bottleneck for the organization when it came to problem solving and yet he held a very important and relative role for all departments.

I can recall one particular issue in which I discovered that the management team had little to no training on a particular HR software the company had purchased and only he knew it inside and out.

When I came aboard I learned it, created a training manual around it, and was able to train the other managers. They quickly shared with me, what I had already observed, that they had been hesitant to learn the software because they would have had to work with that specific senior manager.

In summary, the software that was purchased 5-7 years prior had not been maximized or fully utilized simply because the other managers did not want to work through this management team member.

I am positive that there were many instances like these and the CEO had no idea of how this impacted the return on investment on these products.

Ultimately, prior to leaving I discovered the same had happened with 3 other software investments that had been intended to help improve operations and streamline operations.

Can you imagine the loss in investment that took place with this single area? This manager cost the business a technological investment for 5-7 years!!!!! The software may have helped manage, streamline, even measure performance for the rest of the team for that entire period and likely would have helped scale further.

It is important to identify these issues in your organization and to train your managers to overcome them and become self aware.

In my role with this organization I was not this manager's direct report, but I was able to diffuse the degree of his negative impact by doing the following:

  • I would communicate with him by addressing facts, not assumptions.
  • I would remain even tempered and would stop him when he would lose his temper. 
  • I would ask him not to speak to me in a negative manner and made him overtly aware of what he was doing in the moment. 
  • I would schedule meetings with him to keep him in the loop and dialogue over problems regardless of his initial push back. 
  • I labored that relationship and set boundaries.

The management team was able to see that there were trainable areas nobody had addressed previously or were equipped to take on.

Training and development make all the difference! Experience alone is not enough. This Manager had 15 years of experience, but all in the same role with the same toxic patterns.

Dr. Mayra Austin
Featured Uplyrn Expert
Dr. Mayra Austin
Management Expert
Subjects of Expertise: Change Management, Governance, Sustainability
Featured Uplyrn Expert
Dr. Mayra Austin
Management Expert

Subjects of Expertise

Change Management

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