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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Management

3 Signs Your Employees Think You Suck as a Manager

When you’re a new manager, you’ll probably get feedback on how you’re doing from your boss. So, while you may have a great idea of what your company thinks of you, how do you know how your employees feel? After all, aside from those “anonymous” HR surveys (that, let me tell you—are not typically that illuminating), your staff probably isn’t going to come right out and tell you what they think.

But looking back on some of the lousy bosses I’ve had, I’m reminded of the subtle ways my team and I hinted to managers they needed to work on their leadership skills. Here are a few ways your team might be telling you to get some management training.

1. They Act Like You’re Not There

Every office has (at least) one—the big Kahuna. When this person enters the room, everyone sits up straight and tries to look busy, while still taking the time to acknowledge her presence. You know what I mean, right? She commands your attention simply by walking past your desk.

Many years ago, I had a manager that, let’s just say, wasn’t leadership material. I had no respect for him, and neither did the rest of the team. When he got the job, he assumed that his new title automatically granted him the authority he needed, and that we would automatically treat him just like our former manager.

Not so much. Instead, we did our best to ignore him whenever possible. When he walked by, we continued working, only looking up if he asked a question. Even a simple “good morning” wouldn’t draw our eyes away from our screens. We definitely did not view him as a Kahuna—big or otherwise—and it showed.

If you notice your team is pulling this on you, it’s time to think hard about how they perceive your role and management style—and why. A good manager doesn’t need to be anyone’s best friend, but she should command at least enough respect to have her presence acknowledged.

2. They Don’t Keep You in the Loop

There are some people in the world who will always be information hoarders, and if you have one on your team, it’s not always a reflection of your management skills. But, if your team continually leaves you out of the loop on issues big and small, it’s a major problem.

Why would employees not want their boss fully informed? In my experience, it typically indicates that people don’t feel their manager has their best interests at heart, or that sharing information will cause more problems than solutions. Or worse, that they’re hoping she’ll get caught unawares and fail.

Obviously, these are not qualities of any healthy relationship. You want your team to be motivated to share even the little details with you and constantly provide you with updates. Trust me, oversharing might be annoying, but it’s far better than being under-informed.

If you’re feeling left out by your team, it’s time to start getting more involved—but you’ll want to approach with caution, so you don’t come across as a micromanager. Start by initiating one-on-one conversations with each employee to ask how things are going, and what she’s working on. And if you don’t really understand? Ask her to teach you. Your team needs to believe you’ve got their back and understand what they’re doing before they’ll feel like you’ve earned the right to be included.

3. They Don’t Play by the Rules

As a manager, you might not always be considered a friend, but how well your team adheres to the rules—both yours and the company’s—is a great indicator of how well you’re doing your job.

On the other hand, when your team isn’t worried about the consequences of skirting the rules, that also means they aren’t particularly worried about what you think—and that’s a dangerous place to be as a manager. Your team may not always like you, but they definitely should be concerned with what you think and the consequences you’ll enforce if they aren’t working within the guidelines you or the company have set.

This is probably the toughest situation to remedy, because it means you’ll have to be the bad guy when the time comes. In my first stint as a manager, I had one employee who was habitually late, took long lunches, and didn’t ask for the necessary approval when performing certain tasks for her role. In this case, I had to make an example of her. Every time she was late, or had taken off for a long lunch without finishing her work, I made sure the team knew I was looking for her and that I’d be chatting with her when she returned. Keep in mind, it’s important to avoid disciplining someone on your team in front of anyone else—the point is not to humiliate anyone—but the employee and your team need to know you mean business, and that if they’re breaking the rules, they’ll have to face up to the consequences as well.

At the end of the day, it all boils down to respect. If your team isn’t treating you like the big Kahuna—or at least somewhat close—it may be time to take a closer look at your management style. The good news is, continuing to grow as a leader won’t just make your employees happy—it’ll help advance your own career, too.

Photo of employee and manager courtesy of Shutterstock.