Skip to main content

Welcome to the weekly Careers newsletter from The Globe and Mail. To subscribe, click here.

Radhika Panjwani is a freelance writer from Toronto.

  • Organizations that enjoy high employee engagement scores through the hiring of competent managers enjoy greater productivity, profitability and organizational health
  • Working for a bad manager can affect employees’ heart and immune system
  • Organizations must ensure there are several growth tracks for individual contributors within the company and not just managers

One of the most critical decisions a company makes is who to hire or promote as a manager. And yet, on this score organizations drop the ball 82-per cent of the time, a Gallup study shows.

“Bad managers cost businesses billions of dollars each year and having too many of them can bring down a company,” note Randall. J. Beck, a managing partner for Gallup and Dr. Jim Harter, chief scientist for workplace at Gallup in the report. “The only defense against this problem is a good offense, because when companies get these decisions wrong, nothing fixes it.”

Gallup estimates managers account for at least 70 per cent of variance in employee engagement scores across business units, but when companies boost the overall number of exceptional managers and double the rate of engaged employees, they achieve, on average, 147-per-cent higher earnings per share than their competition.

Danger of a toxic workplace

Some years ago, Swedish researchers surveyed 20,000 employees to investigate the relationship between managerial leadership and its effect on the health of employees. One of the studies found male employees with toxic managers were 60 per cent more likely to experience either a stroke, heart attack or other cardiac complications. The doctors behind the study noted a toxic boss was much more likely to drive their direct reports into adopting unhealthy coping mechanisms such as alcohol and substance abuse, smoking, over-eating and not engaging in fitness routines and this affected their heart health.

Why so many managerial misfits?

The Gallup study says only one in 10 people have what it takes to be a competent manager, while another two in 10 have a modicum amount of basic managerial talent, which can be honed if the organization invests in coaching and career development.

Parachuting an unqualified employee into a managerial role prematurely because they are a good line worker or have seniority may backfire because the individual can develop a sense of entitlement and an inflated opinion of the value of their skills in the market. And because these folks skip crucial ground-level learning, their lack of experience and shallow understanding of the subject matter will become evident soon enough, says Susy Martins, chief executive officer of Advise2Rise, a human resources consultancy firm from the Greater Toronto Area specializing in executive coaching.

Post-pandemic, there has been a rise in the number of new managers, many of whom are not able to juggle the realities of their new role, she says.

“The shift to hybrid and remote work models has reduced opportunities for leaders to job shadow and learn from others,” says Ms. Martins. “Also, there are a lot more new leaders who may be expected to deliver [because of] cost pressures. The result is weaker leadership as these people are split between handling a leadership role for the first time and doing their work.”

Often, if a company is in the middle of a major transformation, it can leave the leadership with little time or capacity to actively develop or manage their teams, she says.

Some solutions

  • Organizations must ensure they have abundant growth tracks for upward mobility for individual contributors as well as aspiring leaders, says Ms. Martins. If there’s only one single path up [to leadership], then chances of promoting an incompatible leader become high.
  • 360-degree performance reviews help measure a manager’s performance using feedback from six to 12 people, including a self-evaluation. Ms. Martins says a manager’s ability to receive the 360-degree feedback is a career accelerator. But if the results are not aligned with the company values, it must be investigated immediately.
  • Leaders must choose the right person for the next management role through predictive analytics to guide their identification of talent, says Gallup.

“Employees must ensure they have exposure to other leaders and not just their manager,” says Ms. Martins. “They can do this through company clubs, volunteering at events or even taking on a stretch assignment. Always focus on doing a good job and building great relationships at work even if the one with your leader isn’t the greatest.”

What I’m reading around the web

  • Parsa Saljoughian, a senior fintech leader, shares four leadership principles that transform team building.
  • In this LinkedIn article, former secret service agent Evy Poumpouras writes on how she can read people and spot a lie.
  • Some organizations are trying to resuscitate office culture, but employees are not buying it, says this BBC story.

Have feedback for this newsletter? You can send us a note here.

Follow related authors and topics

Authors and topics you follow will be added to your personal news feed in Following.

Interact with The Globe