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Friday, March 22, 2013

Beware of Managers From Hell

Here’s something they’ll probably never teach you in business school: The single biggest decision you make in your job -- bigger than all of the rest -- is who you name manager. When you name the right people to manage your company’s workplace, everything goes well. People love their jobs, your customers are engaged, and life is great.

When you name the wrong person manager, nothing fixes that bad decision. Not compensation, not benefits -- nothing.

Gallup just updated our global database of employee surveys, which includes a sample of 1,390,941 employees in 192 organizations, which covered 49 industries in 34 countries. This is our Q12 database, and it is the biggest of its kind. And what we found out about managers and employees has serious implications for the future of the American economy.

Of the approximately 100 million people in America who hold full-time jobs, 30 million (30%) are engaged and inspired at work, so we can assume they have a great boss. At the other end of the spectrum are roughly 20 million (20%) employees who are actively disengaged. These employees, who have bosses from hell that make them miserable, roam the halls spreading discontent. The other 50 million (50%) American workers are not engaged. They’re just kind of present, but not inspired by their work or their managers.

Here is my big conclusion: A workforce of 100 million employees in America requires a 10-1 ratio of managers to teams. So, for the U.S. to be perfectly managed, it requires 10 million great supervisors and then 1 million great managers of those supervisors. Pick the right people for these roles, the ones who know best how to engage their people, and the country will rise up economically like never before.

But the problem is, given my 10-1 ratio, there are, in my estimate, only about 3 million great managers inspiring and motivating those 30 million engaged employees. That’s just not enough great leadership.

Here’s why: Gallup research has found that the top 25% of teams -- the best-managed -- versus the bottom 25% in any workplace -- the worst-managed -- have nearly 50% fewer accidents and have 41% fewer quality defects. What’s more, teams in the top 25% versus the bottom 25% incur far less in healthcare costs. So having too few engaged employees means our workplaces are less safe, employees have more quality defects, and disengagement -- which results from managers from hell -- is driving up the country’s health costs.

But on the positive side, Gallup research concludes that the 30 million engaged employees come up with most of the innovative ideas, create most of a company’s new customers, and have the most entrepreneurial energy. Now, given all of this, imagine if America doubled the number of great managers and engaged employees. Is it asking too much that 60 million employees in the U.S. be engaged at work?

This isn’t impossible. It’s doable. Let me tell you why.

I recently had a conversation with Jim Harter, Ph.D., Gallup’s lead analyst for workplaces, and one of the top psychologists in the world. He probably knows more than anyone about the behavioral economics of the world’s workplaces. I asked Jim, “Of the 12 items in Gallup’s Q12 employee engagement survey, which are the three that matter most in terms of building workplace engagement?”

Jim rank-ordered the top three items this way:

  1. At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day. This is the single-best survey item you can ask an employee. If they score high on this, it means they have been assigned a job for which they have the talent to excel. Mastering this begins with companies identifying employees’ strengths and putting them in the right roles.
  2. There is someone at work who encourages my development.
  3. At work, my opinions seem to count.
When the United States of America -- or any country for that matter -- wakes up one morning and says collectively, “Let’s get rid of managers from hell, double the number of great managers and engaged employees, and have those managers lead based upon these three employee demands,” everything will change. The country’s employees will be twice as effective, they’ll create far more customers, they’ll drive down spiraling healthcare costs, and desperately needed GDP will boom like never before.


Anonymous said...
April 10, 2013 at 1:17 PM  

Great points and wonderfully expressed. Thank you.

Anonymous said...
April 11, 2013 at 1:06 PM  

Great Assessment. I agree.

Hari Gurunath said...
April 11, 2013 at 7:28 PM  

Nice article ofcourse. THe three point come to knot if there is no teaming among the workgroups. My concern is none of these top 3 atttributes addresses group dynamics and cause a culture of cohesiveness. This may work better for non-team based employee productivity models.
I'd add one more bullet:

4. The manager foster and intervenes to ensure team cohesive behaviours and actively coaching players to play as a team.

Anonymous said...
April 11, 2013 at 10:59 PM  

The question remains how to execute it? All the organizations who have had the Q12, must be knowing who are the managers from hell! The point is you can't sack one, atleast in countries like ours, and how to can the right behaviours in a manager to make him an angel.

However, great insight that engaged workplaces are safer and healthier.

Krishnan Unni said...
April 12, 2013 at 1:36 AM  

The article brings the big picture view and the importance of having Great Managers !

Managers should be trained to identify, focus and build on strengths. This helps managers build strength based teams right from selection and provide opportunities for individuals to become a fulfilled version of themselves.

There is a need for a paradigm shift in the mindset of managers to move the needle from trying to improve the weaknesses to accelerating and multiplying strengths.

And finally Managers with natural talent to motivate and drive people will build great teams while others struggle.

Anonymous said...
April 12, 2013 at 2:10 AM  


Anonymous said...
April 12, 2013 at 9:25 AM  

I worked for a federal agency for 33 years, and for many of those we had a "mandatory" employee engagement survey annually. Gallop was one of the vendors of those surveys. I was a manager whose numbers for these three questions were good. But, senior management paid the least attention to these numbers when it came to setting goals and rewarding performance. Unfortunately, the goal of senior leadership was to continue to move up the ladder, and the way they did that was by reducing staffing and support ($$$$).

Alexey Timkin said...
April 13, 2013 at 1:06 PM  

It sounds from this article that the author somehow assumes that if you are inspired in work you have a good manager and vice versa.

Is this assumption actually based on any facts in the mentioned survey or just a wild guess?

Satisfaction or dissatisfaction may often have nothing to do with the actual workplace or management around. I agree that bad management may cause dissatisfaction but I think this article does not really show the link between effect (info from survey) and cause (that is just assumed and not proven for the surveyed employees).

Can it be that because of this unfounded assumption the author derives completely wrong conclusions from the survey and the author's guess does not really look at a bigger picture of why really people may be dissatisfied? A lot of that would probably be wrong personal decisions (both career wise and non-career), issues in personal life, inability to socialize with peers at workplace or elsewhere, not coping with age/health changes, seeing work as something you are forced to do to pay the bills, etc.

I am not saying bad/good management does not matter but other things may be way more important to individual's satisfaction.

I would also totally disagree with the last paragraph about "twice as effective", GDP boom, etc as this really does not look at the real economics and demographics of what is happening with the economies now and is just an idealistic view that ignores the simple fact that you will always have some satisfied and some dissatisfied. The economy is not really driven by that. In fact quite the opposite: it is the changing economic conditions, discontinuous innovation and many other factors that threaten people, etc that really lead to changing percentage of satisfied/dissatisfied in different part of society.

Jessica said...
April 15, 2013 at 12:19 PM  

Absolutely spot on. I recently was moved to a position that was created for me at my company (they had a need in my skill area anyway, and now I do what do best every day. It was the wisdom and superior management skills that led my management to see and respond. When you work for a company that encourages good management, you will feel it down the ranks.

James Merendino said...
May 7, 2013 at 4:21 PM  

Clearly, it is positive to raise issues and spur thought on becoming great. Unfortunately, this article is not one of those examples. Let's be careful to not think that great leaders are sitting in a meadow somewhere and all we need to do is to plop them into a role and make the world a better place. As well, the broad brush and linear math equations the author makes is something great leaders wish to avoid. Suppose we actually need LESS great managers and MORE great leaders. To manage is to be passive. To lead is to be an asset that appreciates in value.

Peter S. Ward, J.D. said...
June 19, 2013 at 5:19 PM  

It is all so true, however the real challenge is to allow a great manager to grow and lead by providing new challenges and keeping him/her engaged. Over many years I have found that managers become complacent, tired and onery becasue they become just another cog in the wheel. A good manager needs to be challenged and have room to grow or, as we all have seen, even the best can easily drift into being the "manager from hell" over time.

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