Your Manager Isn’t Doing This, So You Need To…..

Frankie Kemp

15 January 2024

It seems managers have a closer rapport with their screens (or maybe each other) than those they’re meant to be leading. 

Bosses are accountable for 70% of employee engagement, according to a Gallup poll. A 2023 study revealed that over half of employed millennials are planning to leave their jobs within a year

From that one can infer that managers aren’t exactly captivating their workforce. As Generation X is nearly as likely to leave, one of those managers may be your boss… 

As disengagement rises, talent is out the door before you can ask, “Where’s my office nap pillow and mini golf set?”

So how do you stop the rot and identify where a manager is going wrong, and what skills they might need to improve? 

I gathered a group of highly experienced HR specialists and asked them what difficulties managers have with people skills. We narrowed it down to 13 areas they felt businesses should be prioritising. Below, I’ve put them in the order of the frequency they came up in the group. 

1. Avoiding difficult conversations: the biggest issue across my HR collective was the inability of managers to confront behaviour due to a lack of mental preparation. Some HR Directors have a script they give to managers.  Others have a list of questions they ask leaders to put to individuals that will start a feedback conversation rolling. Performance management should be reframed as ‘feedforward’ to avoid dwelling on ‘should’ves’ and ‘could’ves’.Asking people to fix the past is impossible. This applies to one-to-one conversations as much as to groups. Many leaders find being honest about the reality of the business and the impact it has on the organisation very difficult but if you don’t set these out at the start, people will start becoming suspicious about your rose-tinted plans. 

2. Not getting buy-in: especially when it comes to communicating change Managers need to state what change means to their audience; understand how they got there and what the future brings. Delivering this through stories and an aligned, compelling rationale is sometimes sacrificed for a strategic roadmap. Alas, flowcharts on a PowerPoint satisfy very few people. 

3. Avoid setting expectations: the values that unite teams are rarely stated in specific behaviourally, leaving everyone ‘on the ground’ to wade through the vacuum, second guessing how they’re meant to be interacting with each other.  This impacts how work is completed and what is prioritised, with a knock-on effect of leaving other duties hanging.

4. Not giving feedback: some say millennials want feedback, so a lack of it creates conflict. I’m not sure it’s necessarily a generational issue: I think humans basically like to know how they’re doing and want acknowledgement. Feedback is often dodged because managers believe that a pay rise is a natural consequence of good feedback. If you’ve done well, it’ll cost them money to say it, so the thinking goes.  In my experience, what makes a manager cherished long after the employee has left are quite simple actions such as feeling safe and appreciated. 

5. Delivering messages in the wrong medium: emailing when the telephone would have been better, for example. Generally, the issue is that communication is over-digitalised.  This means people don’t go and talk to each other because other communication methods are easier and quicker, but not necessarily better. Of course, there are such things as audit trails: the C.Y.A (‘Cover Your Ass’) but it’s often quicker to have a conversation and cover your ass in a follow up email, recording that discussion. 

6. A lack of one-to-one communication: if a manager has numerous people directly reporting to them, some leaders may never get to speak one-to-one with staff, and that can be damaging. The problem with this is that managers can’t see a spark before it becomes a fire: a small issue can be spotted early and sorted before it blocks business. If you don’t know your staff and a little about their lives, finding how to motivate them and recognising business issues is challenging.  

7. A lack of networking: collaboration, information finding, streamlining systems within a company and finding resources are just some of the reasons you need face-to-face time with people. However, leaders often partition themselves off and become defensive or suspicious about sharing knowledge and ideas. Research from Cornell University and the UK Government Internal Communication Office show this lack of visibility has a negative effect on employee engagement which will only serve to create further issues down the line 

8. Friction between generations: generational issues of younger workers managing older, differently experienced people can create tension, compounded by the fact that experience is no longer related to age. How we show respect to each other in the workplace is compounded by these generational differences. Open mediated conversations can mitigate such conflict. 

9. Dodging coaching conversations: learning to actively listen, guide and break down tasks into chunks for others seems to be lacking among management.  Because they don’t know what level of coaching is required, they’re perplexed about when this intervention is needed. Sometimes you just have to tell; other times delegate and other times support. Knowing when to use each communication skill is the key. 

10. Technical experts with no people skills: this is probably more general but covers technically competent specialists who are promoted to leadership positions, requiring a whole set of skills for which they are unprepared. Hence, businesses have technical experts becoming managers who’ve had no training in people skills and are struggling.. 82% of those who enter management positions have had no such training and are, according to the CMI, ‘accidental managers’. Here are three major communication pitfalls that are particular to this group. 

11. Not giving the right rewards and recognition to people: this is linked to numbers 4 and 6. If you’re not getting to know your people then you wouldn’t know what makes them tick. Leaders are often in the dark as to how their people like to be recognised and rewarded, for example, publicly or privately? 

12. A lack of understanding about different styles of working and perspectives: many leaders would claim “that’s how I prefer it so that is how it is.”However, there’s more than one way of reaching a goal, and umpteen ways of seeing a situation. It’s vital that as part of any interpersonal communication skills training that managers and team members grasp how others work. 

13. Not setting objectives for others: when objectives are set, there’s then a failure to follow through with tangible plans to meet them.  This is related to point no 9 in which the manager and individuals in their teams have both the desire and means to reach their goals. 

Your Action Steps: 

  1. Identify which specific shortcomings sound familiar to you. 
  2. Look up the links if relevant. 
  3. Hop on to a free 15 minute Discovery Call to see if I can help you with your interpersonal communication skills. If I can’t, I’ll probably know someone that can! 

Which specific shortcomings sound familiar to you? 

It doesn’t matter if you’re leading or being led: managing up means that you need these skills just as much as your boss. So check out my communications skills training courses, to help you #better relate to others and convey your ideas either on a one-to-one basis, or to larger groups. 

Dig deeper by seeing how I’ll help you to influence people, so you become the Communication Ninja and discover how to become the manager or leader that you always wanted. 

Contact me, Frankie Kemp, to find out more.  

This article was originally published in 2019 and completely updated in January 2024.


Photo by Sebastian Pena Lambarri on Unsplash

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