5 Tell-Tale Signs You’re Working Under a Weak Leader



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AnnaMarie Houlis4.87k
Journalist & travel blogger
April 16, 2024 at 8:52PM UTC
Think you might be working for a weak leader? You're not alone if you have your fair share of painfully cringe-worthy management moments and you're feeling disengaged at work because of them. 
Only one-third of the U.S. workforce is engaged in their jobs. A wealth of research suggests that people feel disconnected and, therefore, quit their jobs, often because of their weak managers. Gallup research suggests that 17 percent of people leave their jobs because of management or the general work environment. In fact, according to James K. Harter, Ph.D., Gallup's chief scientist for workplace management, at least 75 percent of the reasons that people quit come down to all things over which managers have influence. 
So what makes these leaders so weak — and what can they be doing differently? Here are five surefire signs of an ill-fated manager, and how they can stop their employees from turning over because of them.

1. They are inexperienced, just plain absent or both.

If your manager doesn't have previous managerial experience, this can, of course, affect how they manage you and your team. Perhaps they come across like a weak manager because they've never done it before. But perhaps because of your manager's inexperience, when things go south, they hibernate in their offices and interact very little with the team. This is the sign of a weak leader. 
To combat this, your manager should be keeping an open mind to feedback and keeping the communication lines open. They should be readily available to hear what they can be doing better because, without constructive criticism, they won't improve. 

2. They don't respect your time, perhaps because they lack trust.

Stanford University professor Bob Sutton explains in his book The Asshole Survival Guide that people are actually three times less likely to contribute at a high level when their bosses treat them poorly. This is because such disrespect makes motivation levels drop significantly. If your boss isn't respecting your time out of the office, after work hours, on weekends and on vacation, it's likely that you'll feel uninspired and, frankly, frustrated. It'll also make you feel distrusted that you won't get your work done.
To combat this, managers should practice implementing covers for you when you're out of the office. This way they can respect your time off.

3. They are a poor listener.

If your manager does a lot of talking and very little listening, it may be because they don't care or have the time to have a two-way conversation. Effective communication means being able to articulate your needs and also listening to the needs of others. A manager who can't do that is an ineffective communicator and, thus, a weak leader.
To combat this, managers can practice active listening. They can call employees in for one-on-one meetings to make sure they're all on the same page, and they can share questionnaires with feedback every now and then to make sure that they're hearing their employees' needs.

4. They keep things under the rug.

A weak manager isn't forthright with important information that can affect their employees. In a decade-long longitudinal study of 3,100 men, researchers found that workers' risks of angina, heart attacks and even death increased along with work for controlling bosses who withhold information. Those who answered the survey statement, "My boss gives me the information I need," negatively were the most likely to suffer from serious cardiovascular risk.
To combat this, managers can make a greater effort in sharing important information and keeping transparent with their employees. Of course, not everyone needs to know everything, but it's important that employees are kept abreast of matter that concern them.

5. They don't give credit where credit is due.

A BambooHR employee survey asked more than 1,000 U.S.-based employees to rate 24 "typical boss behaviors" from "totally acceptable" to "totally unacceptable." And the researchers found that the worst behavior a boss can have in the workplace is taking credit for one of their employees' work. In fact, 63 percent of the survey's respondents agreed, or admitted that this was something over which they would consider quitting.
To little surprise, women found it even more unacceptable when their bosses wrongly took credit, with 71 percent of them calling it the worst behavior a boss could have. This is likely because women, already, struggle to take credit for their own work. In a study published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, researchers Michelle C. Haynes and Madeline E. Heilman found that women are unlikely to take credit for their role in group work in mixed-gender settings, unless their roles are explicitly clear to outsiders.
To combat this, managers can do a better job at giving credit where credit is do. They can start by making roles in group work explicit, which would make it easier for women to accept credit. And, even when women's roles aren't explicitly obvious, managers can make an effort to acknowledge women's roles in their companies' successes.

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AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreportand Facebook.

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