Managers Are Rarely Leaders

Managers Are Rarely Leaders Photograph

If you have been in the workplace for any amount of time, chances are you have had a terrible boss. The kind that creates consistent nightmares. Horrible managers are not uncommon and leadership as a whole in the working environment is not often the greatest. Not having competent managers or leadership does not seem to be something many employers are paying attention to. According to a survey of 1000 employees done by Bamboohr, 44% of the respondents stated they left a job due to a bad boss.

The study also found the top characteristics of a bad boss that made people want to seek other employment. An issue with a manager’s style was a problem 37% of the time. Attitude accounted for 30% and a boss with a temper was also 30%. With these statistics, how is it possible that so many bad bosses are left to manage people?

Survey shows 44% of the respondents left a job due to a bad boss

Why Are There So Many Bad Managers?

The simple answer to bad managers is the way in which they are most frequently promoted into these roles. A Gallup Poll found success in a prior non-management role to be the number one method for promoting someone to a managerial position. Tenure with a company followed behind as the second most reason for promotion.

Neither of the top two motives for promoting an employee to management is really a good one. Just being good at a position in a company does not make a person suitable to be a manager. Although tenure with a company should be rewarded, it is also not the best to qualify someone to manage people.

The Experienced Employee

An employee that is good at their job does not mean they have experience being a leader. It may just mean they are good at the job. The people that get promoted by being good at their current position are also often what I classify as the last person standing. This is many times seen in positions with high turnover. Rather than a company finding a truly qualified manager, they just promote the most experienced person into a managerial role. The promotion puts a person into a position they are not qualified to do. Furthermore, it is not uncommon for the promotion not to receive any further training or education on managing.


Being with a company a long time does not also immediately qualify a person to be in a management position. An employee may have a lot of experience and knowledge of a company with tenure, but this does not give them the skills to be in a true leadership role. Rather than recognizing a long-time employee with the things they should be rewarded with; it is not uncommon for a person that has been with a company a long time to just get thrown into management. This can be a recipe for disaster.

Terrible Leaders Hiring Bad Managers

Your immediate report at the job might not be the only bad manager. Companies that have real issues with leadership hire bad managers internally. Because the higher ups also do not have the education and knowledge for what makes a good manager, they just keep putting inexperienced people into the positions. This creates a never-ending circle of hiring a bad boss.

Having top-tier horrible leaders is also not that uncommon in addition to the managers below them. When this occurs, it can take a long time for any real changes to take place and break the cycle of hiring terrible managers. If you work for a company that is led by people that appear to be incompetent, this is a sure sign it might be time to move on.

Letting a Bad Boss Go Can Take a Long Time

Most companies take a very long time to get rid of a bad manager. They are given the benefit of doubt almost always. I have never personally known why this occurs. But I suspect it is a pack that managers and leaders seem to have. They stick together through the good and the bad. This long-time frame for letting an unqualified manager go is a big reason that many of them exist.

Employees will sometimes believe that upper management may just not be aware of an incompetent manager, but this is rarely the case. Things like high employee turnover and formal complaints will often exist. Even with these signs of issues, it still can take a very long time to finally replace a bad manager.

What is the Difference Between a Manager and a Leader?

Although most managers would believe they are also leaders, this isn’t always the case. There are differences between being a manager and a leader. Managers have employees they manage and leaders have people that actually follow them.


A manager is someone that likes to give orders and they are not shy from criticizing others. Bosses that are managers will focus their attention on the bad things that may happen. In addition, they have a hard time paying recognition, rewarding employees and praising people when it is due. A terrible manager that is not a leader will regularly use fear and intimidation to accomplish tasks.

Someone that is just a manager will use terms, such as “I”, instead of “we” or “team”. Horrible bosses that manage will want credit for their teams work and not credit given to the team. Managers that do not lead will many times be out of touch with how things may really function on a day to day basis.


A manager that is also a leader is very different than just a boss. When it comes to mistakes leaders will call attention to them, but not place blame. They will look for ways to improve the way things get done in the future. Also, they will look for ways to reward people and do this often even with the smallest achievements. Opposed to the “I” mentality a manager might have, a true leader will think in terms of “we” and “teams”.

Leaders emphasize the good things. They respect people. Moreover, a good leader looks for ways to inspire and coach rather than rule by intimidation.

Not All Managers Are Leaders. There is a difference.

Horrible Managers Can Ruin a Company

One of the most surprising things it does not look like companies have yet to learn is the impact terrible management can have on a company. This is evident through many employers reluctant to get rid of people they know are problem managers. This is in addition to the length of time it usually takes to let a terrible boss go.

With surveys showing that 44% of workers leave a job due to a bad boss, employers need to take a hard look at who is managing in their organization. Not only do bad managers increase employee turnover, they also play a role in employee engagement. A Gallup Poll found that 70% of teams in the workplace feel that engagement is dependent on their manager.

Surveys show that 44% of workers leave a job due to a bad boss.

A boss that does not have engagement from their team results in issues that can have a long term effect on productivity and profitability. Workers that are not engaged tend to call in sick more often. They also may not live up to their full potential. Disengaged employees that do not like their manager will do what they need to do in order to get a paycheck. But this will be the extent of it.

Bad managers with employees that do not care about the success of a company will be the final result. Workers will only concern themselves with getting to pay day each week and it will not be long before they begin to look for better opportunities.

Final Word

Managers should also be good leaders. Although some would say it is not fair to label most managers as not being leaders, statistics show this most probably is the situation for a large number of workers. The most often used formulas for hiring a manager are ones that would certainly appear flawed. Just tenure or experience on a job does not automatically qualify a person to be a good leader and manager.

Being a manager is just that. It is managing people. However, a leader that is put into a manager position is the best choice for ensuring someone is qualified and improving their chance for success. Even knowing this, most companies have yet to recognize the importance of the individuals put into management positions. With studies of low employee engagement and high turnover directly related to a manager, employers really need to start paying more attention to who they put in charge of employees.

Better managers that are also true leaders leads to the success or failure of a company. Leaders placed in management roles not only can equal better profitability through employee retention, but it also creates a place people want to work and stay working.

My personal opinion is the workplace may continue to have terrible managers a majority of the time as long as it continues to be accepted. It may never change as the world seems to be more about personal gratification and survival opposed to helping one another. As the pursue of profits above people has been the increasing norm for some time now, bad managers will always exist.

Hopefully at some point more companies will realize the benefits of having true leaders and not just managers. When this happens, it will only increase their profitability and employee retention. But most importantly, it will make more working environments tolerable for workers. Environments they will want to stay in and ones they are proud to be a part of.  

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