Being a manager is hard and if you’re in the business world, you are bound to eventually encounter a boss whose management style is less than ideal. Sometimes, however, you find that you have working for you an outright nightmare of a manager.
As a business owner or executive, you owe it to your employees and the company to hire and appoint managers who:
The dangers of horrible bosses
When you employ managers who possess none or few of the above characteristics, you put your business at great risk of:
A case study in how to deal with a bad manager
Consider the following scenario: One of your employees calls a private meeting with you, away from her manager, to share with you that her manager has been very difficult to work with. She tells you that other employees also feel this way. She shares with you many examples of how this manager has created a hostile work environment. The stress of working for a nightmare boss is taking its toll on her and she knows she won’t be able to tolerate it for much longer.
The ball is now in your court. So, what do you do?
1) Document everything
HR 101 is to always document everything, especially when dealing with employee relations issues. As soon as someone comes to you with a complaint about another employee – whether that person is a manager, direct report or lateral colleague, grab a pad of paper or open your laptop and get to taking notes. You’ll need to keep these in a secure, confidential, permanent file, alongside documentation of all action you take as part of this complaint.
2) Decide if an investigation is necessary
Your job, first and foremost, is to protect your business by ensuring your workplace policies are compliant. To do this, you need to determine if an investigation is necessary and appropriate. Ask yourself if there is a potential policy violation. If so, you’ll want to move forward with an investigation. If you decide there is no policy violation, you will still want to work directly with the manager and employee to resolve underlying workplace tensions.
If the issue is large enough that you feel it might cause employee turnover - even if you don’t foresee potential for legal trouble - it might be a wise idea to skip to step #3 and formally work with the manager to improve their leadership style.
3) Open a formal investigation
Once you decide a formal investigation is necessary to protect your business, you’ll want to get the most honest and thorough results from your time and investment in conducting an investigation. A neutral third party, such as an HR person or legal counsel should perform the investigation. Again, care should be taken to make sure all discussions and actions are documented in writing.
All witnesses with relevant knowledge about the claims should be interviewed. In addition, the investigator needs to document:
Knowing exactly what the issues are from the beginning is key to nipping problems in the bud quickly and effectively.
4) Create a performance improvement plan
If, after seeking professional advice, you decide to work with the manager to become the type of leader your company deserves, you will need to collaborate with them to create a performance improvement plan (PIP). This is another very important piece of documentation that is crucial to protecting your business during this sensitive situation.
A PIP is an action plan that includes detailed steps and expectations for helping an employee improve their performance. It can include opportunities to take classes, work with mentors and even re-evaluate job duties to develop better work skills. Your PIP should include a timeline for regular check-ins with you to make sure the manager is progressing as desired. Set an end goal for when you will decide, once and for all, if the employment relationship can be salvaged.
5) Keep the manager’s direct reports involved
As you and the manager work through their PIP, don’t forget to keep checking in with their direct reports. Do they notice a difference in the manager’s performance? Are they satisfied with the progress? Are they happier with the company and their job than they were before? If the employees are seeing improvement, continue with the manager’s professional development, providing them with the support they need to be successful. If employees are still having the same amount of trouble, re-analyze the plan to ensure that you are targeting and supporting the real issues.
6) Make a final decision
Finally, if progress is not being made, it may be time to re-evaluate whether the manager is in the appropriate role. Maybe they would be more successful in a different, non-managerial role within the company. It could be that it’s simply time to part ways. This is a difficult decision that should be made only after consulting with your HR partner. There is always risk in termination but these risks can be reduced if you carefully documented everything, took the appropriate steps and you have the support of professional HR services.
Preventing terrible bosses in the first place
Of course, the best way to prevent bad bosses from harming your business is to avoid the situation in the first place. Here are some tips for creating a workplace where great leaders thrive and bad bosses are prevented.
This communication is for informational purposes only; it is not legal, tax or accounting advice; and is not an offer to sell, buy or procure insurance.
This post may contain hyperlinks to websites operated by parties other than TriNet. Such hyperlinks are provided for reference only. TriNet does not control such web sites and is not responsible for their content. Inclusion of such hyperlinks on TriNet.com does not necessarily imply any endorsement of the material on such websites or association with their operators.