...people don’t leave jobs, they leave managers, and a survey by B2B marketplace Approved Index confirms that this adage is true. In its survey of 1,374 employees in the U.K., nearly half (42%) of them have left a job because of a bad boss and almost a third of them feel their current boss is a bad manager. When asked why they disliked their managers, 41% cited a lack of recognition, while 40% said they felt overworked.One of the reasons employees feel overlooked, overworked and underappreciated is because supervisors focus on pleasing the manager above them, not on developing a well-functioning team below them. That is human nature.
Another reason businesses should be concerned about poor supervisors is that bad supervisors kill morale. Employees with low morale perform far below their capacity. In other words, the company is getting far less for the wages they pay than they could. One of the best business books, How Full is Your Bucket?, is not about business. It’s about the origins of the field of positive psychology. One of the authors, Donald O. Clifton, studied why US prisoners of war died at a much higher rate in North Korean camps than in POW camps during World War II. In his research he discovered that the North Koreans kept US prisoners isolated, gave them letter from home with only discouraging news, and made them confess their “sins” daily. Healthy prisoners became so depressed that many pulled their blankets over their heads at night and died.
The author realized that for people to perform well at any assignment they must feel good about themselves and their work. He created the field of positive psychology to promote the idea. The great psychiatrist Viktor Frankl also insisted that people must feel confident, relaxed and focused in order to perform well in art, sports or business. Most workplaces are like the North Korean prisoner of war camps. Subordinates hear nothing from their supervisors except criticisms.
The natural response to the problem of bad supervisors by most writers and human resources managers is more training. But it is not a knowledge problem; it is an attitude problem. Knowledge problems are easy to fix with training. Attitude problems take years of counseling or a disaster in one’s life that destroys one’s arrogance.
Most of us have known people who we thought were very nice and easy going people only to find out that the workers under them, or their wives and children, considered them monsters. They live a Jekyll and Hyde existence. That’s because few people can handle even the small amount of power that comes with supervising others. It overwhelms them. Saint Augustine wrote that all people are consumed with the lust for power and when set free it turns nice people into ogres. Lord Acton wrote that power corrupts, and we can see that in action at work in the overbearing attitudes of supervisors toward the employees suffering under them.
If more training isn’t the answer, what is? The solution is to get rid of supervisors and restructure the company in teams. Information on team structured businesses can be found on web sites and in books on organizational behavior. One web site wrote that
By eliminating layers of management, employees get to make decisions without getting multiple approvals. This streamlines processes and lowers administrative costs. Additionally, employees feel empowered and morale increases. Because people on the team work toward the same goal, they focus on the task at hand rather than petty interdepartmental conflicts requiring management intervention. Using a team-based structure, employees typically solve problems themselves without having to consult superiors, which shortens the amount of time required to complete activities.A team based structure doesn’t solve all problems. In fact, it can create problems, as many web sites explain. But the problems the structure creates tend to be knowledge based and so can be solved with training. Team based structures solve the attitude problem, the weakness in human nature that power corrupts.