Incompetent Managers

Most of us have worked for managers that made us question how they kept a job much less landed a leadership position.  One of the most common mantras of employees everywhere is “let me tell you how bad my boss is at his or her job.”  In fact, dissatisfaction with your supervisor holds the distinction of being one of the top reasons employees leave an organization regardless of location or industry.  Although most articles and discussion revolves around the plight of employees, much less attention seems to focus on how the incompetent manager’s supervisor might rectify the situation.

As leaders, when we know that a manager fails to deliver, why do we allow them to continue?

Defending Selection

Someone at some point promoted the incompetent manager to a position of responsibility.  Regardless of the rational for promotion, leaders dread making mistakes and abhor even more admitting to mistakes.  Literally, there is a tendency to support bad decisions simply to defend the initial decision.  As an early mentor of mine used to say: “leaders will defend that person to the death since admitting he or she is a failure is the same as admitting they are a failure.”

Little Choice

Most organizations struggle to attract and retain qualified leaders on a consistent basis.  Assuming that the availability of employees with leadership skills mirror a normal distribution, only 20 percent of those available in the market really possess the skills to exceed expectations.  Moreover, most quantitative research shows that the total number of employees with leadership skills and experience has diminished and will continue to shrink as the baby boomers retire.   Put simply, the actual number of candidates in the top 20 percent continues to shrink leaving us with fewer good options over time.  Coupled with the lack of proven means to assess capability and a lack of strong market position, an organization may assume that there is little choice but to keep what it has for now since alternatives may be worse.

Not Crisis of Week

In an organization undergoing major change or dealing with multiple challenges simultaneously, rehabilitating or removing an incompetent manager takes a back seat to other pressing issues.  Weak managers fail to make the top ten list of what needs immediate attention.  By not addressing the root cause, the organization perpetuates its challenges.  Literally, we fall in the trap of addressing the symptoms instead of the real cause.

So, what can we do to escape these predispositions?  In the next post, I will discuss a few options we have to address an incompetent manager.


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