Three Fatal Mistakes Poor Managers Make

Among unsuccessful organizations there is a repeating pattern of high negative-impact management behaviors exhibited by the person at the top of the organizational chart. Here are the three behaviors I’ve seen repeated most often in my more than 30 years as a business owner, consultant and speaker.

  1. Thinking they have all the answers; that their opinions are fact.

Have you ever worked for a manager who is never wrong; who has to make every decision; who won’t listen to any ideas but their own? How did that work out?

Building, creating or operating any organization requires diverse ideas from many people. No one has all the answers, and admitting that you don’t have all the answers—or even all the questions—is empowering.

Sure, employees may occasionally make a mistake—less frequently than the poor manager assumes—but mistakes allow employees to learn and grow and become more independent.

  1. Nepotism

Prime job assignments and promotions should be filled by employees who have earned them through being the most productive, the most innovative or who possess the best skills. I have yet to see a job description that listed son-in-law, drinking buddy or offspring as a necessary skill-set or attribute. Showing favoritism to friends or family members for reasons having nothing to do with their experience, knowledge or skill-set is discrimination. It’s also unethical and hurts the business’ long-term success.

Promotions and job assignments based on favoritism and connections rather than merit is bad for morale and engagement. Anyone who can’t keep up, doesn’t pull their own weight, or who is incompetent hurts the organization far more than these managers realize. Nepotism causes employees to become bitter and less productive, or to seek employment elsewhere.

If a short-sighted manager wants to hire their inexperienced friend or incompetent family member to help them out, great. Just don’t promote them over more experienced, loyal, hard-working, competent employees, if the goal is long-term success.

  1. Believing, to their detriment, in a stable environment

Contrary to popular belief, insanity is doing the same things in the same way and expecting the same results—in an ever-changing world. Organizations face change every day: from customers, from suppliers and from new, potentially destabilizing, disruptive competition.


Peter Drucker writes, “One reason why it is difficult for management to accept [change] is that all of us tend to believe that anything that has lasted a fair amount of time must be ‘normal’ and go on ‘forever.’ Anything that contradicts what we have come to consider a law of nature is then rejected as unsound, unhealthy, and obviously abnormal.” (Innovation and Entrepreneurship, 1985)

Change-resistant managers try to solve new problems by applying old, familiar models. When these old models don’t work, they will often keep trying to make them work — “maybe if you work harder,” they say, “things will pan out.” But they don’t.

For an organization to be successful everyone from the top down must not only embrace change, they must drive it. Don’t wait for change to come your way. Proactively seek the changes that are coming your way, adapt to these changes and use them to your advantage.

While there are many other common mistakes, these are the top three I’ve seen repeated—usually all at once. What are the biggest mistakes you’ve seen management make?

I hope that by identifying and discussing them, it will help you to avoid these mistakes in your organization.

Bob Roitblat
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Bob Roitblat

Bob Roitblat is a Leadership Capabilities Expert and TEDx speaker. He helps organizations ignite creativity, overcome challenges and capitalize on opportunities. Bob is also the president of Mainsail Consulting Group, a business-advisory firm. Also connect with Bob on LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook.

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Bob Roitblat
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