Why Managers Get Fired

I’ve had a funny month. One of my clients has demoted one of their managers and fired another. A second customer is considering buying out a minor shareholder who’s also a manager.

All of these managers are not  able to do their jobs as it relates to managing other people or themselves. It all seems to relate to how to communicate with the people that work for them.

When Managers Don’t Manage

One of my construction clients had an excavator operator who screwed up and caused unnecessary damage at a work site. It was bad enough that the operator was going to b e suspended.

His manager didn’t know how, or didn’t feel confident enough, to do the suspension himself. He asked the general manager to do it for him.

At this point I’ve got a couple of questions. Like how come we’re discussing the fairly straight-forward suspension of an operator at the executive level? Or why a manager in a leadership position is unable to confront poor performance? Or how somebody got hired into a manager role, claiming to have exactly this kind of experience?

 After they started digging (pun intended) into the manager’s performance and work history they found other issues. They decided that if that general manager has to do his job for him, then why pay the guy? Ultimately they decided to let him go.

Which means that the general manager is now (still) the bottleneck for operations. He has to spend time finding a replacement, run operations, all while juggling that with his “real” job of building relationships with existing customers and finding new ones in a new operation in a new city (business development).

He’s also short an operator while the original problem child is on suspension.

Get Good At Giving Feedback

So what? Well, if you’re a “manager”, making your “general manager’s” job easier means handling things at the lowest level possible. If you’re not comfortable at giving specific, fact-based feedback and applying the appropriate consequences, then start now.

Yes, you’re going to suck at it and be really uncomfortable with it at first, especially if you haven’t done it before, had a good example of how to do it, or had training. Too bad. All those excuses have a solution, but none of them should hold you back from starting now. Everything is practice until it isn’t. So start practising.

If you’re the “general manager”, then stop hiring for just experience and knowledge. Look for the ability to develop, coach, and mentor team members. Look for the ability to create teams. For the experience admitting mistakes, fostering trust, taking responsibility, and being comfortable with conflict.

Try This:
Give positive feedback every day for a week. Try to catch people doing things right, tell them, and notice what impact it has. What did you learn? What are you going to do differently, if anything, going forward?

Other articles you may find interesting:
Why Delegating Work to Your Staff Is Good For Them
You Need To Get Good At This To Be A Good Leader
How to Give Positive Feedback

Bernie works as a leadership and business coach, consultant, and facilitator. He believes there are simple things outstanding leaders do well, and that the workplace is a place where people should be able to thrive, not just survive.

3 thoughts on “Why Managers Get Fired

  1. In a recent HBR article, a passing reference was made to the fact that the survival rate for managers who move to management positions in other companies is around 50%. For me this was an absolutely astounding revelation and highlights the fact that a firing situation is not a one sided affair. It would appear to me that both the fired manager and the firing manager have failed in their duties. While we can argue at the portion of blame each side deserves, I would put it at 50/50. Given that more than 95% of people want to do a good job, and that includes managers, it would appear that not enough is being done to help people succeed. This of course goes both ways. While it is incumbent upon managers to help their direct reports succeed, it is also the duty of the reports to help their managers succeed. To create such a mutually supportive environment, however requires a great deal of trust and that can only come initially from the top.


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