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When The Manager Is The Problem Performer

by David Brock on October 17th, 2017

Every organization has challenges with problem performers.  However, too few address these performance issues–at least until the impact of the problem performance is devastating to the organization.

A problem sales person can, easily, have an adverse impact of over a million dollars.  The “cost” is not just the lost opportunity in their own territories, but the drag they create on their peers and managers has an impact, as well.  Problem performers drag down morale and performance of their peers.  Problem performers take a lot of management time–unless managers aren’t paying attention, in which case the manager is a problem performer, as well (more on this in a moment.).  Not addressing problem performers creates a drag on the organization.

But what if the problem performer is the manager?

Regardless the size of the organization, sales managers who are problem performers are devastating, whether they are front line sales managers or the top sales exec.  The negative impact of a bad manager can include:

Inconsistent/unsustainable results:  A bad manager can create great short-term results, that’s part of the challenge in understanding the impact of bad managers.  They can bully, use brute force, or leverage any variety of techniques to get results in the short-term.  The problem, however, is these are seldom sustainable.  After the bad manager has done everything they can, how do they sustain the results.  Turning over the people in the organization may provide temporary help, but at tremendous cost.  Over time, because the manager hasn’t built the team and it’s capabilities, because the manager hasn’t focused on engaging the people, building morale, building capability and capacity; it becomes impossible to create results.

Drive away good people:  Read any survey on leadership,  a leading reason people leave organizations is not for better opportunities or money, people leave because of bad management.  People want to work in organizations aligned with their interests and goals.  They want to contribute, they want to grow.  They want managers interested in their success and development, not just focused on the manager’s own success.  They want recognition.  Bad managers don’t do these things–as a result good people look for new opportunities that are more fulfilling.

A derivative impact is the organization is left with mediocre or poor performers.  Yes, perhaps the bad manager fires or lays off poor performers, but there is a group of poor/mediocre performers that keep their heads down.  They can’t get great jobs in other organizations, so they do what they can to survive.  Unfortunately, they won’t improve overall organizational performance.

Bad managers tend to attract people like them:  We all tend to hire in our own images, as these bad managers back fill roles that are being vacated, they will tend to hire more people like them–further exacerbating the overall organizational problem.

Create barriers between organizations:  Bad managers don’t limit their devastation to the sales organization, they create problems with the rest of the organization–often creating barriers to working together, driving conflict, or confusion.

Bad managers tend not to be personally accountable:  Bad managers tend blame others for failure.  As a result, tremendous time and energy is wasted in meaningless finger-pointing and internal battles, diverting attention and resources from the things that drive results.

Bad managers are devastating.  If you are an executive with a bad manager reporting to you–that’s a performance issue for you to address with the highest priority.  If you can’t coach and develop the manager to improve, you need to get rid of the manager.

If you work for a bad manager, find someone else.  Ideally in the same company, but find someone who will invest in you, helping you grow and thrive.   If not, go some place else.

Life is too short and there are too many opportunities to waste time and energy with bad managers.


From → Leadership

  1. Excellent article David. I’ve seen bad sales managers make it difficult for even top reps to perform, and as you suggest, they can create problems with the rest of the organization. This is why I write so much about the importance of marketing and sales alignment – the wrong people in the CSO and CMO roles make this extraordinarily difficult.

    Fortunately, I’ve also had the pleasure of working with some terrific sales execs who are more coach and less manager, and know how to teach, motivate and guide (not direct) average reps to achieve terrific success.

    • Thanks Christopher! It’s amazing how much fun (and how much we learn from) it is to work with an inspired leader!

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