Reduced morale. Poor company culture. And lower productivity. Just three impacts bad managers have on your business. No-one ever intends to appoint one. Yet it happens. Regularly. And the negative effect on employee engagement is staggering. Managers account for 70% of the variance in team engagement. So you can’t just leave them to it and hope for the best. As HR, you must take responsibility. We show you how to identify and coach bad managers to be better.

Managing isn’t easy. And there’s no one style fits all. But when it comes to bad managers, there are common characteristics. HR teams must look for these behaviors. And take action to address them. In some cases, people won’t realize they’re poor managers. So you’ll also need to be sensitive as you get them on the right track. You must consider:

  • What bad managers look like
  • Tools you can use to spot them
  • Support that will help bad managers improve their management skills

What a bad manager looks like

“If I’m harsh with you, it’s only because you’re doing it wrong”. When said by Monica Geller in Friends; this line’s followed by a laugh. But it’s no laughing matter. Bad managers often make these types of comments. Their lack of awareness damages relationships, causing performance and engagement to drop. So look for these common characteristics and start to coach bad managers to improve:


Poor managers dictate how and when activities happen. Employees have no freedom to make decisions. Micro-management stifles innovation. And communicates distrust. But some managers don’t realize they’re doing it. So look for signs they need support. Perhaps they’re experiencing unrealistic expectations themselves. And monitoring every detail’s the only way they feel in control.

Poor communication

Bad managers don’t communicate. They don’t set clear expectations. And they change deadlines regularly. Two-way conversation is non-existent. And they’re never available. Instead, communication’s through email, often with caps lock on. So you’ll hear complaints of no one-to-ones. And managers not responding when asked for extra information. You’ll find many employees confused as lack of direction takes over the team.

Taking credit

Employees work hard on projects and ideas. So, having a manager take credit for that work damages morale and engagement. Poor managers also blame others. And to play favorites. So look for disgruntled employees. Those who feel unfairly side-lined. Or reports of people being yelled at over video calls.

High staff turnover

People want to get away from bad managers. Fact. So high turnover’s a key sign. You need to look for managers who regularly appear on your recruitment list. That’s so you can challenge why their team’s turned over twice in two years.

So now you know what to look for. But changing these behaviors won’t be straightforward. You need effective tools to help you coach bad managers to be better. And demonstrate those improvements in a way you can track.

Tools to help coach bad managers

Many businesses are increasingly remote. So they’re adopting continuous performance management (CPM) practices. And this also helps HR. Using the data these systems provide, you can spot bad managers. But do you know how to coach bad managers to be better, even in the hybrid world?

  • Regular check-ins: Good managers communicate regularly with their teams. They review check-ins and provide helpful feedback. Poor managers don’t. So look for low completion rates. If they aren’t interacting with their teams, they’ll be down towards the bottom.
  • Measure engagement: Understanding how valued and recognized employees feel is a great indicator of manager performance. Tools like 10Pulse measure engagement metrics. So you can see where individuals feel valued and get job satisfaction. The worse the manager, the lower the score. Although an occasional high outlier might also point to someone playing favorites.
  • Understand sentiment: Sentiment analysis helps HR to spot concerns early. A steady decline suggests a management issue. Understanding how teams feel, and what drives that, is an important part of engagement. So slipping results need investigation early. And perhaps indicate a manager who needs help in the hybrid world.

But it isn’t just about spotting the signs. Bad managers won’t improve on their own. You’ll need to coach those poor managers to improve their skills.

3 ways HR can coach bad managers to be better  

Not all managers know they’re bad. And most have feelings that can get hurt. So coaching bad managers takes tact, and is part of your role. Start with the engagement and performance insights data you’ve gathered. This will show them the type of data available to them to be able to be a better manager.

Coach bad managers to build better relationships

Great managers build trust. They have a positive team environment. That’s because they hold regular check-ins with their teams. Encourage poor managers to connect weekly with their team members. Get to know them. Understand their challenges. And look for solutions to overcome barriers. After all, a great team performance reflects well on the manager too.

Explain why it’s important to set expectations

Giving employees direction helps them know where to focus. Some managers may give too much freedom believing it’s helpful. But great managers set clear goals. And help their teams understand how they support the big picture. So walk your bad managers through goal-setting. And get their buy-in to the benefits. So they create effective goals with their teams.

Coach bad managers to be more self-aware

Managers are struggling. And poor behaviors are becoming more obvious. Spotting trends early makes a big difference. So check your reports to highlight concerns now. And then identify the root cause. So you can provide the right support. And prevent unnecessary stress all round.

Bad managers damage businesses. Productivity drops, engagement falls. And staff turnover starts to increase. Using Zensai will help you to spot the signs of a bad manager quickly. And coach them to be better.