Not Everyone is Management Material

We’ve all come across someone who has been put into a management position but is not good at being a manager at all. Sometimes, it’s due to politics and favoritism….but more than likely, it’s due to someone thinking that just because they are experienced they would make a good manager, to teach and guide others.

Let’s add to that the problem of the now new manager thinking he’s qualified and demanding respect. It’s the “I’m in charge now” attitude that starts with subordinates feeling they are being treated unfairly or disrespected and leads to an all out disgruntled feeling that is especially hard to correct.

Can we blame the new manager for this problem? Not entirely…

I was reminded of this while watching the movie U571 in which Lt Tyler (played by Matthew McConaugey) is upset with Captain (played by Bill Paxton) when he isn’t given command of his own ship. “I did everything right and did it twice just to make sure I did it right the first time…I would give my life for any one of these men.” Bill Paxton’s character points out to him that his last statement is the real WHY he isn’t qualified…that he needs to put the job first and not hesitate in his actions.

And therein lies the main problem…some people put into management roles want to remain everyone’s “friend” so they continue to be well-liked instead of leading and making unpopular decisions.

When managers make decisions so they will be liked, they create more problems for themselves and for their employees. When met with opposition or “talk back,” they immediately become angry and take a hard stance against their “problem employee” instead of taking a step back and seeing the full picture so they can make the “appropriate” decision.

Case and point:

A newly installed manager gets a phone call from a former employee (who has been fired from the company twice now) and immediately tries to be the “nice guy” by telling the employee he will try and see if there is room to re-hire him. This new manager has had no prior interaction with the terminated employee and no idea of his work product – let alone story around his being terminated a second time – but sets off to convince upper management of why this person should be given a second chance. At the first pushback he receives, he gets upset and forceful while trying to resell his case. As other managers step in to shoot down the prospect, the new manager becomes disgruntled, claims he’s not being allowed to manage, and doesn’t think he should be the one to tell the former employee he is not welcome back.

The newly installed manager wasn’t really management material from the get-go.
He was more concerned with being the “good guy” and “liked by everyone.” If you can’t accept that you will have to separate being someone’s friend from making a management decision, then you shouldn’t be in the role. In the long run, his reputation will be tarnished forever.

Two lessons from all this:
1) Evaluate someone’s people skills – not just to be friendly, but how they had lead and corrected employees – when deciding whether or not to move them into a full-time management position

2) Do not be afraid to change this person’s role if you later find out that they really aren’t a fit. If they aren’t doing the job or aren’t doing it properly and you leave them in place, you now have a runaway disease that you will never be able to cure.


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not of The HR Gazette or its team members.

Author: Barb Buckner

Over 15 years of experience as a strategic Human Resource Professional with a proven history of implementing HR strategies and managing employee relations, process improvement and compliance. A reputation for leveraging business relationships, engaging the workforce and creating a positive return on investment into HR initiatives.

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