3 Management Styles that Kill the Employee Experience

Good Employe Experience

3 Management Styles that Kill the Employee Experience
The war for talent is fierce. Employers cannot underestimate the effect a negative Employee Experience (EX) has on attracting, retaining, and engaging their workforce. Employers are now realizing that they need to create a place where employees not only need to work but want to work.
Managers are key contributors to EX. More than ever, managers are balancing the need to get results from employees and achieve company goals, while creating an engaging work experience for employees.

Read the Book: The Employee Experience

But when team performance falls below expectations, the best intentions to motivate can sometimes jeopardize success. This creates a negative effect on organizational health and the employee experience. Here are three examples of common management styles that can backfire when trying to motivate employees. Good Employe Experience

The Overly-Optimistic Manager

Optimism is a strong factor that generally increases motivation and creates a positive EX. But sometimes hard tasks are just that—hard. The difficulty employees face in tackling challenging tasks needs to be acknowledged, and not simply minimized or pacified with a weak pep talk. When a team struggles, managers need to lead by introducing helpful ideas and strategies. But then, as leadership educator and author Liz Wiseman advised, “Remember to hand the pen back.” It’s beneficial for a manager to help employees get back on track, but then remember to place the responsibility back on the team to find the solution.

The Pacesetter Manager

Some managers try to set the pace for their teams by being an example in areas of quality, innovation, customer service, or even amount of work delivered—and there may be nothing wrong with that. By modeling the high standard, they hope the team will follow their example and meet the pace. But Wiseman observes that sometimes the result is the exact opposite of the desired effect: “It creates spectators instead of followers.” Instead, “take time to recognize the unique gifts and talents of individuals who participate on your team,” recommends executive coach, Sara Canaday. Understand that team members can make the best contributions at their own pace.

The Endless-Idea Manager

In an effort to achieve more, these managers generate a mountain of new ideas that “need to be implemented immediately.” These managers think this approach inspires their team with new and exciting work opportunities. Instead, employees are often overwhelmed by the barrage of ideas and varying agendas. Wiseman warns that too many ideas can torpedo an organization. Collective creativity shuts down, and efforts to chase after the volume of ideas and strategies places workers right back where they started. No progress. No development. No skill-building.
A manager’s role is constantly paired with expectations. The secret to meeting goals lies in a manager’s ability to utilize the talents residing in the staff. Nurture those skills by avoiding blind optimism, creating a healthy pace, and encouraging creativity from staff.
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Are Your Employees Engaged? Look in the Mirror.

Are your employees engaged? Look in the mirror. No matter what it says on your business card, you’re an employee and you have responsibility to be an engaged employee. But you may also be a manager, and as a manager you have some responsibility for the engagement of others as well. If your employees are engaged in the work they do, results will show. The same goes for a team that is disengaged.

Managers are accountable for the outcomes of the organization in which they work. They aren’t hired simply to make sure employees feel good and are happy. They are expected to deliver results. Organizations reward (or punish) managers for outcomes. While this is obviously appropriate (managers should be accountable for organizational performance), it’s only half the equation. What gets done is as important as how it gets done.


Here’s where we run into one of the most common problems with effective managers: They keep getting promoted. In our coaching practice, our consultants often report experiences with “promoted doers.” In traditional organizations, employees considered good “doers” (people who have a talent for getting the job done) form the pool from which supervisors choose new managers when promotions come around. Now, that’s perfectly appropriate. However, it also creates a problem.

In our experience, when a former “doer” is abruptly handed a manager or supervisor title, he or she may not have the tools to lead. He or she may be an excellent software developer but lack the skills, background, tools, and learning needed to excel in a management role. Usually, one of three things happens: (1) This person adapts and gains the qualities needed to become a solid leader; (2) the new manager takes what he or she knows from experience and becomes a “super-doer,” forgetting that it’s now his or her job to lead and inspire others, not do everything; or (3) the newly promoted fails miserably, taking his or her team down with the ship.

We would like to think that most of the time the first scenario plays out—the manager learns, adapts, succeeds, and leads. Perhaps you have experienced this in your own career or worked alongside those who have.

However, the second and third scenarios are all too common. As many organizations work to pull themselves out of their managerial death spirals, they do so by focusing on results—and, possibly, results at any cost. After all, results are what the organization rewards. Right?


You may be like the managers in the above scenario—a valuable individual contributor promoted into a position of leadership without the proper guidance or tools. Hopefully, you’re the manager who gets it. You get results and lead a strong, engaged team on the way to success. Whatever situation you’re in, as a manager you have a great deal of influence over the engagement of the people you supervise. While they must still choose to be engaged, you have more influence than probably anyone else in your organization. So, no pressure. The good news? Research shows that the more engaged you are as a manager, the more engaged your subordinates are likely to be.

Related: Become an Employee Engagement Expert. Get the Book.

As critical as managers are to the health of an organization, it would be surprising if the engagement level of managers didn’t impact the engagement level of the employees working under them. In fact, in research we conducted to see if there was a relationship between the engagement level of managers and the engagement level of their subordinates, we found that the more engaged managers are in their work and workplace culture, the more engaged their teams are.

Our research teams reviewed data files containing employee engagement survey results from twenty-two companies. After removing the results from all managers with fewer than four subordinates, we were left with survey responses from 2,300 managers and 18,913 rank-and-file employees. Careful analysis of the engagement scores of both groups revealed that:

  • Within the manager category, 35 percent of people fell into the Fully Engaged category, 50 percent were classified as Key Contributors (our “strong and steady” employees), 13 percent fell into the Opportunity Group (the “fence sitters”—neither engaged nor disengaged), and only 2 percent were Fully Disengaged.
  • The general employee population (non-managers) showed a somewhat similar distribution—27 percent of employees were Fully Engaged, 49 percent were Key Contributors, 20 percent of employees were in the Opportunity Group, and 5 percent were Fully Disengaged. Compare with the Employee Engagement Spectrum Infographic.
  • The percentage of employees who are Fully Engaged increases by 50 percent when the manager is Fully Engaged, instead of merely being a Key Contributor. The increase in engagement is even greater when compared with the teams of managers who are either in the Opportunity Group or Fully Disengaged: We see a 157 percent jump in the percentage of employees Fully Engaged in both categories.

Manager-Engagement-ResearchBoiled down, the results of our research show that (1) engaged managers do affect the engagement level of their teams; and (2) engaged managers have more engaged teams. So, managers, the first step in engaging a team?

Engage yourself.

To find out more about employee engagement and how to become an engaged manager, read ENGAGEMENT MAGIC®: Five Keys to Unlock the Power of Employee Engagement.

Build your team’s employee engagement level through an interactive ENGAGEMENT MAGIC® Training.