The 7 Deadly Sins of Bad Management that Crush Employee Morale

by Jason Evanish, CEO Get Lighthouse, Inc.

Most people don't set out to be bad managers, and yet there are many out there. This is because bad management is often a byproduct of bad habits, not inherently bad people.  These habits develop over time due to a lack of training, stress, and insufficient feedback to recognize problems. When left unchecked, they can lead to employees quitting as well as morale and productivity plummeting for those remaining.

Recognizing a problem is the first step to resolving it, so consider these 7 deadly sins of bad management a warning sign for you to consider which bad habits you or your colleagues may be falling into.

The 7 Deadly Sins of Bad Management

inconsistency is a sign of bad management

1) Inconsistency

One of the easiest ways for politics to creep into an organization is for employees to feel like their leaders are inconsistent. It's also a common way for team members to have a growing resentment for their manager.

Do you treat your team members the same? Do you follow through on the promises and commitments you make? Do you hold everyone to the same standards? Are there standards?  You cannot have excellence on your team without consistency in the caliber of work that's accepted, how people are treated, and the messaging delivered to your team.

How to atone for this sin: Write things down, stay organized, and over-communicate your expectations to everyone.  Create lightweight frameworks and processes for yourself so that you can apply them to what you do in a consistent way.

forgetfulness is a sin of bad management

2) Forgetfulness

The sibling of inconsistency is forgetfulness. If you forget the commitments and promises you make, your word will not be valued by your team or your peers.  This can lead to people not taking your statements seriously and poison the well for communication on your team; too often, when resentment strikes, people will gossip about the issues to one another instead of confronting them directly.

If you can't stay organized, you'll commit this sin over and over again.  When you're stressed and under pressure, it's most important you deliver for your team, but it's also the easiest time to become forgetful.

How to atone for this sin: Lightweight frameworks and processes can again help you. You can lean on them when you get busy and have one less thing to keep straight in your mind.  The more you get out of your short term memory to remember to do, the less you'll likely forget.

The right tools like Todoist for tasks, Pivotal Tracker for product management can be a game-changer for your memory and consistency.

Selfishness is a sign of bad management

3) Selfishness

In sports we call them primadonnas. In the workplace, it's often called someone "playing politics." Either way, it's when people put themselves ahead of others, take credit for all of a team's triumphs, and blame others for their failures.

In the short term, these people can advance ahead of others, possibly even looking like a star, but it always ends up collapsing.  The culture is poisoned as others resent the person and get frustrated by their lack of recognition for their contributions and being blamed for someone else's failing.

Do you put your career ahead of your team members's? Do you take more credit than you deserve for work your team did? Have you ever thrown some of them "under the bus" for mistakes you were a part of? Humble leaders elevate their teams and share the credit like a good quarterback thanking their offensive line and the rest of the team after a big win.

How to atone for this sin: A great leader serves their people.  Share the credit and accept the blame. When your people succeed, you will as well. Embrace that and you'll go farther than being cutthroat and selfish.

bad management is a one size fits all approach

4) Being One-size-fits-all

With just a little effort you'll find some people will respond to your initial management style and approach. Unfortunately, if you never grow beyond a single style that a handful of people respond to, you will struggle to have a great team.  Great teams are built on a diversity of views, personalities, and skills, which you cannot manage with a one-size-fits-all approach.

What works for your extroverts, won't work for your introverts. What your creative team members respond to, won't usually excite your deeply analytical team members. What your wily veterans are comfortable with can be alienating to newcomers, while what excites young workers may be patronizing or boring to your older team members.

If you use one-size-fits-all management, you'll also spend a lot of time looking for replacements as you alienate and fail to get the most out of everyone. This costs you significant recruiting time as well as lots of lost productivity.

How to atone for this sin: Get to know your team and learn what each person responds to. Tailor your management, coaching, and engagement to what gets the most out of them. An extrovert may be perfect to run a group meeting, while an introvert may relish the opportunity to prepare in advance for a discussion and share more ideas privately.

Complacency and not investing in your people is a bad management habit

5) Complacency

I ran cross country in high school and I remember my coach used to tell us, "If you're not passing, you're getting passed.” It only took me once getting narrowly passed at the end of a race to never forget that (it stings to be the first finisher to not receive a medal). I have since learned this is as true for running as it is true in business, especially in increasingly competitive, global markets.

If your team isn't improving on the work they've always done, the business is at risk of falling behind in the market. If your people aren't growing, then they're likely getting bored, frustrated, or even looking for opportunities outside work to grow.  The responsibility for both kinds of growth falls on managers.

How to atone for this sin:  Don't rest on your laurels. Your best people always want new challenges, and can help bring out the best in the rest of your team by setting the pace. Help them by taking the time to set new goals for how the team can grow in both their contributions to the business and in their career growth.

a lack of transparency can be bad management

6) Opaqueness

When you lead a team, you have access to more information than your team as you're in meetings and discussions they are not. You are part of planning they may not be included in as well. If you don't share some of the information they should know, you hurt them.

Do you share critical information with your team? Do you share information when they ask? Holding out on them will hurt their ability to do their job and the ability to feel that their work has value. Vagueness undermines accountability.

How to atone for this sin: Help people feel the impact of their work and share the wins and losses. We're all adults here. Treat your team like it, and trust them with the kind of information that will help them feel connected to the company.  You'll be amazed how they can respond to a challenge with a little positivity from you and a feeling of meaning to their work.

not giving praise or feedback is a bad management habit

7) Silence

Do you give your team praise when they deserve it? Do you give them constructive criticism so they can improve? Withholding praise is an easy way to lose your best employees.  When you fail to praise deserving team members you miss out on a simple action that has been found to increase productivity and revenue 10% to 20%.

Good people want to know how they're doing and your weak team members will test how far they can coast without being noticed. Neither are good for the results of you and your team.

How to atone for this sin:  Set a standard and praise those that meet or exceed it and give feedback when team members come up short. Bad news is better than silence. You won't have a standard to hold your team to without feedback on how they perform against it.


These sins are easy for any manager to fall into. With a little effort and an embrace of servant leadership, you'll be well on your way to avoiding them and the many other habits that lead to bad management.

Jason Evanish

Jason Evanish

As the founder and CEO of Get Lighthouse, Inc, Jason and the Lighthouse team have helped managers grow their leadership skills in dozens of countries around the world. They’ve worked with a variety of companies from non-profits to high growth startups, and government organizations to well known, publicly traded companies. Jason has also been featured in publications including NPR, the Wall Street Journal, and Fast Company.

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