Bad Management Habits (and Tips for Breaking Them)

Your success as a manager comes down to the things you do (or don't do) on a daily and weekly basis.  Are you guilty of any of these bad management habits? 

Bad management habit: Canceling your meetings with your employees (or never scheduling them to begin with)

Something many  managers are surprised by when they are first promoted is just how little control they have over their daily schedule as a manager.  It may feel sometimes as if you are just bouncing from interruption to meeting to meeting to interruption, with barely a chance to breathe, much less have a one-on-one meeting with every one of your direct reports. 

Here's the thing, though: if you are not regularly meeting with the employees you manage, you're not actually managing them.  Those meetings are not an "extra" on top of your job.  They are your job.  You have to find a way to fit those meetings in, and you need to hold to them once they're scheduled unless a true emergency arises.  (As in, something truly cannot wait even one hour to be addressed.) 

The benefit of sticking with scheduled meetings is that they become a time-management device that will reduce some of your interruptions.  If your employee knows for sure that they will be able to speak with you in two days about something that just came up, they can hold that item until your meeting instead of just popping into your office.  But if you're unreliable about keeping to those meetings, they will show up at your door right now. 


  • The meetings can be half an hour - they don't need to be a full hour if they're truly regular.  If necessary, schedule the meetings for every other week so that you can spread your employees across two weeks instead of one.  Don't meet less regularly than that, though. 
  • Focus the meetings on the things that have to be discussed and don't use them for general updates that can be communicated through project management systems or other means.  The meetings should be about questions and obstacles that the employee needs you to respond to.

Bad management habit: Not being fully present when in meetings

When you are in a meeting, where is your phone?  Unless you are a heart transplant surgeon waiting on an available donor, there is no reason you need to check your e-mail while someone else is speaking.  This applies to all meetings, but it is particularly important when you are meeting with your direct reports.  

When you are not fully present with your employees, you communicate to them that they are unimportant, that their work is not critical, and that you have better things to think about.  If any of these things are actually true, then you need to be honest about them.  If your employee tends to drone on and on in meetings without a clear purpose, you need to coach them to be more succinct.  

If you are distracted by something urgent from your own boss, be honest with yourself and with your employees: can it wait?  Can you deal with it after this meeting?  If so, then put your phone away and give your employees your full attention.  If not, reschedule the meeting.  Don't try to do both.  It's inefficient, ineffective, and demotivating to your team.  


  • Make sure you are not in back-to-back meetings -that often makes it hard to be fully present.  If necessary, schedule buffer time before and after meetings on your calendar so no one can book you for those times.  Even just 15 minutes before and after can make a big difference.
  • If you come in to a meeting and find that you are totally distracted by something else, do a quick brain dump on  your notepad to get it out of your head.  Often, we are unable to focus because we're trying to track things in short-term memory that we know are important. Getting it on paper frees up head space for new information and ensures that you won't lose track of the other important stuff.
  • Recognize that we are naturally attuned to novelty, and our mobile devices feed that inclination.  Turn off your notifications so that you're not hearing buzzes every time a new e-mail comes in.  (This is a good time management tip in general, not just for meetings.)  If you have trouble resisting checking your phone when a meeting starts to drag on, put it where you can't reach it. 

Bad management habit: Allowing an employee to get away with negative behavior because they are a star producer

This shows up in every industry: some employees are so amazing at what they do that the organization is willing to tolerate bad behavior from because of the 10x results they achieve compared to their fellow employees.  It seems worth putting up with, especially if it isn't totally egregious, things like showing up late or not at all for meetings, turning in required paperwork late, etc.   Recent research hints that the effects are actually quite serious, though.  Having an employee who is toxic in some way, whether the behavior is refusing to collaborate or making negative comments, is more detrimental than having a vacancy in that position.  You would be better off having a less talented but more cooperative employee or even no employee at all.  So, even a hiring freeze is not an excuse to put up with bad behavior.


  • Make sure you have your boss's backing before starting any "shape up or ship out" kinds of conversations with the problematic star employee.  Stars often have support from above, especially since those folks don't have to deal with the negative behavior - they just get the results.  Help your boss to understand how the employee is undermining the overall team's success and get your boss on board with the idea that the employee needs to be held to the same standards as everyone else, regardless of results.
  • Communicate to all of your employees that the "how" matters just as much as the "what" of their jobs.  Reward and recognize collaboration and other positive behaviors that are not directly results-oriented, and do not reward employees who achieve their results at the expense of the team.  
  • Document the problematic behavior, and start addressing it every time it happens.  Have a conversation with the employee and send a follow-up e-mail with the key points from the conversation as well as what your expectations are for changes.

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