The Problems of Being a Nice Manager

As Consultants we often go into businesses and encounter managers who are just too “nice”. They are friends with their teams and wouldn’t say boo to a goose, so dealing with underperformance and confrontation is a total no-go. Obviously this is not good news for the business, or ultimately the employees if the business fails.

From the employee’s perspective, having to work for a friendly and relaxed manager is not seen as a problem; they don’t complain when you are a few minutes late, they don’t comment on poor performance and generally you can get away with sweeping things under the carpet. Even if there are issues they are dealt with in a light hearted manner, which can result in the employee not realising the seriousness of the issue, or that there even is an issue. From a business perspective these are one of the most difficult types of manager to try and change.

More importantly, the behaviour of management drives the performance of the business; culture and performance go hand in hand, you need to get both right to meet business goals. The solution is often to throw resources at the problem area of the business, rather than focusing on the people.

So how does a business identify these type of managers and how do you change their way of thinking in order to balance the needs of the business and their teams, and move away from putting the needs of the employee first? It is only when a performance issue surfaces within a team that these managers are identified by the business hierarchy. When performance issues continue and there is no improvement in the performance of the team, it can be useful to observe the interactions between this manager and their team to see if the issue is actually with the manager being too nice, or if there are other issues in the team that need to be addressed.

Essentially it comes down to coaching and guidance. With the help of a good mentor and some management training, the nice manager’s behaviour can be improved. Key skills that typically need to be developed will be assertiveness, conflict resolution, mediation and performance management. Not all skills required can be taught in the classroom; there is the need for ongoing coaching and mentoring in the workplace to ensure this manager is able to apply their new skills effectively and improve the culture within their team.

There will typically be push back from the team in accepting the new leadership style of their manager and it will take time for them to adapt and for performance to improve, but with support from other senior managers they will learn to accept the new leadership style.

Ultimately, with the right support the nice manager can transform into an effective manager. Effective managers and their teams develop and change with the needs of the business and promote the right behaviours; changing the culture of the business in positive ways. The time invested in mentoring and management training will continue to deliver benefits well in to the future, both for the team and the manager themselves.