The most frightening thing about having a manager that is “Too small” and creates under-performance and disengagement are the gradual reductions in the level of competence of the team, which creates departmental underperformance and increased disengagement. The department begins to sink in scale, matching the competence of its manager.

Having a big enough manager to handle the complexity of the work create-learning team building and leadership

Case-Study going from “Big Enough” to “Too Small” in competence for the role

Jackie was promoted to vice-president of engineering. Before her new position, she was director of engineering. In her previous role as director, she was successful, and employees reported her as being “Big Enough” for her role. Under her management, in the last position, the department had a 98% retention rate of employees and a project completion on time, on budget, and within determined specifications.  With her promotion to vice president, the CEO was not sure that Jackie was the right person, but she interviewed well, and they felt she would rise to the level of work.

Successful teams will rise as high as the competence of the manager to manage and lead

Jackie started her new role and, just as in her previous role of director, she began to make changes. But soon the complaints started, and the Human Resources business partner began to see employees becoming apathetic, and stating things like “I will just do what I’m told…I’m sure she will tell me to change everything.” At first, this was just thought to be growing pains and the employees plus Jackie adjusting to the new management and positions, but gradually it became clearer that Jackie was not handling the job as well as she at first seemed to be doing.

She began to complain about the staff. Two of the all-time high-performers complained that they could not do their work, and Jackie was always breathing down their necks and taking credit for the work when it went well but yelling and blaming them when things did not go well.  They applied and were given transfers to other parts of the company. She replaced them with two people who were below the competence needed to complete the complicated work required in the department, but she argued they could complete the work efficiently with her.

9 indicators the manager is not able to handle the complexity of the work - create-learning team building and leadership

The HR business partner and Jackie chose to call together the department and talk about why production, quality and on time completion of work was slipping. She became angry when, instead of blaming themselves, they blamed her for keeping too tight of a grip on everything, telling them that their ideas are not important, and they should worry about their work, failing to set adequate boundaries and sharing the context of how their work fits into the business plans. They also believed she was creating too many policies that they had to navigate, setting increasingly constraining procedures that were not necessary to get the work done; these reduced the employees’ sense of responsibility and authority, and initiative to do a good job. In other words, their engagement in work DROPPED, and they were underperforming.

This lack drop in employee engagement is what happens when a manager does not have the competence to handle the level of work, add value to employees, and be able to set the proper context and allow employees to do their work and be fully engaged.

Jackie was “Big Enough” for her former role as director and the results were evident, once promoted to VP of Engineering the role was too large for her to fill, and she was “Too Small” in Competence to handle the increased complexity and challenges of the role. Therefore lowering those around her to a lower level and causing underperformance of the employees – and eventually the department.

The most frightening thing about having a manager that is “Too small” and creates under-performance and disengagement are the gradual reductions in the level of competence of the team, which creates departmental underperformance and increased disengagement. The department begins to sink in scale, matching the competence of its manager.

5 Levers for Employee Engagement create-learning team building and leadership

Based on the case study above, how is your company determining the capacity of managers in their roles? Have you seen similar things happen to good people? In what ways can organizations work to avoid this from happening?

Hire Create-Learning