The most frightening thing about having a manager that is “Too small” and creates underperformance and disengagement is the gradual reductions in the level of Competence of the team, which makes departmental underperformance and increased disengagement. The department begins to sink in scale, matching the Competence of its manager.
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 the director of engineering. In her previous role as director, she was successful, and employees reported her as “Big Enough.” Under her management, in the last position, the department had a 98% retention rate of employees and 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.
Jackie started her new role and, just as in her previous director role, 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 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 more apparent 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.
The HR business partner and Jackie chose to call together the department and discuss why production, quality, and on-time completion of work were 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 were not essential and that they should worry about their work, failing to set good boundaries and sharing the context of how their work fits into the business plans. They also believed she was creating too many policies they had to navigate, setting increasingly constraining procedures that were not necessary to get the work done; these reduced the employees’ sense of responsibility, authority, and initiative to do a good job. In other words, their engagement in work DROPPED, and they were underperforming.
This lack of employee engagement happens when a manager does not have the Competence to handle the level of work, add value to employees, set the proper context, and allow employees to do their job 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 is the gradual reductions in the level of Competence of the team, which makes departmental underperformance, and increased disengagement. The department begins to sink in scale, matching the Competence of its manager.
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?