A calm manager talks to an employee

Is calmness a foundational management trait?

October 18, 2018
3 minute read
Last updated November 15, 2018

Victor Lipman is a management trainer and author. His online course on Udemy is The Manager’s Mindset and his book is “The Type B Manager.” He has more than 20 years of Fortune 500 management experience. He contributes regularly to Forbes and Psychology Today, and his work has appeared in Harvard Business Review.

I recently wrote a short management tip article for Forbes about the value of “calmness” for managers. To my surprise, I quickly received a note from a reader suggesting that not only was calmness important—it should be considered a foundational management trait.

Now I must admit, calmness isn’t often mentioned in the same breath as more typical core managerial skills like, say, communication, team building, conflict management, or the ability to present effectively to an audience the size of a small Midwestern town.

But on the other hand, I wouldn’t dismiss the idea either. When it comes to employee engagement—the notion of one’s emotional commitment to an organization—individual employee-manager relationships are almost always an important factor. And a manager’s temperament—is a manager calm or excitable and quick to anger?—no doubt comes into play here.

This is why I was interested to see, in the recent People Management Study from The Predictive Index™, that staying “calm and cool in the face of pressure” was ranked number 12 among the 20 top traits of great managers.

Most employees spend quite a bit of time interacting with their manager. It completely stands to reason that a calm temperament is easier to be around than an agitated one.  

Calm managers create happy employees

Stress is contagious.

While high employee engagement numbers are the Holy Grail of many human resources departments, the reality is, on a national basis, our employee engagement stats are chronically low, usually hovering around the 30 percent level, according to Gallup. (This means approximately 70 percent of employees are not highly committed to their organizations.)

There are a number of reasons for employee disengagement, but one of them clearly resides in the manager-employee relationship. As the old management adage goes, people leave managers, not companies. Not 100 percent of the time, for sure, but enough to give credence to the saying.

We all know jobs can be a source of stress. The American Institute of Stress reported that job stress is the biggest source of stress for American workers. While it’s hard to know the exact percentage of employees stressed out by their bosses, if you flip the situation around and consider The Predictive Index study data noted above, one thing is clear: 

Employees value calm leadership.

Because stress begets stress, it’s contagious. An amped-up, stressed-out boss passes that stress along to his or her employees. A calm manager creates a very different work environment: a welcome island of relative tranquility amid a sea of pressure.

Speaking just for myself, over the course of a long career in corporate America, I know how much I preferred working for calm managers than for the too-high-octane variety. Calmness was reassuring. It engendered loyalty. It helped create a more pleasant day-to-day workplace.    

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But is calmness, as one of my readers suggested, critical enough to be considered a “foundational” management trait?

It’s a fair question.

I’m not entirely sure about that one.

What do readers think?