Reports

The 2019 People Management Report

Study reveals the subtle ways managers sabotage their teams

In August 2019, The Predictive Index® conducted a survey to ask 1,038 employees from 13 industries about their managers. Their answers reveal the subtle ways managers sabotage their teams—and what sets world-class managers apart from the rest. 

Organizations that leverage talent optimization succeed in reaching their business goals largely because their employees work together efficiently. People managers play a key role in this by motivating teams and providing a positive employee experience. Read on to learn what managers are doing well, and what they could be doing better.

The findings are broken down into nine sections:

Finding 1

There are subtle ways managers sabotage their teams.

The media portrays bad bosses as bullies: self-centered, quick to anger, and happy to berate employees—usually in front of others. In the 2018 People Management Study, employees similarly described bad managers. The study found that “badmouthing people behind their back” and “plays favorites” were two of the top five most common traits of terrible managers.

But in reality, there are plenty of bad bosses who are harder to spot. This study sought to uncover the ways in which managers subtly sabotage their teams.

To this end, the panel of 1,038 workers were asked to rate 14 statements related to psychological safety on a scale of 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree). Harvard Business School Professor Amy Edmondson described psychological safety as “a belief that one will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns, or mistakes.” 

For example, 96% of employees with good managers feel they can approach their boss with problems; just 43% of workers with bad managers feel the same. 

The data shows that good managers create more psychologically safe work environments. It also shows the subtle ways managers sabotage their teams and destroy psychological safety (e.g., not valuing employees’ unique skills, not being approachable, and not respecting personal values). While these aren’t outright displays of mistreatment, they still negatively impact the employee experience.

Psychological safety is a belief that one will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns, or mistakes.

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Finding 2

People who feel psychologically safe are less likely to quit.

Next, this study sought to examine the relationship between psychological safety and turnover intent. Researchers found a correlation between the way people rated 14 psychological safety statements and turnover intent. Employees who feel psychologically safe are less likely to look for work elsewhere.

With the war for talent raging, establishing a psychologically safe work environment should be a top priority for business leaders who seek to retain high performers. 

To uncover this, respondents were asked to rate the following statement on a scale of 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree): “I am likely to look for work at another organization within the next 12 months.” Researchers then compared the answer to this question with responses to 14 statements related to psychological safety. Across the board, researchers found a relationship between turnover intent and psychological safety.

For example, respondents least likely to exit their organization strongly agreed with the statement “I can easily approach my manager to ask for help,” while respondents most likely to exit their organization disagreed with the same statement.

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Discover your management style.

Learn your strengths and caution areas so you won’t sabotage your team.

Finding 3

The No. 1 skill managers lack is team building.

The data shows that nearly 30% of employees believe their manager lacks team-building skills. Even some managers rated “good” or “world-class” by their employees lack this critical skill. 

When asked which skills managers lacked the most, employees also say providing feedback, time management, delegation, and communication are top manager shortcomings.

Interestingly enough, when managers were asked what was “top of mind” as part of the 2018 People Management Study, team building didn’t make the cut. ​

Nearly 30% of employees believe their manager lacks team-building skills.

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Finding 4

Less is not more when it comes to meeting frequency.

Do 1:1 meetings impact how employees rate their managers? The study found frequency of 1:1 meetings does impact manager ratings.

Respondents were asked how often they meet 1:1 with their managers. Researchers then mapped meeting frequency to manager ratings. As shown in the chart below, there’s a relationship between the two.

Manager ratings jump from 3.1 to 3.6 when managers meet with their direct reports monthly vs. quarterly.

While meeting with direct reports 1:1 once a month should be considered the minimum frequency for good management, rankings are higher for those managers who meet with their employees on a daily or weekly basis.

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Finding 5

Managers who leverage people data see higher ratings.

Respondents were asked whether behavioral or personality assessments were used as part of the hiring process—and if their organization uses assessments post-hire for personal and professional development.

As the data shows, when behavioral assessments are used to collect people data—in the hiring process or post-hire—manager ratings are higher. This may be because behavioral assessments help managers understand how individuals are wired to think and work. When hiring, behavioral data is useful for determining job fit and team fit. Post-hire, assessments contribute to greater self-awareness and can be leveraged to improve working relationships—and to tailor coaching according to individual preferences.

If you’re looking to increase your own self-awareness, take PI’s Behavioral Assessment™. It’s free and you can complete it in less than six minutes.

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Try the PI Behavioral Assessment

If you’re looking to increase your own self-awareness, take PI’s Behavioral Assessment™. It’s free and you can complete it in less than six minutes.

Finding 6

The number of direct reports doesn’t impact manager rating.

You might assume the more direct reports a manager has, the less effective they are at managing—but the research shows otherwise. Researchers found no relationship between the number of direct reports a manager has and their rating as a manager.

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Finding 7

There are more good managers than bad managers.

The good news is: There are more good managers than bad managers. As previously mentioned, respondents were asked to rate their managers on a scale of 1-5, with 1 being terrible and 5 being world-class. About 60% of employees believe their manager is “good” or “world-class.”

About 60% of employees believe their manager is “good” or “world-class.”

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Finding 8

Difference in age between managers and direct reports doesn’t impact manager ratings.

The 2018 People Management Study found negligible differences between the average ratings for managers of different generations.

If the age of a manager doesn’t matter, does the age difference between a manager and a direct report matter?

While some believe young managers may not be taken seriously by older employees, the research reveals a different story. The data shows that age difference has no significant impact on how an employee rates their manager.

What makes a manager terrible or great is based more on how they treat employees.

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Finding 9

Industry doesn’t impact manager ratings.

Despite the claims that certain industries—such as recruitment and marketing—have better managers, the data shows there are no statistically significant differences between average manager ratings across industries. This finding remains consistent from the 2018 People Management Study to this year’s report.

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Talent optimization empowers managers.

Organizations that leverage talent optimization succeed in reaching their business goals largely because their employees work together efficiently. People managers play a key role in this by motivating teams and providing a positive employee experience. Read on to learn what managers are doing well, and what they could be doing better.

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