Work Relationships

4 signs that your manager is the problem—not you

Written by Eric Titner

Are you having problems at work? If so, you’re not alone, and it’s not something you should ignore. Most of us spend a significant portion of our lives at work—way too much time to be constantly unhappy or submerged in an uncomfortable environment. And the truth is, there’s a wide array of possible explanations for why you’re having issues—including many that aren’t really your fault, and might be a problem of poor management.

Much like our family members, the vast majority of us don’t get to pick our bosses, which means that we’re often in the passenger seat regarding who we report to on a daily basis. In a perfect world, our managers would be great people and shining examples of professionalism, individuals whom we can aspire to emulate as we learn and grow on the job.

Unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world, and most of us aren’t lucky enough to work with perfect managers. In fact, some of us find ourselves working alongside problematic managers who really exert a negative energy and adversely impact the ability of others to do their jobs.

Does this sound like the situation you’re in? If so—or if you’re finding yourself unhappy at work and are unsure if the problem lies with you or your manger—then keep a lookout for the following 4 signs that just might indicate that your manager is indeed the source of the problem.

Everyone is having similar issues

Although your knee-jerk reaction to a less than ideal work environment might be that the problem lies in others and not you, you should take a step back and try to gain some perspective on the situation. If you think your manager might be the source of your problem at work, then listen to what others are saying. If you’re the only one who’s having a problem with your manager, then maybe the situation isn’t as black and white as you think, and you may benefit from taking a deeper look at your involvement and role (hopefully in an effort to make improvements). However, if others are also reporting problems (or show dismay at how your manager does business on a daily basis), it’s a good indication that they are the problem—not you.

Productivity is down

One of the truly unfortunate side effects of having a problematic manager is that not only are they difficult to work with, but they also tend to negatively impact the workflow and productivity of the department or team they lead. This impact can be profound and quite apparent—everything from decreased efficiency and productivity to poor intradepartmental and interdepartmental communication and collaboration can result from the ill effects of an unchecked managerial bad seed. If your team or department is in chaos and productivity is down—and your manager simply refuses to right the ship or is unable to—then it’s pretty clear that there’s a problem.

People are unhappy

When a team reports to a problematic manager and the situation goes unchecked for too long without a course correction, the end result is often a sharp dip in morale alongside an uptick in stress and anxiety—not a recipe for employee happiness. And when employees are unhappy, it’s hard to imagine anything positive, productive, or innovative resulting. If the people who report to your manager are unhappy, then it doesn’t take an HR professional to deduce that there may be a problem at the top that needs to be addressed.

People are leaving

An extreme result of employees being too unhappy for too long is that they tend to jump ship and seek out opportunities on different teams, in other departments—and at other companies. Are you noticing a trend of employees who report to your manager fleeing their positions in droves? If so, then it’s a classic red flag that there’s an unresolved problem with your manager that needs to be addressed.

If you’re having a problem at work, the only path to improvement is to first diagnose the problem, including from where—or who—the issue originates. Use the signs covered here to help you determine if the problem lies in your manager, so you can start the process of working towards a satisfying resolution for you and your career.

About the author

Eric Titner

Eric is a NYC-based editor and writer, with years of experience in career-focused content development across a wide range of industries.