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I’ve always believed that hiring is the most important job any manager has.

When you hire the right employees, you increase your chances for success. Hire enough of them and your company will be pretty efficient.

What I didn’t consider is that the company has to hire the right managers, too. A bad manager can cause problems that will ripple through any company and prohibit it from doing its best. It’s much worse to hire a bad manager than to hire a bad employee.

That’s one of the key findings in Gallup’s latest “State of the American Workplace” study. It discovered that currently only about 30 percent of workers are engaged in their jobs.

That means 70 percent are not reaching the potential on the job, which means their companies are less productive and efficient than they could be.

“Here’s something they’ll probably never teach you in business school: The single biggest decision you make in your job – bigger than all the rest – is who you name manager,” says Jim Clifton, Gallup’s chairman and chief executive. “When you name the wrong person manager, nothing fixes that bad decision. Not compensation, not benefits – nothing.”

Gallup reports 20 percent of American workers are “actively disengaged,” meaning that they feel terrorized by their bosses and spread misery and dissent throughout their companies. Another 50 percent of workers are “not engaged,” a benign category that finds them physically present but uninspired by their work or their managers.

It also finds that the top 25 percent of work teams commit 50 percent fewer accidents, are responsible for 41 percent fewer quality defects and account for 25 percent less in healthcare costs when they are compared to the bottom 25 percent of work teams.

“So having too few engaged employees means our workplaces are less safe, employees will have more quality defects and disengagement – which results from terrible managers – is driving up the country’s healthcare costs,” Clifton concludes.

Gallup suggests that companies need to not only hire the right managers, but need to make sure they have the skills to manage and motivate others. Too often, it says, companies use promotions into the management ranks as rewards for career paths. Instead, companies need to understand that managers require certain skills to actually manage, not just occupy a management slot.

And, because Gallup believes that managers are the primary factor in having a work force that is motivated and efficient, that companies need to hold their managers accountable for doing that. Organizations should be responsible for coaching their managers and monitoring their progress in developing an engaged work force.

Gallup estimates that disengaged employees caused by bad managers cost the nation’s companies between $450 million and $550 million.

Now think about doubling the number of good managers, a phenomenon that could move 30 percent currently disengaged workers into the ranks of engaged.

Not only would you have a staggering increase in performance, you’d also double the number of workers who come up with the most innovative ideas, create most of a company’s new customers and possess entrepreneurial spirit.

But first you’ve got to hire the right managers.

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