101 Bonehead Mistakes Every Manager Should Avoid

Updated: March 17, 2010

We've all heard that "To err is human, to forgive divine," but how many of us realize the truth behind that old adage? We tend to make more than our share of mistakes, and most of our compatriots show that they are 100 percent human and zero percent divine by never letting us forget our trespasses. And in case you're a manager or superior of some kind, the divinity aspect goes flying out the window. There are eyes watching you from all directions, waiting to see if you'll trip up, either over your own feet or over those extended by others.

Being the perfect manager is akin to walking on a minefield, you have to watch your every step carefully or you risk being blown off your pedestal and/or losing the respect of your subordinates. The rules to succeed are simple, mostly a concoction of a large amount of common sense and a smaller dose of shrewdness and people sense. But what with common sense being not all that common, we've prepared a list of mistakes that we think should feature high on any manager's avoidance list. And without further ado, here they are:

Negate the negatives…


1. Think you know everything there is to know. The learning process never ends, no matter how high you've climbed up the corporate ladder.

2. Hesitate to admit your faults and mistakes. Nobody's perfect, we can only try to bring down the number and learn from them.

3. Try to prove you're the boss. "Do this because I said so" will neither cut the ice nor win you brownie points with your employees.

4. Think that just because you're the manager, you're smarter than all your employees.

5. Be rude. Being a superior just does not give you that right.

6. Shirk responsibility or transfer it to your employees just because they are not in a position to refuse you.

7. Be afraid to do anything. Have enough confidence in yourself to know you are capable of the work entrusted to you.

8. Abuse your employees. Taking them to task is one thing, shouting obscenities for a work-related offense is entirely another.

9. Overburden them with work. They may do it, but once the quantity goes up, the quality of work starts suffering.

10. Keep changing the way things are done. Some managers equate change to progress, and so, make changes, for the sake of change alone.

11. Take the blame when your subordinates make mistakes. It's a magnanimous gesture on your part I'm sure, but then, they need to learn to accept responsibility for their own actions.

12. Deny your employees the opportunity for further training. It will make a huge difference to the way they do their jobs.

13. Fail to recognize/appreciate/reward work well done and tasks completed ahead of schedule.

14. Hesitate to ask for help when you need it, either from your peers or your subordinates. A little humility and signs of humanness go a long way.

15. Use business jargon and buzzwords that only tend to confuse and go above your employees' heads. Some managers resort to bombastic language to cover the fact that they do not know what they are talking about. Speak in plain English (or in your native tongue) so that you are understood without any ambiguity.

16. Be inconsistent. Saying one thing one day and singing a different tune the next will not endear you to either your colleagues or your superiors.

17. Undertake any endeavor without sufficient planning. With even the best-laid plans going awry at times, the importance of planning for all situations cannot be emphasized enough.

18. Make hasty decisions. On-the-spur choices without considering the pros and cons often lead to disastrous consequences.

19. Deny your employees the basic (and not-so-basic) tools and gadgets needed to do their work efficiently. IT department heads are notorious for asking their employees to "get by" with the software they have presently, deeming an upgrade unnecessary.

20. Think you have to keep doing something all the time. You have to actually be productive, not just run around trying to look busy, while actually doing nothing useful.

21. Lose focus of corporate goals and objectives in all your activities.

22. Neglect long-term plans for growth in the course of dealing with short-term day-to-day tasks and problems. A company thrives on growth, not stagnancy.

23. Miss out on opportunities. There's a truth to the saying that opportunity knocks but once, and if you're not ready, it goes through the open doors of your competitor. Grab half-chances too and try and work things out to your company's advantage.

24. Remain detached from the proceedings and activities around you. You may not be involved in all the tasks going on, but try and keep an eye on and be aware of what's going on around you.

25. Fire your employees through a phone call, email, or worse, text message. Give them the bad news face-to-face.

26. Hide from them the reason for their dismissal.

27. Sugarcoat the explanation for having to let them go. You don't have to be harsh or rude, just break the news to them gently while telling them the truth.

28. Neglect to follow up on delegated tasks. You are after all, responsible for seeing that they get done.

29. Try to change personalities and personal habits of your employees.

30. Snoop around your employees' desks and personal paraphernalia.

31. Pry into their private affairs. An occasional interest in the family is alright without probing too deeply into personal stuff.

32. Try to be liked by all your employees. You'll only end up pleasing nobody if you try to please everybody.

33. Play amateur psychotherapist. Your employees need you to be just their manager.

34. Live in the past. Our world is changing at a rapid pace, and to move with the times and get ahead, you have to embrace innovations and newness and adapt to it.

35. Keep apologizing for your actions. You need to preserve that air of authority about you.

36. Speak disrespectfully about your superiors or peers to your employees. be the optimist all the time

37. Forget that to motivate your people, you must first gain their respect and support.

38. Promise your employees perks you know you will not be able to deliver.

39. Take credit for your employees' work. Give credit where it's due, otherwise, you end up taking away their motivation to work and losing the respect they have for you.

40. Withhold payment from your employees as a means of punishment for some misdemeanor.

41. Gossip about your peers or subordinates. It does not set a good example for your employees to follow.

42. Assign staff members who cannot tolerate each other or who do not get along well to the same team. You're only hindering progress.

43. Be critical without being constructive. If you chide your employees regarding a particular task, tell them not only what's wrong, but also what has to be done to do things

the right way.

44. Give orders. Requests yield better results.

45. Be too polite or let your employees pull the wool over your eyes. Some employees may take advantage of and walk all over you. Don't earn a reputation as a soft touch.

46. Try to control the method your employees use to carry out their tasks.

47. Be swayed by flattery.

48. Encourage employees who rat on their counterparts.

49. Pit your employees against each other. They need to be able to function well as a team to enhance your department's productivity.

50. Try to be your employees' best buddy. It's an awkward situation when you try to bond too much with them on a personal level. Taking them to task and ensuring that they don't overstep their limits becomes a problem.

51. Be too negative. An optimistic attitude rubs off on your employees as well.

52. Be too positive. Sometimes, pretending that everything will work out well no matter what has an adverse effect on your employees. They may need a small amount of stress and uncertainty to produce their best.

53. Lose focus of your customers. They are the mainstay of your business.

54. Recognize only your top, over-achieving performers. Others deserve appreciation too, if you feel they are putting in their best, even though they do not achieve spectacular success.

55. Neglect to provide continuous feedback about their work. Waiting for an annual/biannual performance appraisal may not allow them to hone their skills and work on their negative aspects.

56. Avoid risks. Take calculated ones and know how to manage them.

57. Make fun of one employee ganging with a few others.

58. Discriminate against your employees on any basis, be it racial, cultural or personal.

59. Look down on people from other countries, especially if their accents, customs and clothes are not the same as yours.

60. Remain detached when a bunch of office bullies gang up on one person.

61. Assign jobs to people least-suited to them.

62. Base appraisal decisions on very recent performances. Take their overall service to the organization into account.

63. Vent your ire on your staff when they're having a bad day without knowing the reason behind the poor performance. They may be going through a rough time personally - a relationship may have come to an end, a loved one may have passed away - cut them some slack before you take them to task.

64. Insist on your employees being jacks-of-all-trades.

65. Assume that things are going well. Keep constant tabs on the status of all the tasks and projects going on under your management.

66. Remain aloof from bad news, especially when you have to break it to a subordinate.

67. Suck up to your employees when you're short-staffed or be arrogant with them when you don't really care if they quit or not.

68. Disturb them at home/ during vacations/off hours with trivialities.

69. Drop in unannounced at their residences and assign them work with the tag "To be completed by tomorrow morning."

70. Accept gifts or favors from your employees.

71. Get your secretary to run your personal errands.

72. Sexually harass employees of the opposite (or same) sex.

73. Indulge in casual office affairs. They become real messy when they end, especially if they do so on unfriendly terms.

74. Have impromptu (or planned) sex on your office table.

Enhance the positives…


75. Plan for contingencies. Do not expect everything to remain picture-perfect all the time. Have effective and tested back-up plans in place.

76. Plan your work-day so that you are not left wondering where the hours have flown when it's time to go home.

77. Set priorities. Do the things that are critical first instead of those that are not.

78. Delegate. Taking too much on your shoulders is the shortest route to disaster and confusion.

79. Take your employees into confidence in all issues that relate to them or the work they do. You'll find that people work better when they have a sense of understanding and purpose to the job at hand.

80. Give your employees room to grow, both personally and professionally.

81. Practice what you preach. Don't say one thing and do the exact opposite. If you expect your employees to be punctual, you have to make an effort to watch the clock too.

82. Invest time and effort in your people. You cannot run the show on your own. Nurture them, motivate them, and coax their best work out of them.

83. Document important aspects of your work. A good filing and document-management system is an asset to every good manager.

84. Listen when your employees speak. Don't dismiss their ideas even before you've heard them.

85. Know how to effectively manage your teams.

86. Be ethical in all your dealings.

87. Set standards for your employees to follow. You are their leader; what you do sets the precedent for them to follow.

88. Treat your employees equally without playing favorites.

89. Focus more on the strengths of your employees, not their weaknesses. The more you get them to improve their strengths, the more their weaknesses fade into the background.

90. Utilize the individual strengths of your employees in forming your teams so that each team is balanced.

91. Make eye contact when speaking on a one-to-one level, especially when you're handing out bad news.

92. Ask questions. Some employees, though loaded in talent and ability, are too shy to come out of their shells and ask when they need something or speak out whenthey face problems.

93. Know how to interview potential candidates so that you hire the best for your company.

94. Know approximate time estimates for each task. This allows you to set reasonable deadlines for your staff to meet.

95. Take a personal interest in the welfare of your employees. Remember to ask occasionally about their families or interests outside work.

96. Turn a blind eye at times to goings-on that are inconsequential to the work at hand. Ignorance is bliss sometimes.

97. Hone your communication skills so that you are able to handle all your interactions, with your superiors, peers, customers and subordinates, with ease. It does not pay to say the wrong things at the wrong times.

98. Set communication protocols - delineate the situations that require emails, phone calls or actual letters.

99. Encourage your employees' creativity and applaud them when they come up with innovative ways to get tasks done.

100. Deal patiently and kindly with families of employees in times of emergencies.

101. Trust your employees to be able to work on their own without constantly supervising them.

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