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7 remarkable traits that separate bad managers from brilliant leaders
- mins read

7 remarkable traits that separate bad managers from brilliant leaders

Haelee Reis
Haelee Reis
Head of Marketing and Program
Haelee Reis
May 18, 2023

Middle managers were especially affected by the recent global tech layoffs, where they were let go more than any other category of worker. But surely we need managers to carry the culture?

Since the popularity of fully remote and hybrid work, the manager’s role has become more important than ever. Managers directly influence the people they manage, they ensure that the organizational goals are translated into actions for their team members. Therefore, through their work, managers align team performance with overall organizational performance. They shape organizational culture and embody it on a day-to-day basis. 

In this article we’ll cover 

  • The impact managers have on employees
  • The affect they have on organizations
  • How to become a better leader 

Let’s dive in!

Managers have the same impact on employees as a spouse or partner

Managers have a huge impact on an employee's mental health, UKG research found it was the same as a spouse or partner. If you think about pre-pandemic times, when people were in the office, they would see and interact with senior leaders on a regular basis. Whereas now, they might only see them on a monthly or quarterly basis, on an all-hands Zoom session. Therefore, how culture and values show up on a daily basis is down to the manager. 

According to the World Economic Forum, “the most logical role for middle management is to serve as the vital cog in the creation of a positive organizational culture by empowering staff and aligning them to the long-term vision of the business.”

How do bad managers affect organizations?

We know from research that many managers are not good leaders; they negatively impact employees, culture, and organization. People leave managers, not organizations, and Gallup found that managers account for 70% of the variance in employee engagement.

And we know there are some shocking statistics about managers:

  • 70% of employees say their managers do not provide clear goals and direction
  • US companies spend $360 billion each year in healthcare costs as a result of bad bosses
  • Employees that have poor relationships with their boss are 30% more likely to suffer coronary heart disease
  • It takes 22 months for an employee to shake off a bad boss
  • 26% of workers report they dread going into work every day.

Why good employees become bad managers

Is it their fault? No. In many cases, managers were high-performing individual contributors who were appointed as team leaders because they understood how to do the role, not necessarily how to lead. Often, the manager's role requires a completely different set of skills and outlook. Managers are given little, if any, training. A recent study by shows that a whopping 58% of managers said they didn’t receive any management training.

Managers are Burned Out

The World Health Organization says that burnout is marked by being tired, feeling more mentally removed from your job, and having less professional effectiveness. According to Vantage Circle, 18% of middle managers are subject to chronic depression while Fortune reports that 46% of managers are due to quit this year due to work-related stress.

“Many managers are struggling with balancing the need to implement the corporate strategy on behalf of senior leaders with providing the sense of purpose, flexibility, and career opportunities that their employees expect,” - Peter Aykens, Chief of Research, Gartner HR practice.

The difference between bad managers and great leaders

We know that managers have a huge impact on an employee's mental health; UKG research found it was the same as a spouse or partner. Therefore, organizations need to invest in developing effective managers. 

Here are some key traits that separate bad managers from brilliant leaders:

  • Recognition
  • Communication 
  • Caring and empathy
  • Vulnerability 
  • Being a Coach
  • Clear expectations
  • No is a complete sentence 


Recognizing employees is the number one thing workers say their manager could do to inspire them to produce great work. When it comes to inspiring people to be their best at work, nothing else comes close—not even higher pay, promotion, or training.


There is a strong link between consistent managerial communication with higher engagement levels. Managers who use a variety of tools see the best results - so encourage managers to combine face-to-face, phone and instant messaging to ensure the best results. But managers need training as almost 70% of them report feeling uncomfortable communicating with employees in general.

Caring and empathy

Organizations recognize that managers need new skills when dealing with the post pandemic work. Management consultant James A. Koroma states that in today’s global business, “conscious and conscientious development of competent caring leaders is critical to organizational survival”. According to Forbes, 96% of employees believe showing empathy is an important way to advance employee retention. 


According to Indeed, transparency and respect are fostered by vulnerable leadership in the workplace. Managers that establish a personal connection with their team members are trusted. These managers aren't only politely interested in their workers' personal life, they genuinely care about them and want the best for them. They know the names of their spouse, kids, dogs and cats. 

Being a Coach

Coaching is the difference between managing a team and building one. Managers tell people what to do, coaches help people discover how to do things. Coaches focus on getting the best out of each employee, based on their natural talents, and ensure the path is cleared for the employee - to execute brilliantly.

Clear expectations

Setting clear objectives and key results (OKRs) and getting the team’s buy-in is key to high performance. The best teams have a shared, ‘all-in’ mentality. 

No is a complete sentence

Enabling employees to say no to requests that do not align with OKRs is key to empowering. Knowing they will have your backing makes them feel more in control and supported. 


Bad managers are bad for business - but it’s not all their fault. For 90% of us, the skills needed to be a good leader (not even great) don’t come naturally. Plus there are also loads of contributing factors that impact someone’s ability to be a great leader, like everyday life.

At PepTalk, we believe managers are key to carrying the culture of an organization and making it live and breathe for their team. Our platform supports and empowers managers, helps them stay connected to their team, and develop their own leadership style that gets the best out of their team. Learn more about it here.

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