Back-to-school season is in full swing, and students everywhere have traded in their carefree summer days for homework, tests and grades. While formal report cards may still be a few months away for these schoolchildren, performance evaluations never stop in the business world — and employees say their bosses have some room for improvement.
A July 2014 study conducted by business training organization Sandler Training and research firm Ipsos Public Affairs found that 40 percent of American workers would give their manager a "B" grade for overall management skills. Meanwhile, 24 percent of bosses received a "C," and a combined 14 percent were given a "D" or an "F" in this area on their hypothetical report cards.
"I worry about the bosses who received a 'C' or below," said Dave Mattson, CEO of Sandler Training. "They are the ones who are likely frustrating [their] employees, leading to things like internal fighting, higher turnover and numerous other things that negatively affect the bottom line."
Nearly half of the survey respondents described their boss as "missing in action," "a micromanager" or a "power tripper," traits that likely contributed to these leaders' low grades. When asked to assess their own performance, however, bosses painted quite a different picture: 60 percent of managers said they are "perfectly comfortable" managing their employees. [5 Simple Ways to Become a Better Leader]
Over-confidence may partly explain this disconnect, but Mattson believes that a lack of management training and feedback is the most likely reason for poor leadership performance. Eighty percent of managers surveyed said that their company expects them to lead without formal training. This is especially true in a small business setting, where it's assumed that outside hires or employees promoted to management positions can do the job because they've been in the industry or company for a while.
"Managers are made, not born," Mattson told Business News Daily. "They need constant development. When you ask managers what they did to enhance their skills, they tend [to say] they learned about this operating system, etc. But they need help [with] the 'people side' of the business."
Managers also sometimes lack the same type of feedback lower-level employees might get on a regular basis, so they may not have an accurate idea of their own performance.
"If nobody fights back [about a leader's tactics], or if they meet their goals, they think they're doing a good job," Mattson said. "Very few managers sit down and ask, 'How am I doing?'"
So what can a leader to do earn an "A" from his or her employees? Mattson said that one of the most important skills to master is understanding your employees' individual behavioral and communication styles.
"Employee perception [of their bosses] is based on their behavior style," Mattson said. "Some employees don't want micromanagement, but if they need feedback and don't get it, you're [considered] MIA. Know who's who, and be flexible in your communications."
Mattson also advised taking the time to meet with your staff and ask for their honest feedback about how you're doing.
"Sit down with people [and ask], 'What do you expect of me to help you do an awesome job?'" he said. "There are some things you can do as a leader, but in some things you can just support [your staff]. Ask them to grade you, and continually work on that."
Originally published on Business News Daily