12 Top Management Mistakes

A woman works from home.

When experts factor in how much replacing a single employee costs — as much as twice that employee’s annual salary per re-hire — they come to the startling conclusion that U.S. businesses are losing at least $1 trillion a year on unnecessary turnover and that much of that churn is due to management mistakes.

When asked why they leave one job for another — or even quit with no next role to transition into — three of exiting employees’ top five reasons for resigning are management issues:

  • Lack of trust in company leadership
  • Lack of integrity at the company or management level
  • Lack of recognition for their contributions

Whether you’re new to managing direct reports or a veteran looking to break things down for newly hired team leaders, knowing how to avoid these 12 management mistakes can decrease employee churn, increase engagement and productivity, and make your organization a go-to destination for top performers.

1. Failing to Transition From Worker to Manager

As an independent contributor, you were accountable solely for your own job responsibilities. Now, you’re responsible for other people’s productivity and results. Consequently, you must tap into a new set of business skills, particularly people skills like motivation, mentoring, and the ability to build and maintain interpersonal relationships. Some of the best employees become the worst managers because they fail to make this transition.

2. Setting Unclear Goals and Expectations

The fastest way to derail your employees is to leave them in the dark without goals and directives. If you don’t meet with your employees regularly to develop attainable goals, they won’t understand what is expected of them. If you don’t give them a vision to work toward, they won’t understand what is expected of them and will likely lack the motivation to achieve it.

3. Having a Messy Desk or Workspace

Not everyone has the same work style, nor does everyone thrive in the same degree of order or clutter. What looks like visual chaos to an engineer might look like visual inspiration to a graphic designer. But once a desktop — virtual or literal — becomes overrun with documents and folders arranged in no discernable order it can cost your organization real time and money. The typical worker loses more than four hours a week searching for lost paper. Executives spend even more time each week — a full five hours! — searching for missing information. Since your work habits will tend to set the tone for your direct reports, strive to keep it neat.

4. Failing to Delegate

This is one of the most common management mistakes made by novice managers. You can’t do everything by yourself. But even if you could, it would not be an effective use of your time or talent. When you delegate, you create more opportunities for your employees, and projects that at first seem overwhelming become manageable once you assign them to a team. Failing to delegate important projects and responsibilities to your direct reports communicates that you do not trust them with critical assignments. It undermines their confidence and hinders them from developing their full potential as future leaders.

5. Overlooking Employee Achievement

If you get too caught up in keeping pace with your workload and reaching benchmarks, you run the risk of overlooking opportunities to acknowledge your employees’ successes. Employee recognition has been linked to improved performance, retention, and employer loyalty. Small perks like PTO or micro bonuses all have their place, but even handwritten notes or writeups in the company newsletter can serve as effective morale boosters.

6. Poor Communication

The health of companies depends on effective communication and dissemination of information. Poor managers use their control over information as a source of power. By refusing to share their knowledge and insight with their team and colleagues, they ensure that they are the most knowledgeable, and therefore, the most valuable employees within an organization. But this a mistake, as well as a sign of insecurity. Being as transparent as you can be (without betraying client confidentiality or overstepping other legal restraints, of course) will make you more approachable and build trust with your team.

7. Not Making Time for Your Employees

Time management is one of the most important aspects of people management. Schedule multiple regular meetings with your team members individually and as a group. These meetings can be weekly, biweekly, or even daily, depending on your industry and deadline pressures. Be prepared to drop everything if you get the sense that a member of your team needs to speak to you about something pressing. Remember that completing tasks is their job now — your number-one job is supporting them so they can achieve that.

8. Going for the Quick Fix Over the Lasting Solution

When it comes to management mistakes, a lack of long-term vision is one of the most damaging. There are times when a temporary solution is appropriate, but once your immediate deadline has passed, it’s essential to take the time required to make the kinds of long-term systemic corrections that will help support sustainable success and growth over the long run.

9. Starting Your Day Without a Plan of Action

As a manager, it’s easy to let the day get away from you. To prevent this, begin each morning with a set of short-term goals you want to accomplish by quitting time. Decide who you want to check in with that day, what calls you want to make, and what reports you want to complete. At the end of the day, update your list for the following day, but don’t hang around after hours too often. As the team leader, you set the tone, and if you get into the habit of staying late, your team may think the same is expected of them.

10. Not Taking Breaks

Getting into the habit of working late or failing to take lunch breaks signals to your direct reports that it’s necessary for them to do so too. In fact, the more time you spend at the office, the more they will feel compelled to put in extra hours. This is the perfect recipe for employee burnout. Taking a very visible break for lunch or, better yet, leaving the office to eat, stretch your legs, or run errands each day signals to your team that you take work-life balance seriously. Besides, you’ll return from your mid-day (or mid-shift) break refreshed and ready to bring your best self to your remaining daily work tasks. The same goes for vacations, sick time, and holidays.

11. Resisting Change

Visionary leaders are forward-focused. They welcome new ideas and embrace new technology because they aren’t afraid of change; in fact, they anticipate it, foster it, and attempt to stay in front of it, always eager to remain on the cutting edge of their industries. The same goes for the latest management best practices. Now that you’re in a leadership role, you need to keep up with the latest trends and thought leaders not only in your sector and profession, but within the realm of organizational management as well.

12. Taking Yourself Too Seriously

A manager with a big ego and no sense of humor will have a hard time maintaining the respect of their team. Once you fail to see the humor in the inevitable mistakes you are likely to make on the way toward success or start making your decisions based on pride rather than strategy, you risk losing your team’s respect. But when you make projects fun, work becomes a place employees can’t wait to get to each morning to start collaborating and contributing.

Now That You Know How to Avoid the Most Common Management Mistakes, Go a Step Further

Avoiding the leadership mistakes that drive employees out the door is just the beginning. Monster’s e-book, Always Be Recruiting: How to Attract, Engage, and Retain Talent is your survival guide for surviving and thriving in today’s war for talent.