Management Style: Minimize your Seagull Tendancies

By Dr. Travis Bradberry, TalentSource |  Career, bad managers, management

We've all been there … Sitting in the shadow of a manager who, instead of taking the time to get the facts straight and working with the team to solve a problem, swoops in, and squawks up a storm.

These types of managers are called 'seagull managers'.

Seagull managers deposit steaming piles of formulaic advice and then abruptly take off, leaving everyone else to clean up the mess. Seagull managers interact with their employees only when there’s a fire to put out. Even then, they move in and out so hastily, and put so little thought into their approach, that they make bad situations worse by frustrating and alienating those who need them the most.

People may join companies, but they will leave bosses. It’s that simple. No one influences an employee’s morale and productivity more than his or her supervisor. Yet, as common as this knowledge may seem, it clearly hasn’t been enough to change the way that managers and organizations treat people. Few organizations recognize the degree to which managers are the vessels of a company’s culture, and even fewer work diligently to ensure that their vessels hold the knowledge and skills that motivate employees to perform, feel satisfied, and love their jobs.

Problem on the rise

The seagull manager is an increasingly common problem in today’s workplace. As companies flatten in response to the competitive changes created by new technology, industry regulation, and expanding global trade, they gut their management layers. The remaining managers are left with more autonomy, greater responsibility, and more people to manage. They have less time and less accountability for focusing on the primary purpose of their job -- managing people.

It’s easy to spot a seagull manager when you’re on the receiving end, but they are often unaware of the negative impact that their behavior has on their teams. And they aren’t the only ones. In the vast majority of organizations, senior leadership is unschooled in the negative impact this trend is having on the bottom line.

Here are some of the hard truths we have to face every day in the world of work:

  • Employees whose manager often uses seagull-type behaviors are 30 percent more likely to develop coronary heart disease than employees of a manager who rarely uses these behaviors.
  • 32 percent of employees spend at least 20 hours per month complaining about their boss.
  • More than two thirds of North Americans are actively considering leaving their current job, with their employers suffering annual losses in excess of $360 billion from this employee dissatisfaction.

Three strategies to ground your seagull tendencies

The real question is not are you a seagull manager but when are you a seagull manager? Every single one of us is a seagull manager sometimes, in some situations, and with some people. Follow these strategies to fly higher and eradicate the negative influences of seagull behavior:

  • Make expectations clear - The seagull manager creates the need to swoop in and set his team straight. The superior manager gets everyone headed in the right direction from the start by ensuring that expectations are clear.
  • Keep communication flow steady - The rare visit from the seagull manager results in a lot of squawking. The superior manager maintains a steady flow of clear, reciprocal communication.
  • Deliver feedback in digestible doses - The seagull manager manages his or her team’s performance by swooping in and dumping on everybody. The superior manager ensures that he or she is present to deliver positive and negative feedback in small, digestible doses.

About the author
Squawk! How to Stop Making Noise and Start Getting Results is the new book by Dr. Travis Bradberry, the award winning coauthor of the best selling Emotional Intelligence Quick Book. Through the lively and entertaining story of Charlie—a seagull who doesn't understand how his management style is ruining his flock's performance—Squawk! illuminates the Three Virtues of Superior Managers, a cohesive method that ensures we stop depositing messes on the heads of those around us. Dr. Travis Bradberry is the president and cofounder of TalentSmart® the leading provider of emotional intelligence tests and training serving more than 75% of the Fortune 500.

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