Are Your Managers “Bad”?

stressed businessman biting

According to a recent webinar by Ryan Gottfredson:

  • 40% of Americans rank their boss as “bad”
  • 75% of employees report their boss is the worst and most stressful part of their job
  • 65% of employees say they would take a new boss over a pay raise
  • 60% of employees report that their boss damages their self-esteem
  • 44% of employees report that their boss does not help them be more productive
  • 82% of employees don’t trust their boss to tell the truth.

I find some of these statistics surprising and all of them depressing. What is causing such negative reactions? Why hasn’t something been done about them?

Willful Ignorance or Lack of Reflection?

My guess is that many organizations do not reflect on their employees’ experiences and feedback. They may not conduct exit interviews and, if they do, perhaps they are hesitant to act on the information they receive.

If you spoke to the employees’ managers, many of them might tell you that they are doing the very best they can- and most of them would be right. They just don’t know any better. They don’t know what they don’t know.

But, whatever the reason, the situation is alarming. Are you worried that your own managers generate these kinds of responses from their employees?

More Technical Skills Training is Not the Answer

A typical response, if there is one, to improve the managers’ performance is to give them more technical skills: how to do this or that, through traditional classroom or modern e-learning platforms. But a ‘technical fix’ is not enough to turn ‘bad’ managers into ‘good’ ones. At the core, managers need to change their mindsets, their beliefs and assumptions about themselves and others, about how they work together with others, solve problems and produce results, without driving employees out of their companies. They require not just information, but transformation.

Transformation through Peer Learning Groups

This is when establishing peer learning groups can be the most constructive response an organization can make.

Peer learning groups are comprised of 6 managers who have the same level of authority and are facing a similar management challenge. They meet for 90 minutes every other month on their schedule, in the convenience of their own worksite. In their self-directed and self-managed sessions, they engage in a generative dialogue to challenge their long-held assumptions about how things are done, and create new ideas for doing things better.

They have an opportunity to critically assess their current actions and behaviors, and actively pursue new ones. Instead of being at the mercy of their routine responses, they mindfully take control of their actions, which enables them to adapt more flexibly to the changing requirements of the workplace.

This peer learning experience involves a mix of experiential learning, confidential deep conversation, inward reflection, hands-on application, and collaboration intended to help them become more effective managers, the kind of managers employees are happy to work for.

According to Bersin by Deloitte, organizations that use peer learning for leadership growth have 36% more net revenue per employee, a 9% higher gross margin, and are 4.6 times more likely to anticipate and respond effectively to change. This reflects strong employee engagement and productivity.

Learn. Do. Reflect

The most effective learning comes from experience, experimentation and reflection. One of the unique hallmarks of peer learning groups, as established by The Peer Learning Institute, is the month of supported and reinforced practice that is required after the first of two 90-minute sessions. The managers experiment using their new management skills as part of their daily work responsibilities and reflect on their experience throughout their practice. They then report their reflections to their peer learning group members during the second session.

The end result of management participation in a peer learning group is a “good” boss who creates a motivational environment in which employees can enjoy the psychological safety to learn, grow, and perform at the most of their potential.

Where do your managers fall on the bad to good spectrum? Explore what peer learning groups can do for your managers, your employees and your organization as a whole. Schedule a free consultation with one of our training specialists at You’ll be happy you did.

Deborah Laurel, Co-Founder and Chief Learning Officer

The Peer Learning Institute

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