Are Passive Managers a Risk to Your Business?

July 31, 2015

Managers with non-assertive mindsets can pose a significant risk to any business. You might not think of them as difficult people, but they can have a negative impact on performance and productivity. For example, passive managers often avoid giving feedback or addressing performance issues. They struggle to make decisions, or try so hard to please everyone that they lose the respect of their peers. These behaviors can lead to reduced team performance, increased error rates, miscommunication and poor morale.


If you’re an HR manager or trainer, you are ideally positioned to prevent these problems occurring in your organization. Passive behavior can be shifted through coaching, micro skills training and counseling. But before you can provide these solutions, you need to be aware that the problem exists. This involves picking up on warning signs that indicate passive mindsets are causing issues in your business.


Behaviors to watch out for


The problem with passive behavior is it doesn’t stand out. Here’s an example. Jan had a passive management style. She was keen to be liked by everyone. This meant she came across as obliging and easy to deal with. Her HR business partner, Terri, was extremely busy. Because Jan wasn’t causing any problems, Terri rarely paid attention to her. Big mistake.


Beneath the surface, Jan was causing problems. One member of her team was under-performing. Jan rated this team member as ‘outstanding’ during his performance review, so she could avoid confronting his behavior. Two other team members were refusing to talk to each other. Jan spent hours re-arranging the roster to keep these two apart, rather than addressing the conflict. Both situations escalated until they required intervention by HR. If Terri had recognized the signs of a passive management style, this could have been avoided. These signs include:



  • Frequent indecisiveness
  • Unwillingness to commit to a specific course of action
  • Inability to solve problems
  • Fear of change
  • Procrastination
  • Failure to address performance problems or disciplinary issues
  • Avoidance of conflict
  • Extreme desire to be liked by their direct reports
  • Tolerance of inappropriate behavior within a team
  • Lack of contribution in management meetings

Are you concerned that managers in your business are taking a passive approach to people management? Pinpoint what’s going wrong with a free behavior analyser questionnaire. This was designed to help HR practitioners assess and address behavioral problems in the workplace. It takes three minutes to complete. Once you’ve filled it in, you’ll receive a free e-report on how to resolve the situation.

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