top of page


As a manager, you make a lot of decisions.

You decide what work gets done, who does it, and who they do it with. You impact career advancement, growth opportunities, and set the culture for your team. You help shape the environment. When someone comes to work for you, they get a lot of you.

It’s your responsibility to create an environment that enables your team to succeed–as individuals and as a whole. Ideally, your team members will come to work and feel invigorated and comfortable being their whole self. Unfortunately, too often, managers unknowingly create an environment which causes unneeded stress on both themselves and their colleagues.

So what does we mean to be an unintentional manager? First, to be clear, an unintentional manager may be frustrating to work with, but he is not a toxic manager. Toxic managers put their colleagues in survival mode, where stress levels run on high 100% of the time. This can cause real harm on an individual. Unintentional managers, on the other hand, are simply unaware of how their behavior can be disruptive. It’s often little things that seem perfectly acceptable or that you may not even realize you’re doing, which are actually incredibly frustrating for your colleagues and direct reports.

Most of us don’t give nearly as much attention to how we manage as to what work we do. Many companies promote people into managerial positions because the individual excels at the work - not because she has exceptional management skills. We take seriously the ongoing development of our professional skills, whether that be marketing, law, finance or otherwise. But, few managers invest in developing their management skills with the same rigor. Therefore, we end up with many unintentional managers.

What might you be doing to be an unintentional manager?


We all make assumptions, but sometimes, those assumptions appear as unclear expectations. , When your colleagues don't know what’s expected of them, it causes unneeded stress because they have to spend extra time figuring out the parameters rather than having the boundaries clearly marked

This happens on the micro level (“When is it okay to work from home?”) to the macro level (“Exactly how is success going to be measured?”) and everywhere in between.

“The more explicit you can be about your expectations, the fewer assumptions others will have to make, meaning less stress and frustration for everyone.”Special styling for a quote!"


Feedback is tricky. We are hardwired to be skeptical when someone offers us feedback, and when we’re giving feedback, we constantly worry about how the person is going to take it.

Some of us avoid it entirely, which does everyone involved a disservice.

When you don’t give clear, critical, actionable feedback, you’re not allowing your colleagues to grow or develop themselves. They can’t change what they don't know isn’t working.

Focus on guidance rather than feedback. Instead of saying things like “In the past, you did this…” say things like “going forward, I want to help you do this…”

As a manager, feedback should go both ways. If you’re not intentional about giving feedback, you’re probably not intentional about asking for feedback either, which leads into the next point.


It’s hard enough to give feedback to your direct report. Now imagine how hard it must be for them to give feedback to their boss, you! That’s why it’s critical you ask for feedback and give them a chance to share, even if they don’t take it.

If they do share, be sure to listen with an open mind and thank them, even if you disagree. Unintentional managers often defend themselves rather than acknowledging the feedback for what it is, a chance for you to learn. Not every piece of feedback is important and you don’t have to implement every suggestion, but be intentional about how you handle the feedback to demonstrate you appreciate the guidance and want more of it.

One way to get started is to ask what you can do differently to better support them in their work.

"Giving your employees a chance to share their reflections with you role models the kind of behavior that you want from them."


A simple thank you can go a long way, or, it can feel empty and meaningless. When we are unintentional about how we show appreciation, we either don’t show enough or show it in ways that don’t feel good to the recipient.

Appreciation has two components, the content and the format. The content has to be meaningful, authentic, and specific. The format has to be in a form that the colleague will actually appreciate.

Do you have someone on your team who does great work, but doesn’t like public speaking? Don't show your appreciation by asking them to present their project, even if you see it as a way to celebrate their great behind-the-scenes work. When you offer the wrong kind of appreciation to a team member,it can actually feel that we don't’ appreciate them.


You are part of the team, not just the boss. It’s easy to forget this when you’re constantly in a managerial or leadership role.

Almost nothing is more aggravating than a boss who says one thing and does another. Don’t hold yourself to a different standard from the rest of your team. If you are particular about your team being on time, you had better be on time. If you want good communication from them, you had better be a good communicator, or at least working to improve your communication skills. Your team looks to you for how to behave. Do as I say, not as I do, is not a good managerial practice.


Nobody likes having difficult conversations, but as a manager, it’s part of your job. Maybe you’re avoiding that one conversation because you know it’s going to be emotionally charged, or you secretly hope it will resolve itself with a little more time.

Stop fooling yourself.

If you’ve noticed something, it’s likely others on your team have noticed it too.When you do nothing, you’re inhibiting your team’s success, setting a bad example for your team members, and honestly, not looking much like a leader.

“When you avoid addressing issues that need to be addressed, you risk losing the respect of your team and letting things snowball until they are out of hand.”

These are just a few of things that unintentional managers do. Now that you’re aware, you can start taking steps to become a more intentional manager. Start by downloading the self reflection worksheet at and subscribe to Mamie’s newsletter to receive articles, episodes and worksheets delivered weekly to your inbox.

This article was based on an episode of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, and Stitcher.

Optimize your time. Cultivate your team. Achieve your goals.

Leave a comment below or tweet at me @mamieks.

Love this post? Share it!


Recent Posts

See All


Die Kommentarfunktion wurde abgeschaltet.


When you subscribe to my email list, you'll be notified when new blog posts are released.

bottom of page