According to Gallup’s new work on the state of the American manager, only 35 percent of managers say they’re feeling engaged at work. It’s no coincidence, then, that just 30 percent of American workers say they feel engaged when they’re at work. After all, plugged-in managers, from frontline supervisors to the C-suite, are the No. 1 influences on whether employees like coming to work.

Certain chronic mindsets make managers feel miserable at work. See if you spot these problems in the managers you supervise, and use these strategies to get team leaders back in the game.

Why Am I Here?

Many managers engage in their daily tasks and ask themselves, “What’s it all for?” Their work seems routine and lacks meaning, and they can’t connect what they do everyday to actual progress within the company.

How to Make It Better:

  • Help team leaders understand why their work matters. Share your vision of where the company is and where it’s going. Take some advice from former JetBlue CEO Dave Barger: When you think you’ve communicated enough, triple it.
  • Ask for their input. Express appreciation for good ideas. Give them the chance to test and implement their suggestions.
  • Give them more autonomy. Letting team leaders tackle open-ended problems unleashes their creativity and empowers them to take initiative. Instead of solving problems for them, support them while they solve their own departmental challenges


I’m Invisible!

Some team leaders believe that their contributions go unnoticed. They don’t feel valued at work, which causes them to disengage.

How to Make It Better:

  • Offer specific praise. Instead of saying a blanket “good job,” praise something particular that team leaders do well. Being specific lets team leaders know you’re paying attention, not just spraying praise around the office.
  • Praise the right things. Appreciation needs to be meaningful, and it needs to be sincere. Don’t excessively praise team leaders for merely adequate performance.
  • Hone in on what they truly do well. Invest in professional development. Coaching, mentorship, and regular (useful!) professional development makes managers feel valued because you’re investing in their careers.


Nothing I Do Is Right

As a manager yourself, you ruthlessly seek efficiency throughout your business. The team leaders who work for you might misinterpret those intentions and think you only notice them when they screw up.

How to Make It Better:

  • Notice the positives as well as the negatives. When something isn’t going well, and you need to intervene, start the conversation by saying, “Here’s what’s working well.” Then, discuss opportunities for improvement.
  • Build team leaders’ strengths. Instead of harping on weaknesses, make a list of what each team leader does well. Then, create development opportunities, and funnel them toward promotion opportunities that leverage their innate strengths.
  • Force yourself to fill open management positions with talented candidates. Sometimes, your managers don’t do things well, and it’s your fault. You promoted a warm body instead of hiring a talented manager. Make a solemn vow today: You will wait, if necessary, to fill open management positions with the right candidate, not the available candidate.


Boosting your own engagement fires up the managers who work for you, but only if those managers have what it takes to succeed. Before your promote or hire anyone for a new management position, check out our webinar on how data helps companies predict who will succeed in management.

Image credit: Francisco Osorio from Flickr Creative Commons

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