7 reasons your employees hate you

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That moment of realization

At some point in your career, you wake up one morning, drink your coffee, put on deodorant, kiss your kids good-bye, drive to the office, and suddenly realize -- you don't have one ounce of experience at your job.

You did yesterday. What happened?

You were promoted. You became a manager. And you suck at it.

Yesterday, you were an absolute rock star at your job as a media planner. Or designer. Or salesperson. So fantastic they put you in charge.

And now, you've got six eager faces standing around your desk, looking to you for guidance.

So, you do what you've always done. You wing it. Act like a leader. Demand results. Drive the ship. Everything you've seen your former bosses do for years on end.

And a year down the road, during your Monday morning staff meeting, you announce a new initiative and see someone at the table sneer in disgust. You look around at all faces and realize: These people hate my guts. They can't stand me.

What did you do wrong?

Well the truth is, I only know why my employees hate me. But I've got some good guesses why they hate you. Seven of 'em.

You tell me. Am I right?



masn masn
masn masn December 21, 2009 at 12:07 PM

Great to see an experienced marketing hand (mind) addressing operational topics that are at the heart of any successful organizational endeavor. I suspect that Traction has a reasonably positive environement.

Taking your advice may help break the agency dynamic that has been described as a bunch of geniuses and morons chasing each other around.


Adam Kleinberg
Adam Kleinberg December 21, 2009 at 11:15 AM

I agree with that Robert. At Traction, managers have regular one-on-ones each week with our direct reports. Great way to ensure you have some focused time to give people the attention they need.

Robert Bentz
Robert Bentz December 21, 2009 at 10:07 AM

I know it's important not to micro-manage people, but in a small company, you are often so busy you don't give people enough attention. Therefore, it's important to keep the formal meeting schedule to do so.

Gillian Core
Gillian Core July 31, 2009 at 9:34 AM

such a gem Adam, thanks for this. i now have my marching orders for today.

Adam Kleinberg
Adam Kleinberg July 28, 2009 at 12:55 PM

oops, typo.

Adam Kleinberg
Adam Kleinberg July 28, 2009 at 12:54 PM

Fine by me, Reynolds. If you want to give credits, my company site is

Reynolds Roy
Reynolds Roy July 28, 2009 at 10:01 AM

Brilliant article. Can I post it at my site with credits to you of course. I do not know how to reach you, but I can always be reached through any of my sites linked at

Ricardo Andrews
Ricardo Andrews July 28, 2009 at 12:41 AM


jim sellner
jim sellner July 27, 2009 at 11:44 PM

Great little reminder to new managers.

Ginger Dodds
Ginger Dodds July 25, 2009 at 2:08 PM

Adam - your article was so timely and really resonated with me. In any situation where you are put in charge of a group of your peers - title/no title, officially/unofficially - it's important to remember they look to you for guidance, direction, feedback, motivation and encouragement.

fajar asmara
fajar asmara July 22, 2009 at 7:04 PM

I'ts about employee's behaviour, being their own caracter it means that a good leader can manage everything what have done or what will be do in the future.
it's better for the organization, especially for the leader still focus in their own mission, don't make it destroying relationship each employee or influence another because one person. curcuitously good behaviour can change ungood attitude if their leader and all of support in the organization make it too

Erin Brooks-Smith
Erin Brooks-Smith July 22, 2009 at 5:07 PM

Super helpful article! Loved the realistic approach to management.

Langston Richardson
Langston Richardson July 22, 2009 at 12:42 PM

This sounds like every mistake I ever made. The fun moments for employees is when that person is the owner or is loved by the owner. Then it's a problem that would rarely get corrected.

Twitter: @MATSNL65

Susan Kienzle
Susan Kienzle July 22, 2009 at 10:52 AM

Best part about your article for me, Adam, was that I was NOT reading about my own boss. The micro-managing, over-promising idiot you describe sounds like an awful person to have to face 5 days out of 7, and your article as a whole not only makes me appreciate the true leader and motivator I have in a boss all the more, but it makes me feel I should go into his office this morning and thank him for being so supportive, positive, and only constructively critical when the situation calls for it! Thanks.

Adam Kleinberg
Adam Kleinberg July 22, 2009 at 9:58 AM

Thanks for the comments.

Yashod, I don't think it's as hard as finding an elusive "perfect equilibrium" if people have a clear framework of what's expected of them.

At Traction we have a company value system: candor, communication, great work, empathy and integrity. It gives people a compass for just about any decision they have to make. It makes being a manager easier because you can just give people feedback (positive mostly, negative if you need to) to keep them in the framework.


Yashod Bhardwaj
Yashod Bhardwaj July 22, 2009 at 9:43 AM

Excellent article Adam…I entirely agree with all the points mentioned Top-to-Bottom, especially Micro-management or leaving them alone, there has to be a perfect equilibrium. Also the scary bosses should learn how to appreciate/ reward their employees might be sometimes without a specific reason or just to motivate them!!

Tim Trent
Tim Trent July 22, 2009 at 7:20 AM

That "Scary" one is the key for me. I can cope with every other sin you've mentioned, even the over-committing idiot. But the scary one, that is impossible to cope with.

I've only had one scary boss, and yes, I'm sure she had no idea how to be a manager. She managed by fear, but she was afraid of her team, too.

I'm sure we were no better than she was, but she seemed to think so. So every opportunity to bully us, or to rub our faces in errors, or to criticise, or carp or deride us, yes she took those.

The VP who hired her apologised to us for the hiring! But she wasn't de-hired for two solid years, during which she reduced the European marketing team to a shell shocked shadow of its former self. Morale went through the floor. Productivity? You have to be joking! Return on Marketing Investment? Not a chance.

But, at mahogany row level, she talked the right language. And, since most of the other tenants in mahogany row were iin awe of her straight talking and forthright attitude, she got away with it for two whole years.

She became known as "The Bitch from Hell" by the team. We ducked or cringed when she descended to our floor. We quivered when summoned to her office. I've never been more pleased to have been made redundant in my working life! It was the only meeting with her that was enjoyable and had a positive outcome.

Kim-Marie Evans
Kim-Marie Evans July 22, 2009 at 7:08 AM

Great article. I only employ housekeepers and babysitters but got a lot out of it, moreover, you're writing style if fabulous. I don't think I've ever read through anyone's entire blog post before. Well done.

James Sandoval
James Sandoval July 22, 2009 at 6:17 AM

Nice one Adam. I had little [painful] laugh when I saw myself as you described the newly promoted planner/etc. I was once the newly promoted guy who, really quickly, had the proverbial "oh sh*t moment" where I felt completely clueless, helpless and, to the chagrin of my team and colleagues, well, I didn't make many friends. In time, and, thankfully, with great senior support and guidance, I learned how to do things differently.

And I'm stll learning - articles like yours above help, making for a nice bit of self-reflection, a little reality check and a refocusing for tomorrow and after. Cheers for that from London.

To see how I handle myself today, feel free to follow my random (mostly online advertising-related) Twitter posts here:

Adam Kleinberg
Adam Kleinberg July 21, 2009 at 10:16 PM

This is Adam (the author of this). Wanted to give some props to the guys over at Their podcast have been a big influence on me. I recommend readers check them out.