Don’t Be a Seagull Manager: The Importance of Proactivity

Problems Aren’t the Only Opportunity for Interaction with Employees

Do you think avoiding a problem is more efficient than dealing with it or would you rather worry about fixing a problem after it’s happened? A seagull manager is the type of manager that swoops in only when trouble has arisen. That means, they are almost completely hands off until something goes wrong and they have to address the issue. The term came from a book about leadership published in 1985 that states “Seagull managers fly in, make a lot of noise, dump on everyone, then fly out.” It means that these kinds of managers only interact with their employees when there’s a problem and rarely, if ever, offer praise for a job well done. They look for blame to place when problems happen and “fluff their feathers” to seem like the important one for fixing the issue. Though they don’t typically contribute to the solution, they will take credit for it. Typically, managers who don’t have adequate training or are inexperienced can fall into the trap of being a seagull manager.

Why It’s a Problem

Seagull management is a huge problem when it comes to the success of a business. Firstly, this management style doesn’t set your team up for success. Employees thrive in environments where they’re praised and provided constructive feedback on how to improve their job performance. Good managers don’t wait until something has gone wrong to swoop in and address the situation. Good managers will work proactively with their team members to ensure that they’re informed and always learning about new ways to improve in their job functions or learn new ones. When employees are nurtured, the business succeeds.

Additionally, being a seagull manager can seriously impact the morale of your team. If the only feedback you’re given is negative, then your work life isn’t very fulfilling or pleasant. Employees don’t respect seagull managers because they only show up to harp on them when something has gone wrong. In general, your employees want to do a great job and ensure that no problems occur, but you as a manager must give them the support, training, and appropriate feedback necessary to make that happen. Simply berating them when they’ve done something wrong doesn’t garner the appropriate results or response.

How It Impacts Business

When employees aren’t happy and productive, your business suffers. Unengaged and unmotivated employees don’t go above and beyond or think of new ways to improve the business or your bottom line. They likely have little joy in their work and may even have poor customer service as a result of their discontent. If you’re acting like a seagull manager, it’s likely that your employees are unmotivated and disengaged. Showing up on the scene when something’s already gone wrong just to place blame is not a way to ensure your employees are growing and thriving. As a result, they are less likely to care about the success of your business – which turns into real profit losses.

Reduce employee productivity slows down everything. Seagull management is generally a style that does not clearly define expectations aside from “don’t make a mistake.” Additionally, it’s a style that doesn’t engage with employees or follow up with performance standards and improvement plans. This makes employees feel unappreciated and like their contributions simply don’t matter to the organization. This lack of productivity then trickles down to your profits.

Bad management styles like seagull management can even cause your business to end up closing permanently. Poor leadership results in a higher turnover of employees, which means you’re spending time training and trying to staff which impacts the overall business. You may also have employees that mismanage funds or blow budgets because they aren’t taught any better, or simply don’t care. All of these factors can contribute to the failure of your business as a result of being a seagull manager.


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How to Avoid Being a Seagull Manager

There are some simple ways to avoid becoming a seagull manager and threatening the success of your business. By taking a couple of steps toward engaging your employees and better managing your staff, you can ensure that your team is engaged and happy where they are.

  • Have regular, productive meetings. Of course, don’t hold meetings just to hold meetings. Having regular, productive, and open meetings can make your employees feel engaged in the business. Make sure every meeting has an agenda for what you’ll cover and be sure to ask for your employees’ input. They’re on the frontlines of the business and know what’s work and what might not be. Taking their feedback and implementing small changes into the way the business runs can make everyone happy – including customers!
  • Know what your staff is doing. You should know what your staff does or what their goals are. That doesn’t mean you need to micromanage them. Simply set three to five achievable goals for them and help them get there. You should be having annual reviews with employees to ensure they’re meeting goals and keeping an open dialogue with you about their desired development.
  • Build your team’s strengths. Holding annual reviews and having conversations with your employees will build their strengths. Not every employee is cut out for every position but determining what each is really good at and enjoys can make for an overall healthier team. If you have someone in a leadership role that just isn’t a leader, they could be discouraged. That doesn’t mean they’re not fit to work for you, they just need a new role. By putting people in the roles they’re equipped to excel, you build a better business and a better place to work!

Seagull managers don’t care about anything other than fixing what’s gone wrong and that’s not the best way to manage a successful team. Caring about your employees’ success and well-being on the job is crucial to running a successful business, whether you’re operating a franchise or independent location. Your business is only as successful as the team behind it, so be sure to put your effort in developing and nurturing them!

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