6 Reasons Why Senior Managers Get So Soft

by Steve DiGioia, Featured Contributor

Remember that guy you used to work with years ago, the one that was always “burning the midnight oil”, and the one that was driven like no other and was on a fast track to promotion after promotion?  We all knew he would “be the boss” someday.

Well it finally happened…he is now the boss.  He now sits in the big cushy corner office and rules his department with an iron hand.  Week after week, month after month he is still blazing a trail for others to Leadership1follow.  Not taking any stuff from his underlings he doles out discipline when needed; a stern warning today, a firing tomorrow.  He is known as “very tough but fair” and someone that could lay the law down.

So what happened to him now?

You see, as time goes by, that same tough manager has turned into a softie.  So soft in fact that his employees are running circles around him, doing whatever they want.  He doesn’t check on their daily performance, doesn’t bother to discipline anyone, budgets and payroll numbers get out of control and he even seems to turn a blind eye to many of the shortcomings of the company’s product or service.  So I ask again, what happened?

Well, these could be a few reasons why:


Our superstar manager may have worked so many hours over his career that he no longer has the stamina or drive to keep up his past performance.  So he does his usual required tasks, walks his department, checks in on the things he wants to and no longer expects the best from his staff.  This manager is now just passing time and is no longer a productive part of the company.


Our manager is so happy he is now “the boss”.  He deserves that title.  He was the best salesman, saved the company the most money or a litany of other accolades, that he was destined for this position.  Now that he reached the top he feels he no longer has to perform like he used to.  The hard work is now for his subordinates to do, he will make sure they do it.  He seems proud to be pompous and since he no longer has to prove himself for advancement, he will just collect his paycheck…as long as he reminds others from time to time that he is the boss.


I once worked for a new General Manager that thought it was appropriate to hold weekly “all manager meetings” right smack in the middle of the day, from 11am – 1pm.  That may be fine for some industries but certainly not in the hotel business!

Our hotel had the largest amount of meeting space in the state and thankfully we were busy, very busy.  So busy in fact that the G.M. expected us to recite, in full detail, the operational aspects planned for the events that were on property for the week.  He wanted to know everything that was going on, who was doing what, and what was happening in the building.

Well, what was happening was that each week our staff was left without any supervision for hours during the busiest time of the day.  Even the best employees will come across situations where they need assistance, guidance or correction but they couldn’t get it from the management because we were all in meetings!

In addition to this “operations” meeting, there were customer service meetings with HR, maintenance meetings with our Engineering Department, weekly meetings and conference calls with the regional Vice President for each department, budget & payroll meetings with Accounting, etc.  It seemed we spent more time in meetings then we did dealing with our staff or customers.

Do you really think many managers will then rush back to their departments and “crack the whip” on their staff?  Of course not, there’s too busy rushing to another meeting!


Being the boss is great, except for the paperwork!  There are reports to be done, budgets to make, “cost-of-goods analysis” to do, marketing research and predictions, inventory to take, etc.  The list goes on and on.  Oh, where’s “the boss”?  He’s in his office under a mountain of paper…


Just because someone is promoted to “the boss” doesn’t automatically mean that he/she is the best qualified for that position.  People are put in positions of power for various reasons; they ARE the best qualified, they are a great “networker” and have multiple connections that can ultimately benefit the company, they are the favorite of the even bigger boss that is now repaying his buddy with a promotion.

Or maybe the big boss needs a puppet that will do what is expected of him/her and won’t question the decisions made.  Do you think he will rock-the-boat with his staff for fear of reprisals?  Reprisals that will put into question why he got the job in the first place?  Of course not.  Just shuffle some paperwork around and be thankful you got the promotion.

Wants To Be a Friend

Many managers believe that being too stern or strict with their staff will lead to resentment from their team and failure to do as expected.  They worked hard to get to this point that they won’t do anything to mess it up, so they want to be the “nice guy”.  The same thing happens to parents of teenage children.

They want to be liked, want to be the cool parent so much that no guidelines are set for the child.  It’s past your bed time and you still want to watch TV, that’s ok.  Don’t want to clean your room and would prefer to live in squalor, sure go ahead, I’ll clean your room again for you.  Want to stay out all hours of the night, fine.  I will just have daddy drive through the neighborhood worried sick about you.

That’s bad enough as a parent but as a manager that’s a recipe for business disaster; a disaster either for the company or for you.  When you set no guidelines or expectations for your staff, don’t be surprised when it’s your job on the line.  “But he was such a nice manager” someone from your staff may say as security is escorting you off the property!


Steve DiGioia
Steve DiGioia
With 20+ years in the hospitality industry and a lifetime of customer service experience, Steve DiGioia shares real-world tips and tactics to improve your customer service, increase employee morale, and provide the experience your customers desire. As a certified trainer, author & speaker, Steve has been recognized as a 4-time “World’s Top 30 Customer Service Professional” by Global and a “Top Customer Service Influencer” by multiple industry-leading sources. He is also a featured contributor to the leading hospitality and customer service websites. With a tagline of “Finding Ways to WOW Your Customer”, Steve continues his pursuit of excellence on his award-winning blog sharing his best strategies on customer service, management, and leadership. Follow Steve on Twitter @Steve DiGioia.

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  1. Hello Steve,

    We should not be surprised that managers’ behaviors change over time; there is an 80% chance that a manager is in the wrong job which means eventually, the CEO for instance, reverts to his comfort zone and may well stay there if he is so inclined.

    80% of employees self-report that they are not engaged.
    80% of managers (they’re employees too) are ill-suited to effectively manage people.
    The two 80 percents are closely related.

    Employers keep hiring the wrong people to be their managers and then they wonder why they have so few successful, engaged employees. Successful employees have all three of the following success predictors while unsuccessful employee lack one or two and usually it is Job Talent that they lack.
    1. Competence
    2. Cultural Fit
    3. Job Talent 

    Employers do a… 

    A. GREAT job of hiring competent employees, about 95%
    B. good job of hiring competent employees who fit the culture, about 70%
    C. POOR job of hiring competent employees who fit the culture and who have a talent for the job, about 20%

    Identifying the talent required for each job seems to be missing from talent and management discussions. If we ignore any of the three criteria, our workforce will be less successful with higher turnover than if we do not ignore any of the three criteria.
    1. Competence
    2. Cultural Fit
    3. Job Talent

    There are many factors to consider when hiring and managing talent but first we need to define talent unless “hiring talent” means “hiring employees.” Everyone wants to hire for and manage talent but if we can’t answer the five questions below with specificity, we can’t hire or manage talent effectively.
    1. How do we define talent?
    2. How do we measure talent?
    3. How do we know a candidate’s talent?
    4. How do we know what talent is required for each job?
    5. How do we match a candidate’s talent to the talent demanded by the job?

    Most managers cannot answer the five questions with specificity but the answers provide the framework for hiring successful employees and creating an engaged workforce.

    Talent is not found in resumes or interviews or background checks or college transcripts.

    Talent must be hired since it cannot be acquired or imparted after the hire.