Ask HR: What Can Be Done About a Negative Manager?

By Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP May 11, 2023

SHRM President and Chief Executive Officer Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP, is answering HR questions as part of a series for USA Today. 

Do you have an HR or work-related question you'd like him to answer? Submit it here.


My manager regularly accuses me of making mistakes and criticizes my work without fully understanding the situation. It seems like she doesn't like me or want me there. In two years, I have never received a word of positive feedback from her. Though I like the company, my situation just isn't tolerable. What's the best way to tender my resignation without burning bridges with the company? –Janae

Johnny C. Taylor, Jr.: Having your work be unfairly characterized can be extremely demoralizing, especially when you don't receive recognition for your positive contributions. People managers set the tone for the work environment, and their harsh, overbearing and punitive behavior can quickly create a toxic workplace. It would be one thing if your manager were critical sometimes and complimentary at other times. Understandably, this singular focus on the negative erodes the supervisor/subordinate relationship.

While I am not privy to all the details of your situation, good management should provide consistent positive and negative feedback. Does your manager treat other workers similarly? Who else is aware of your manager's pattern of behavior? Can a co-worker corroborate your concerns? Someone outside the situation should be aware of any unresolved issues between you and your manager. Even if the issues aren't addressed immediately, other leaders and HR should have the situation on their radar. If you addressed this with your manager and have yet to find a resolution, then now is the time to contact HR. They will generally investigate to determine whether your manager has done anything wrong. Depending on the circumstances, HR may suggest you work separately from your manager or take leave, or it may have your manager take leave while the investigation is ongoing. Ultimately, any decision to resign prior to the investigation's conclusion is your own.

If you decide to resign, review your company policies to ensure you adhere to their requirements (giving notice, providing a letter, etc.). If you choose to fully disclose your reason for leaving, do so constructively and professionally. Additionally, offering to assist with the transition of your responsibilities during your notice period would typically be well-received. Be prepared, though, as an employer may decide not to allow you to work through your notice period. You can meet with HR on your last day and complete an exit interview. This may be an excellent opportunity to provide additional details about your resignation. Again, you'll want to maintain professionalism. HR will likely take your feedback and provide coaching to your manager.

As you move on to interview for new positions, refrain from disparaging your former manager. Prospective employers often view complaining as a red flag that a candidate may cause issues for them later down the road. Stay positive, focusing on your interest in the new position and how you fit into the role. I wish you good luck in your career, regardless of your path.  

I recently took part in a group interview. I found it awkward and nerve-wracking. How can I have a more comfortable and productive group interview? —Derek

Johnny C. Taylor, Jr.: Taking a potentially tense situation like a job interview and layering in multiple participants can get dicey even for the most seasoned career professional. Building some confidence and ensuring success will take a good deal of preparation.

Know the organization and know yourself. Much like a one-on-one, a group interview requires thorough preparation, starting with research on the organization and relevant discussion points. Prepare examples of your experience, skills and education. Be ready to highlight an obstacle you overcame or a problem you solved in previous roles. Get some practice with other people who can provide candid feedback.

Group interviews are a terrific setting for exhibiting networking skills and personality. Introducing yourself to other participants helps you make a good impression, ease anxiety and build rapport. Employers utilize group interviews for jobs that rely on teamwork and interpersonal communication. Your willingness to make connections demonstrates how well you would acclimate to the position if selected.

Keep the discussion moving forward by actively listening and building on issues presented. If you reiterate a previous point, add to it or expound upon a detail. As with any interview, answering and asking questions is essential in demonstrating engagement. Your preparation beforehand and engagement throughout will improve your group interviews dramatically. Knowing your audience and yourself is the foundation for a successful interview.

Good luck with your next interview, group or otherwise. 



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