By Adedoyin Adebayo

Let’s call it M Syndrome. M is the initial of a particular top-performing employee who later turned out ineffective in a manufacturing company whom I know in Lagos. M is also the first letter of the word malaise. M was promoted to a manager because of his specialist skill and ended up supervising many of the people with whom he had previously worked side-by-side.

Neither M nor his peers were surprised when M’s name was among those considered for managerial promotion. In fact, M got promoted from “doing,” as individual contributor, to “leading,” because of his technical expertise and high productivity.

In one of the discussion I had with M’s line Director, he said M was very excited by this new promotion because of the trust he (Line Director) had put in him, the pay increase and other additional benefits as well as an opportunity to oversee a team.

Within few weeks, M was flailing. Quality ratings in his unit dropped, and his team was behind on a key project. Still uncomfortable in his new role, M reverted to what he knew best: he stepped in to fix the problems and rescue the project, hoping that the people on his team would see what he did and learned from the experience. But on the next big project, the same thing happened—and then it happened again.

On several occasions, M’s direct reports have complained of his inability to listen to them and that he doesn’t communicate openly.

Rather than leading his people, M continually had to bail them out. M had buried himself under new administrative responsibilities and pressure to hit his numbers, and his team wasn’t getting any better.

In just a few months, M went from outstanding employee to terrible frontline manager.Two employees have resigned from M’s team and other team members are also threatening to quit the organization because of M.

Come, let’s reason:

  1. As a frontline manager in transition, what worked well for M?
  2. What didn’t work well for M?
  3. How can you be of most help to M?
  4. Can you identify the signs and symptoms that are correlated with M in your organization/unit/function/operation.?

Adedoyin Adebayo is the Managing Consultant at Insel Consulting.