The new manager has a target on his back…

I’m sure a lot of you are familiar with the term “seagull manager”.  If you’re not, think about a manager whose behavior is to fly in, make a lot of noise, dump on everyone, and then fly away.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

This term is used a lot in the leadership industry, but what about the term “seagull employee”?  They act just like a seagull manager except that they do not have an official leadership role.  You just might know one or two in your own work environment.  They are the employee(s) that everyone loves to hate.  They might do excellent work (which is why they still might be employed), but they annoy their fellow coworkers to no end.  You question whether they really think about what they say to you and others before they say it, or whether they do really mean to put someone down emotionally.

In some organizations, seagull employees do not last long, while in others, they might wind up becoming the new boss…

Over the weekend, I met up with a few friends.   I found out that one of them was recently promoted to the role of District Sales Manager at the company he worked for (we’ll call him “Sam” for the purposes of this posting).  Sam told me that the reason he was promoted was because the existing district manager was also being promoted and thought Sam would be an excellent fit to keep pushing the other sales reps to reach their quotas.  After all, Sam had consistently been the number one rep in terms of sales month-after-month for a long period of time.

The problem was that Sam had been a seagull employee.  He said he would go out, make his sales fairly quickly, and then would drop off his orders at the office with plenty of the work day left and would go out and play golf all the time.  Other reps in the office who were struggling to hit their quotas would see this while working through leads and would become jealous.  By the way, “Sam the seagull” would also talk trash to other sales reps while he was in the office visiting.  This wasn’t playful banter among competitive reps.  He admitted that what he said was actually mean in most cases, and that most of his coworkers thought he was a jerk.

Now it’s all come back to bite him and he has a real problem on his hands.  He’s a brand new manager and he already has a negative perception of himself in the office.  All those things that start out neutral between most new managers and those who report to them are already in the red. 

He knows the way he behaved around other his coworkers wasn’t right, and he’s sincerely regretting it.  He still has a very large mountain to climb in order for him to regain the trust and respect of those ex-coworkers who now report to him.  If he can’t gain those two things, he might have an office mutiny on his hands and could even find himself unemployed because of it.

To all those seagull employees out there: you may not wabout how you’re perceived in your workplace now, Sam wants you to know it may come back to haunt you in the future…

Leave your comments!

    • Greg
    • August 17th, 2012

    I have seen this happen first hand in the past 4 weeks. As an organization consultant and executive coach, I was coaching “Sam” on how to lead the marketing team and relate to the CEO. Sam chose his way instead and is now marketing his sales skills on the internet in search of a job.

    • Thanks for the share, Greg! I think that some individuals might think that because they have a position of power, they can use that power without consequence. The issue is that the people they lead can chose not to follow them (and most likely won’t follow them if they act as a seagull manager) which leads to those seagulls having to fly out to find new employment.

  1. Thanks for the great article Matt. None of us knows what door will open tomorrow and who or what group will suddenly become important. Your article is a reminder of the importance of supporting the team, whatever level we find ourselves. Leadership really is enlightened service, not just status.

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