Seagull management: how to recognize a seagull leader and protect your team

  • 17.2.2024
  • Written by Vladyslava Rykova
  • Category: Business

What is seagull management?

Seagull management is a management style in which the leader intervenes in the work of the team only in moments of crisis or when problems arise, often criticizing and making comments without participating in the process on a regular basis. The term comes from the metaphor of a seagull circling the beach, suddenly diving to grab something, and then just as suddenly flying away.

When the first seagull managers appeared

It is difficult to determine exactly when seagull managers first appeared, since this management style was not clearly defined before it gained popularity in literature and management practice. However, it can be argued that the first manifestations of seagull management began to be noticed already in the middle of the 20th century, when business began to actively develop, and companies became larger and more complex to manage. As organizations grew, the need for effective management also increased, which gave rise to different leadership styles.

Early forms of seagull management may have been a reaction to limited understanding of the dynamics of teamwork and project management. As market dynamics intensified and the pace of business change increased, leaders, lacking the time or skills to constantly engage with their teams, began to resort to episodic interventions. This style became widespread and became especially noticeable in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, when the acceleration of business processes and increased competition made management challenges more complex.

How does seagull management differ from micromanagement

The main difference between seagull management and micromanagement is the frequency and nature of the manager’s intervention in the work of the team. Micromanagement is characterized by constant monitoring and attention to the small details of employees’ work, often reaching the point of excessive meticulousness. Micromanagers strive to control every aspect of work, which can lead to feelings of constant pressure and mistrust among employees.

Seagull management, on the contrary, manifests itself in rare but sharp interventions by the manager in the work of the team. Seagull managers are often distanced from the day-to-day work of the team and only appear when problems arise or when work is already done to express criticism or demand changes. This management style creates an atmosphere of uncertainty and can lead to decreased motivation because the team does not receive regular support and feedback.

Whereas micromanagement is associated with detail overload and constant monitoring, seagull management is characterized by a lack of constant support and constructive guidance, which leads to instability and unpredictability in the work environment. Both styles have their drawbacks and can negatively impact the productivity and well-being of the team.

How to recognize seagull management

You can recognize seagull management by several characteristic features:

  1. Occasional Intervention: The leader intervenes in the team’s work only at critical moments, often after the work has already been done, to express dissatisfaction or criticism.
  2. Lack of regular feedback: Employees rarely receive constructive feedback from their managers, which creates uncertainty in the assessment of their work.
  3. Focus on mistakes and shortcomings: When a leader interacts with a team, it is most often in the form of criticism or pointing out mistakes, rather than support or encouragement.
  4. Unclear goals and expectations: Seagull managers often do not formulate clear goals and expectations for the team’s work, which leads to confusion and ineffective work.

Seagull management: how to recognize a seagull leader and protect your team

What makes people become seagull managers?

The reasons why people resort to seagull management style can be varied:

  1. Lack of time or resources: Managers may feel that they do not have enough time to regularly interact with each employee, especially in large teams or when there is a high workload.
  2. Insufficient management skills: Some managers may not have sufficient skills to effectively manage a team, which leads to the use of less effective communication methods.
  3. Conflict avoidance: Fear of direct communication and conflict resolution may cause managers to delay interaction with the team until absolutely necessary.
  4. Misunderstanding of the role of a manager: Some managers may mistakenly believe that their role is to control and correct errors, rather than to support and develop the team.

Examples of seagull management

  1. Sudden criticism after project completion: The manager is not involved in the project process, but appears at the end to express dissatisfaction with the results and demand changes without offering solutions or support in the process.
  2. Lack of preliminary feedback: employees work on tasks without receiving any instructions or comments from the manager until the moment of delivery, after which they are faced with unexpected criticism.
  3. Ignoring the process and focusing on errors: the manager is not interested in the progress of the work and does not provide resources or support to the team, but actively points out shortcomings after the work is completed.

Seagull management harms both team performance and morale by creating an atmosphere of uncertainty and stress. Developing strategies for more effective and engaged management can help avoid these problems and promote a healthier work environment.

What is bad about seagull management

Seagull management introduces a destructive element into the work environment, which negatively affects the overall atmosphere and productivity of the team. Managers who adhere to this style tend to influence the work of their subordinates, interfering only to express dissatisfaction or criticism, which leads to a decrease in employee motivation. The lack of constant feedback and support creates an environment of uncertainty and stress in which employees feel left alone with their tasks and problems.

In addition, this management style undermines trust in management. Employees begin to perceive their leader as a person disconnected from real processes and not interested in their success. This can lead to decreased loyalty and commitment to company goals, as well as increased employee turnover. Seagull management also affects the quality of work, since employees, without receiving timely feedback and guidance, may make mistakes that are not corrected in a timely manner, which ultimately affects the performance of the entire company.

How much does the seagull management company cost

Financial losses from seagull management for a company can be significant, although they are difficult to accurately calculate. The negative impact of this management style on employee morale and motivation results in decreased productivity and quality of work, which directly impacts the profitability of the business. Increased employee turnover due to dissatisfaction with working conditions also leads to additional costs for finding, hiring and training new employees.

In addition, reputational risks associated with employee dissatisfaction can have a long-term impact on the company’s attractiveness to both potential employees and customers and partners. Work quality problems and project delays caused by poor management can also lead to loss of customers and revenue. Taken together, these factors make seagull management extremely costly for any organization, undermining its competitiveness and financial well-being.

What to do if your boss is a seagull manager

If you are faced with a situation where your manager is exhibiting signs of seagull management, it is important to approach this challenge strategically and constructively. First, try to initiate an open dialogue, express your willingness to collaborate, and show that you are interested in receiving feedback and guidance. Establish regular meetings to discuss current tasks and work progress, which can help improve communication.

It is also important to clearly articulate your expectations and ask your manager to outline specific goals and priorities. If direct dialogue does not bring results, you can seek support from higher management or the HR department, proposing solutions to improve the situation. As a last resort, if the situation is negatively impacting your well-being and professional development, you should consider looking for new professional prospects.

How not to become a seagull manager

To avoid becoming a management seagull, it is important to develop effective leadership and management skills. Continuously improve yourself by learning and practicing the principles of open communication, empathy and constructive feedback. Establish regular meetings with your team to discuss current projects, tasks and any problems that arise. This will help create an atmosphere of mutual understanding and support.

Make sure to set clear goals and expectations, ensuring your team has the resources and support they need to achieve them. Be available to your employees by demonstrating a willingness to help and offering solutions. Develop your ability to accept feedback and criticism by working on your own shortcomings and constantly improving your management skills.

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Vladyslava Rykova

Expert in legal marketing. Head of marketing agency MAVR.

Business degree “Master of Business Administration” (MBA).

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