Holding a Seagull Manager Accountable & Fixing the Behavior

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Seagull Manager Sees Himself in the MirrorIn previous posts, I defined a seagull manager and how to handle one. In short, seagull managers: Fly in, make a lot of noise, dump on everyone and fly out. Here, I offer suggestions for holding a seagull manager accountable and fixing the behavior.

Reader Ryan McKinney asks:

Any strategies for helping seagull managers realize they do this?  Or actually holding them accountable for what they say and do?

Below is what has worked for me in the past. How you hold a Seagull Manager accountable will depend largely on the degree of trust you have with this individual and the organization.

High Trust Environment

If you trust the seagull manager, it is best to tackle the issue head on.

Fly In

Pull the individual aside and explain how surprise feedback is helpless. Instead,  encourage them to participate earlier.

Make a lot of Noise

Emphasize to the seagull manager how alarms generate unnecessary work. Excessive alarm requires the team to respond with reports and extra status updates. That energy is better invested in resolving issues.

Dump on Everyone

Dumping on everyone reflects a lack of basic people skills. Therefore, I encourage these individuals to bring all feedback for the team directly to the individual (in private) or the appropriate manager. Public reprimands only reduce morale.

Fly Out

Don’t let this happen. Hold one-on-one’s with the manager until the matters are resolved. Explain that any manager who raises issues remains as part of the solution until it is resolved.

A Single Question

When in doubt, this single  question works:

Yes, I understand your concerns, but I am seeking solutions. How would you handle this situation? Do you have any advice for the team?

I tried this with one seagull manager and there was immediate silence. However, from that point forward, the individual always came prepared with recommendations. They moved from being part of the problem to part of the solution.

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Low Trust Environment

Unfortunately, low trust environments or individuals require different finesse. Here are some alternative options:


The seagull manager is often a peer to your boss or above. In these cases, raise the matter to the appropriate “level”. Explain the issue to your boss and ask them to handle it. When the seagull manager has an issue in the future, they should take it directly to their peer.


If you know someone else you trust, with whom the seagull manager also has a degree of respect, approach that individual. Ask for advice or see if they are willing to engage the seagull manager.

Human Resources

If your HR department is trusted, talk to your representative. Ask for feedback and / or encourage this be addressed through formal feedback channels.

Anonymous Feedback

As a last resort, you can always try anonymous feedback. These are often in the form of suggestion boxes or Q&A session inputs.

Nobody likes a Seagull Manager. They hurt the team, decrease morale and cost time in wasted effort. Therefore, it is best for everyone involved that these inappropriate behaviors be fixed. As a servant leader, you owe it to the team to identify the seagull managers, deal with the person and hold them accountable.

Question: Have you been able to fix a seagull manager or hold them accountable? What other tips do you have?



Ben Lichtenwalner

Ben Lichtenwalner

Ben Lichtenwalner is the founder and principal of Modern Servant Leader and Radiant Forest, LLC. He has studied and promoted servant leadership awareness and adoption for over 20 years. He is the author of 2 leadership books and has 2 decades of corporate management and leadership experience. His corporate experience spans CIO, VP, Director, and many management roles at Fortune 500, INC 500, and Nonprofits. Ben’s education includes a B.S. in Management Science & Information Systems from Penn State University and an MBA from Lehigh University. Ben's Full Profile Here: About Ben Lichtenwalner

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