8 Management PitfallsCED Magazine, February 2007
Article Date: 02-01-2007
Copyright (C) 2007 Associated Equipment Distributors. All Rights Reserved.
And how to avoid them.
If you’ve been in the business of managing people for even a short period of time, you’re well aware of the human relations problems that can so easily befall you: employee dissatisfaction and complaints, compensation disputes, sudden resignations, maddeningly poor performance, lawsuits and regulatory complaints.
You know the drill: to keep your operation running smoothly, you must practice the art and science of people management effectively and avoid the age-old mistakes that managers so easily make.
Workplaces are replete with stories of managers who insist on prescribing every move their employees make – right down to the minute they take their coffee breaks.
There’s nothing wrong with providing hands-on guidance and training, but many employees feel more comfortable if a peer or mentor, not the supervisor, provides training.
Instead: Devise a formal training program for your people and involve their respected peers.
True, employees should be encouraged to be “self-starters.” But even the most highly skilled and motivated employees need support. More than anything else, employees need to know that someone is interested in their work, and striving to help them become part of the workplace community.
Instead: Check in with employees, especially new employees, on a regular schedule – weekly, or even daily, if necessary.
Failing To Supervise
Supervision is not the same thing as training or providing guidance. While many styles of supervision exist, all involve establishment of objectives, performance management, problem-solving, and coaching.
Quality supervision is a prerequisites of employee satisfaction and longevity.
Instead: Establish a periodic (such as once weekly) supervisory meeting. Allow your employee to set the agenda for the first part of the meeting, and bring up whatever is on his or her mind.
While you should always rely on the advice of legal counsel in defining and combating discrimination, a good rule of thumb is that any policy or practice that treats members of one demographically ordered employee group different than others may constitute discrimination.
Preferred assignments or compensation going to one age, racial, or ethnic group, for example, could land you in regulatory or legal trouble.
Instead: Base employee decisions and assignments on skill and experience, and say so in your policies.
Lack Of Clarity
There’s nothing wrong with giving your employees the chance to use their imagination in carrying out tasks, but suppose you have a specific outcome in mind – or a specific procedure. By leaving parts of the task to your employee’s discretion, you run the risk of leaving you both unsatisfied.
Instead: Be specific in your instructions when you need to be and write your instructions down, if necessary. Whenever you can, quantify the desired results.
Failure To Train
You try to hire employees who have all the skill sets you need for superior performance. And you have the right to expect each employee will display those skills within a reasonable period of time.
But if you assume your employees know everything – or have the inherent capacity to learn it – you’re setting yourself up for disappointment.
Instead: Engage each employee in an orientation to your place of work, and to routine processes and procedures.
If you observe skill deficiencies, provide additional training.
Failure To Listen
Just as it’s too easy to assume employees know everything they need to know, it’s equally easy to assume they don’t know enough. New employees, in particular, often notice things that employees that have been with you for years don’t – inefficient routines, waste, and hidden opportunities, for example.
Instead: Listen carefully when a new employee brings you an idea or observation. Better yet, make it a point to sit down with your new people at periodic intervals the first year to solicit their observations and suggestions.
In today’s busy work world, it’s very easy to focus attention on things that don’t go right – and to forget the things that are going well. Yet business strength and growth is often predicated on the ability of managers to celebrate success, and build on it.
Instead: Thank and congratulate employees who have done something well. And if you’re trying to encourage top-flight performance, make it a point to recognize employees who exhibit the behavior and accomplishments you’re trying to foster.
The result will be a workplace increasingly marked by a culture of success.
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