3 Things Managers Do That Disengage Employees

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Engagement is often viewed as just an "HR thing" when in fact, managers play an even more important role in engaging employees day-to-day. Managers, however, may not realize how their actions engage or disengage employees and how that affects their team's performance and productivity. Here are 3 things managers do which can unintentionally disengage employees.

1. Devalue

Unfortunately, feeling undervalued is a common problem in the workplace and it affects engagement considerably. Instead of focusing on performance and creating value, employees who feel devalued spend their energy trying to defend or prove their value and typically underperform in the process. There are a number of common reasons and situations that could cause an employee to feel devalued, such as:

  • not being recognized or acknowledged for a job well done, or ignored
  • being passed over for a promotion or transferred/assigned to a new area
  • feeling under-challenged or that they are working below their capabilities
  • receiving a lower than expected pay increase, performance rating, etc.
  • being unfairly treated or denied a request for leave, additional flexibility, etc.
  • not being listened/responded to or asked for their input

Managers usually don't intend to make employees feel devalued, but the absence of acknowledgement and the effects of how they treat other employees or the decisions they make can inevitably backfire and leave employees feeling undervalued and disengaged.

2. Distrust

Trust is also vital to employee engagement. Loss of employee trust in leaders or their managers can create havoc on engagement. Disengaged employees who lose trust in their managers spend more time wondering what truths their managers are trying to hold back from them or questioning their manager's honesty, than creating and driving results.

Managers can lose employees' trust in ways that they may not realize. Saying one thing and doing another is a major reason that trust can be broken. If you promise something to an employee (even if it was years prior), they expect you to follow-through. Keeping your word and being consistent is the best way to keep employees' trust.

Micromanaging or over-controlling how tasks are completed and limiting employees' autonomy can also create distrust. If employees feel like you don't trust or believe in their capabilities, they may reciprocate and not trust you. Trust is a two way street, and you must be willing to give trust to gain it.

Other ways managers create distrust inadvertently are by publically criticizing employees or drawing attention to their weaknesses, keeping secrets and withholding information, making changes without honestly communicating why, telling half-truths, not practicing what they preach, and sugarcoating problems or situations. Every manager makes one of these mistakes at one time or another and the negative effects can be difficult to reverse.

3. Disconnect

Employees become disengaged when they don't have a good connection with their manager, or when a positive dynamic with their boss changes. For many employees, their boss is one of the most important people in their work-life. As a result, positive, supportive relationships between employees and their managers play a critical role in engaging employees.

When employees and managers stop communicating with one another regularly or when a positive manager-employee relationship turns sour, a disconnect can occur. Being able to resolve and manage conflicts with employees is a skill managers need to maintain their relationships and connections with employees.

Sometimes disconnects happen without managers realizing it. For example, managers can commonly grow apart from employees with significant tenure or those that don't need as much development. Also, managers can often find themselves operating in a vacuum, busily engaged in tasks and projects, but failing to make time for their people. They may become invisible to their staff or a particular employee. They may also not spend enough time trying to develop rapport with employees.

Connecting, developing trust, and valuing employees are three key ways managers can drive engagement. In the ongoing quest for an engaged, productive, and high-performing workforce, managers must realize how their everyday actions or lack of action can disengage employees and give them the skills and insights to create an engaged team.

Additional Resources

Management & Leadership Development

ERC offers a range of courses to develop supervisors, middle managers, and leaders including popular topics such as communication, conflict resolution, time and priority management, emotional intelligence, and performance management. 

4 Ways to Become a Manager Employees Want to Follow

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4 Ways to Become a Manager Employees Want to Follow

Are your managers people who your employees want to follow?  Do your managers regularly encounter resistance and wonder why they can't achieve the results they want or why their employees won't follow their lead? More importantly, are employees just following managers because they are the boss, or because they are genuinely inspired and motivated by their leadership?

"Why won't they listen and follow me?" is one of the most common frustrations managers have. Few realize, however, that it takes more than just authority, a position of power, and demands to get people to truly follow you and engage in your vision. Engaged followership is also not something that happens overnight. It takes days, weeks, months, and sometimes even years to position yourself as a trusted, respected, and emotionally intelligent leader that people take pride in following. You earn your followers with your words, actions, and attitudes.

How do you become a manager people want to follow? Start simple. Ask employees these questions on a regular basis.

How are you?

This question conveys that you care not just about the work, but about employees as people. Naturally, employees follow managers who care about them and will resist managers who show indifference to their needs and interests. Managers who take time to have intentional conversations, demonstrate an interest in the people who work for them, and learn about employees as individuals, gain followers. Care elicits trust and trust breeds followers. Here's a quick self-check to determine how well you are showing you care about your people:

  • Do you know your employees' spouses and children's names?
  • Do you know your employee's birthday? 
  • Do you know what your employee does for fun?
  • Do you know what your employee's personal goals are?
  • Do you know what your employee's personal challenges are?
  • Do you ever go above and beyond to help employees with something non-work related?
  • Do you ever call or visit employees to see how things are going at work and personally?

How can I support you?

Do you convey that employees are at work to serve you and help you reach your goals, or do you believe that you are there to serve them and help employees reach their objectives? Asking this question shows that you are focused on serving employees and their needs and not just yourself. Conversely, when employees sense that you are just trying to use them as a means to an end, they usually won't follow you.

Great managers who are followed are those that serve their people by resolving problems and going to great lengths to support their people. They view their role as servants to their followers and not their followers as servants to themselves. This mindset radically changes their behavior as managers. They become more concerned with how they can meet their employees' needs and prioritize those needs above their own.

How can I help you succeed?

People want to work for a winning team. Employees follow managers who make the right decisions and lead them in the right direction. Exceptional managers pave the way for employees' success - not their failure.  They get people from point A to point B.

In order to do this, managers must be effective at managing work and achieving results through others to gain the respect of their followers. Managers who are able to lead and coach their teams and employees with effective problem solving, goal-setting, planning, and management of the work, have team members who want to follow them.

Similarly, managers who help their employees and their teams do better gain followership. Managers who show their employees the right way to work, help them develop their skills and capabilities, redirect them when they do something wrong, and build a competent team gain followers. People follow managers that make them better employees.

What do you think?

People want to follow managers who are interested in their perspectives, suggestions, and involvement. It makes them feel important and purposeful. When invited to contribute to a new project, be involved in creating a new product/service, or asked to provide their views on an issue, employees feel empowered. Managers who consistently ask employees for their opinions, ideas, and involvement and consider a diversity of perspectives can gain lasting followers.

Don't ask these questions just once or even a few times. Keep asking them of your employees (perhaps in different ways) over and over again. They will make employees feel cared for, empowered, worthwhile, and supported -- and those positive feelings will inevitably help turn an average employee into an engaged follower.

Interested in learning more about training your supervisors?

Submit your contact information and receive instant access to a video highlighting our process and a brochure featuring our courses, delivery methods, and success stories.

Preview Supervisory Training

 

Just Promoted to Supervisor? Here's What to Know About New Manager Training

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Every organization faces the challenge of new manager training: transitioning an employee from team player to team leader. This transition from employee to supervisor is one of the hardest an employee must make in their career. After the promotion occurs, what should you do to make sure the transition goes smoothly and that your new supervisor is successful in their new role?

One best practice is to approach the transition like you would on-board a new employee. Would you expect your new employee to learn by trial and error? Probably not. Like a new employee, anticipate that new supervisors need both initial and on-going training and support to perform their new role and responsibilities. Similar to on-boarding, the more you develop your employee upfront, the less redirection is needed later. Here are some suggestions.

1. Clarify expectations and priorities.

Most new supervisors have little clarity regarding what their priorities and expectations should be in their new role and aren't prepared to be effective in their new role. As a first step, spend time discussing their new responsibilities and performance expectations and how these have changed from their previous role.

2. Discuss your organization's management philosophy.

Every organization has management norms and a certain style of leadership that supports its culture, so it's important to discuss with your new supervisor how your organization expects employees to be managed. This helps ensure that employees are supervised consistently throughout the organization.

3. Schedule them for new manager training sooner than later.

Schedule employees for supervisory training as close to the time of promotion as possible or even prior to the transition, particularly for softer skills (i.e. communication, conflict management, etc.). Make sure new supervisors are set-up with the most critical baseline skills they need to be successful on the job. This will minimize common new supervisor mistakes.

4. Brief them on managerial procedures.

Administering a performance review, conducting a write-up, handling employee leave, or dealing with a grievance are just a few of many complicated issues in which your new supervisor has never been exposed. Make sure supervisors are knowledgeable about correct procedures to handle these issues and can access the proper paperwork and guidance.

5. Coach them on critical conversations.

Your supervisor will soon find themselves in tricky situations such as dealing with an underperforming employee, high-performing but dissatisfied employee, employee who comes to work late, or a team that isn't working together. These situations require difficult conversations and often require new manger training. Consider counseling and role-playing with them on the right and wrong things to say in these conversations and how to handle and mitigate common employee problems.

6. Provide time to interact with other managers.

One of the best ways for your new supervisor to learn the ropes of management is to spend time with other experienced managers and excellent leadership role models who can encourage and guide them, listen to their challenges and frustrations, and help them learn through their own experiences.

7. Encourage self-awareness.

It's unlikely that your newly promoted employee has ever considered how their interpersonal style helps or impedes their effectiveness. As soon as they start managing people, however, the quirks of their interpersonal styles (how they deal with conflict, their communication preferences, their personality, etc.) become apparent. Provide tools to help them become more aware of their style and behavior and flex it to meet others' needs and become a more effective manager.

8. Redirect their natural reflexes.

Every new supervisor experiences some natural reflexes—including the urge to do the work themselves and impose their ways of doing things on others without building consensus or asking for input. New supervisors will need to be encouraged to fight their natural reflexes to go back to the tactics that made them successful in their prior role.

9. Suggest resources.

Recommend books, tools, articles, blogs, job aids, and other tools for your new supervisor to access in order to become a better manager. Better yet, create a library of these resources at your organization. This will also help your other managers in their on-going management development.

10. Observe their transition to identify additional areas of development.

In their first few weeks and months on the job, observe how their transition is going. Specific issues to observe may include how much (or little) they are delegating, how they are interacting with their employees, and their team's performance. Talk to the new supervisor and employees on the supervisor's team to gather additional feedback. If you notice issues early on and correct them, it's unlikely that they will escalate.

You can never fully prepare managers for all of the challenges they will face, but by providing training, guidance, and support to supervisors before they hit the front-lines you can set them up to succeed as new leaders.

Interested in learning more about training your supervisors?

Submit your contact information and receive instant access to a video highlighting our process and a brochure featuring our courses, delivery methods, and success stories.

Preview Supervisory Training

 

4 Signs of a Struggling Manager

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Employers frequently find themselves unaware of struggling managers before they end up causing deep-seated issues in departments like turnover, distrust, disengagement, and under-performance. Here are 4 observable and measurable ways that you can determine whether your managers are struggling on the job before it’s too late.

1. Morale shift.

Take a look at the morale of the department and you can tell who is an effective manager and who isn’t. For example, are employees engaged or just going through the motions? Do employees seem happy? Has there been a marked shift in attitude? Do employees feel valued and appreciated? Is there a strong team atmosphere or is collaboration lacking? That’s not to say that other organizational factors may not influence morale, but a manager can strongly influence morale even in spite of these factors if they are doing their job right.

2. Level of interaction.

How often do managers interact with their employees to communicate, provide feedback, thank or praise them, and learn about them as individuals? Do you ever see managers working side by side with their employees? If one-on-one interaction does not occur at least weekly (or better yet – daily), this may be a symptom of a problem. Be wary of the manager that hides out in their office for hours at a time or spends 90% of their time in meetings as they are probably not spending enough time interacting with their employees.

3. By the numbers.

Numbers usually illuminate a struggling manager better than anything else. For example, how many individuals have gotten recognized by their manager in the past year? What do promotion and internal mobility rates look like within the department? Are employees reaching their goals? How many employees received improved performance ratings from last year? What was the average pay raise or bonus in the manager’s department or work group? How much time are employees spending on development? These are just a few of many numbers and HR metrics that can tell you which managers may be less effective than others.

4. Work systems.

The most prevalent way that you can identify who may need help with management is by taking a look at their systems or symptoms of system issues. For example, if employees are confused about expectations, directions, or work assignments; working plenty of extra hours or overtime to get their job done; or report not having the resources to get their jobs done, there’s probably a problem with the manager’s systems of managing work.  Similarly, if employees don’t seem challenged, act bored, or feel micromanaged, there’s likely an issue with the manager’s approach to delegation.

So before management problems get the best of your organization, be sure you’re observing and measuring these things to determine whether some of your managers could do their jobs more effectively.

Additional Resources

Supervisory Series

This series provides participants with practical skills, tools, and strategies to advance their supervisory skills, enhance their effectiveness as supervisors, lead employees with confidence, and execute results. Specifically, participants will learn how to lead and manage change, build and work with teams, and manage generational differences and diversity. They will also explore the skills of problem solving and decision making as well as managing day-to-day work through delegating, planning, and managing time.

Win Trust & Influence: 6 Tips for Improving Employee Relations

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In HR, how you approach everyday employee relations can make a difference in whether or not your employees and managers view you as a trusted advisor. Here are ways that you can improve your relationships with managers and employees at your organization to win their trust, respect, and confidence.

Interact and communicate with employees on a daily basis

Make regular interaction a priority and it will help you do your job better. Walk the plant floor or the office. You’ll get to know employees personally, understand their concerns, and better identify work problems that you can fix. Meet with employees regularly, either one-on-one or in small groups. The best HR professionals have won the respect and trust of their employees by taking an interest in their day-to-day lives and creating an open dialogue.

Maintain their trust and confidentiality

Be a trusted resource that employees can turn to discuss problems, conflicts, or other issues. Handle employees’ concerns with integrity and professionalism. Refrain from discussing confidential issues with other members of your team or outside your department, or gossiping about employee matters. If you gather employees’ feedback on any topic, always protect their confidentiality and anonymity. Don’t try to pinpoint who said what.

Advocate for your employees

Know what drives retention and engagement for your employees. Advocate for and champion programs that enhance employees’ work experience and those that are important to your workforce.  Over time, these improvements will be noticed by your employees and they will value your contributions. We have seen many HR professionals gain the respect of the employees’ and leadership teams by creating great places to work.

Gain the respect of your managers

Develop strong relationships with your supervisors and managers. Learn about them and their departments and ask them how you can be of better assistance to their needs. Understand their demands and make their jobs easier, not harder. Create tools and systems and offer training to help them do their jobs better and more efficiently.  In doing so, you will have more luck collaborating with them to manage employees.

Make an impression from the start

Use on-boarding as a way to build your reputation with employees as a trusted advisor. Build a positive rapport prior to them coming on-board by staying in contact, being responsive and accessible, and providing them with all of the information they need for their first day. In addition to facilitating orientation, describe your role to employees in ways that you want to be perceived. Reach out to new-hires multiple times within the first 6 months to gather feedback, provide support, and solidify a positive relationship.

Be objective and balance interests

Execute and enforce policies and procedures consistently and fairly, with no exceptions. Additionally, balance serving all of your internal customers – leaders, managers, and employees. Learn to look at issues objectively from all sides of your business and balance these three interests. Be collaborative in developing and implementing policies. Don’t develop policies without considering their perspectives. 

 If you want to broaden your influence, achieve better results, and improve relationships with your internal customers, consider using these approaches. We have witnessed many HR professionals win the trust and confidence of their managers and employees by adopting these positive employee relations practices.

20 Tips for Managing Young Employees

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We hire them for their fresh knowledge, strong technical skills, and growth potential, but managing young people effectively requires a different strategy than some of your other employees, given their lack of business and work experience. Here are 20 tips for managing young workers.

   1.  Help them transition from college to work. Transitioning from student to employee can be a time of confusion, anxiety, exploration, and excitement. Recognize that each employee handles this transition differently and requires a different level of support from your organization. Think of ways that you can support your new employee in this time of change, whether that’s help with relocation or financial support for continuing education.

2.    Assign them to the right manager.  A young employee needs the right type of manager – one that enjoys teaching, mentoring, developing, and spending time interacting with their employees, since this is the focus of their interests. They also need a manager who is a strong communicator, isn’t afraid to provide frequent feedback, and values employee ideas and suggestions. Your traditional or untrained managers may not be the right fit for a young employee.

3.    Create a good on-boarding program. While it may be tempting to drop your young employee into an assignment right away with limited training, young employees usually need a more detailed and lengthy on-boarding experience to get started on the right foot. Spend the time up-front to make sure they are well-trained to carry out their job responsibilities, understand the business and its products/services, and are comfortable with your operating procedures.

4.    Fill the experience gap by providing just that: experiences. Job experiences should be many and varied and the employee needs to be involved in actually doing the work. Some managers are resistant to putting a younger employee on a more challenging project because of their lack of experience; however, recognize that the employee will only be as valuable to your organization as you let them be. With the right amount of task structure and supervision, potential risks can be minimized.

5.    Invest in them early. Make sacrifices in productivity early on to develop skill gaps in your young employees. Top organizations invest in young employees early in their career – and oftentimes right from the day one. They assess skill gaps right away, lay out structured development plans, and focus heavily on training and development in their first few years – sometimes even in lieu of a full workload. Once the right foundation has been laid, these organizations find that young workers are better equipped to contribute at a higher level later in their careers.  

6.    Give them attention. Young workers know that they have a lot to learn from others and expect more attention from their boss as a result. They don’t necessarily want autonomy, especially if they aren’t skilled yet at their job tasks. Once they become skilled, autonomy may become more valuable to them. They do expect to be heard and want their employers to listen to and value their input.

7.    Provide constant feedback. An annual performance review is not enough performance feedback for your young employees. They like and will need constant feedback as they navigate their tasks and responsibilities. They will also need affirmation as they progress. Managers should meet with young employees often for these purposes.

8.    Re-think how work is done. Younger employees don’t always approach work and life separately and may see these as blended and integrated. This may result in use of work time for personal affairs and use of personal time for work. As a result, they may be more productive working at home or using a flexible schedule.

9.    Provide variety. Young workers typically have a short attention span. They thrive on variety and change and may be your strongest change-agents.  They are usually most productive when working on short-term projects and quick tasks, or longer projects that are broken down into smaller tasks or phases.

10.  Use them for their strengths. They may not be your most perfect assets from the start. They’ll make mistakes and you’ll see the effects of their inexperience over time, but their energy, fresh knowledge, willingness to learn, growth potential, and creativity are all valuable to your organization and likely reasons for which you hired them. Use them with these strengths in mind, and over time with good direction and development, the rest with usually come.

11.  Offer “intrapraneurship” opportunities. Growing research shows that many young people want to be entrepreneurs. To keep their fresh, new, and great ideas inside your organization, allow or offer “intrapraneurship” opportunities – projects or opportunities that allow them to create or be involved in the creation of a new product, service, or start-up scenarios. Use their entrepreneurial spirit for your benefit.

12.  Be or give them a mentor. An experienced mentor can help young employees learn from experiences that they haven’t had and provide an objective sounding board for career discussions and work problems. They can also suggest or help facilitate developmental activities. A mentor could be another individual in the organization (perhaps a top performer), a leader, or the employee’s supervisor. Typically a mentor is 1-2 levels above the employee.

13.  Show them clear, defined career paths. Young employees are focused on advancement. They want to know their career options and work towards a specific career goal. If your organization doesn’t have clear career paths, discuss alternative career and developmental opportunities in the organization and show examples of how other young people have advanced.

14.  Monitor workload. Young workers don’t know what their limits are yet and are eager to take on new projects and responsibilities. They also don’t feel as safe saying no to additional responsibilities because they lack experience. Similarly, keep in mind that young people are not always skilled at managing their time and prioritizing work.

15.  Emphasize professionalism. Young employees may not be educated on the right ways to conduct themselves in a workplace setting. Expect that they may not know the basics like how to lead a conference call, create a meeting agenda, network, manage a project, general business/email etiquette, or more touchy subjects like handling emotions, hygiene, and dress in the workplace.

16.  Choose and monitor work events carefully especially if there is alcohol involved. After-work outings, happy-hour events, and other social gatherings are a great way to attract and engage young employees, but consider limiting alcohol consumption, choosing locations that minimize risk, setting ground rules, and dealing with inappropriate behavior on-the-spot to avoid liabilities.

17.  Differentiate between friends and coworkers. It’s not that friendships in the workplace are bad (in fact, they can be very positive), but young workers have a tendency to view their coworkers as friends more than other employees. These relationships can get too personal and may be inappropriate (i.e. dating relationships), depending on your policies. Plus, when friends start getting promoted and managing one another, these relationships can pose problems.

18.  Explain key policies. Hone in on certain policies with young people such as dress code, attendance, harassment, substance abuse, and social media/internet usage, and specifically what actions are unacceptable in the workplace and the consequences of those behaviors.  What was acceptable in college isn’t always acceptable in the workplace, and some young employees miss these differences.

19.  Provide benefits education. Young workers usually lack knowledge about their benefits – how health and dental insurance works, how much to contribute to their 401K, if they should use a flexible spending account, what an employee assistance program provides, etc. They may also need some help with financial planning such as paying off student loans, saving for a house, budgeting, to name a few. Spend additional time discussing benefits with your younger employees and provide financial planning resources.

20.  Be an example. Young people will emulate who you are. They will view you as a model for their behavior, copying your actions and words. In their first days and months, they are attuned to the norms of workplace behavior and will take on positive and negative behaviors they observe in their work environment. Recognize their malleable nature and use this time to mold them in positive ways.

Additional Resources

 Training for Your Young Professionals

This can’t-miss, two-part series for your organization’s young professionals, covers communication skills, professional etiquette in and out of the workplace, and the traits of a strong leader.

Mid-Level Manager Training

Three-Quarters of Employers Offer Supervisory/Management Training

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According to the results of the 2011-2012 ERC Policies & Benefits Survey, most employers in Northeast Ohio provide supervisors and managers with training in supervisory and managerial skills. Most commonly, 75% of local employers say that they use employers association supervisory/management development courses to train employees compared to only 32% of employers that use college supervisory development courses.

“The survey’s results suggest that local organizations find value in the supervisory/management training provided by employers associations like ERC. Within the training we provide, participants learn how to apply a variety of managerial and interpersonal skills including dealing with the everyday challenges of being a manager and also receive a variety of resources to support them in their managerial roles,” says Chris Kutsko, Director of Learning and Development at ERC.

She adds, “Many of our clients find tremendous value in the quality, delivery, support, and affordability of our supervisory and managerial training beyond what other providers offer.”

Additional Resources

More information about this survey: click here
Upcoming training and programs on this topic: click here

What a Manager Needs to Know to Drive Project Success

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The challenge in project success rests in the ability to deliver to the desired business goal in the desired time frame and within the available budget. These three forces:  time, cost, and quality, are often in conflict with each other. The Project Management Institute (PMI) has defined nine body of knowledge areas that when followed, would increase probability of project success. However, if you are not a full-time project manager and still want to increase your project results, follow these three project management principles:

1. Establish a Project Plan.

The project plan will tell you, your team, and your customers the:

Goals: Define the business reason for the project and how you will know it was successful at the end.
Scope: Determine the boundaries of what your project will address, and just as important, what it won’t address. 
Milestones: Work backgrounds to identify important dates for deliverables, reviews, etc. This is a very easy way to do a reality check on what it will take to meet the due dates.

2. Build a Communication Plan.

The communication plan is not only how you will communicate at the end of the project, but who should be informed and engaged throughout the project. At the minimum you should be able to identify the:

Who: Identify the key stakeholders, the departments, customers, or processes that will be impacted by your project
What: Create the message, which could be different for each audience – some want to be updated while others require more detail.  
When and How: Identify the best time and format.  The rule of thumb is to communicate your message at least three times, and I would add, in at least two different formats (email, phone, in-person).  Leverage communication channels that are already in place like staff meetings, monthly newsletters, weekly email blasts, websites, etc.

3. Define Change Management Processes.

Change is a constant. On any project the scope will alter as more information is gathered.  Define a process and procedure for identifying project changes, approvals, and documentation requirements. The more complex the work, the more important this becomes. 

These are just a few principles to keep in mind to ensure success on your projects. The more you can learn about project management and the underlying principles, the better equipped you will be to lead your organization in the future.

Are Your Supervisors Prepared for These 5 Challenges?

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The following is a complimentary audit and assessment consisting of key questions your organization should ask to determine if your supervisors and managers have the appropriate skills and competencies to combat the most common management pitfalls. Additionally, tips we frequently recommend to organizations in addressing these pitfalls are summarized.

Challenge 1: Exposing the organization to liabilities

Organizations are exposed to liabilities when their supervisors and managers are not knowledgeable of employment law or understand how to apply legal guidelines. For example, supervisors and managers may make selection decisions based on non-job related criteria or subjective biases, ask inappropriate interview questions, not document performance, misapply wage and hour law (not recording overtime worked, not providing necessary breaks, etc.), or fail to handle employee issues with consistency.

Key questions include:

  • Are supervisors and managers knowledgeable of employment laws and do they successfully apply these legal guidelines in the workplace?
  • Do supervisors and managers ask appropriate interview questions, if they are responsible for hiring duties?
  • Do supervisors and managers participate in making legal selection decisions, based on job-related factors and qualifications and not based on any protected criteria (such as gender, race, national origin, religion, etc.)?
  • Do supervisors and managers understand wage and hour law (FLSA) and how it affects the pay of their employees?
  • Do supervisors and managers discipline or handle issues of employee conduct with consistency?
  • Do supervisors and managers understand the basics of managing employee leave, particularly FMLA?

Challenge 2: Failing to document and manage performance

Performance management is a common struggle for many supervisors and managers. Oftentimes, we find that the supervisors and managers are not doing enough to support the employee in achieving their performance expectations and standards and not providing regular feedback, counseling, and coaching. In addition, correctly documenting performance is commonly overlooked.

Key questions include:

  • Do supervisors and managers generally have a high performance work team, or do their employees struggle in reaching certain performance standards or goals?
  • Are employees aware of what is expected of them in terms of performance?  Do supervisors and managers communicate these expectations to employees?
  • Do supervisors and managers take the performance review process seriously? Do they understand its importance and how to prepare for and deliver a performance review?
  • Do supervisors and managers document any and all incidents of poor performance? (note: this is also a potential liability)
  • Do supervisors and managers guide performance through regular feedback and coaching?
  • Do supervisors and managers support performance with development and training if needed?
  • Do supervisors and managers have conversations with employees about their career aspirations and developmental interests? Do they follow-up on insights obtained in these conversations?
  • Do supervisors and managers continually challenge and empower their employees?
  • Do supervisors and managers make themselves available to answer employee questions about projects, assignments, and tasks?
  • Do supervisors and managers recognize and thank employees for their contributions when they do a good job?
  • Do supervisors and managers criticize more than they praise? Is there an imbalance of negative and positive feedback, and is this justified?

Challenge 3: Poorly communicating

Inadequate communication manifests itself in a number of problems including poor supervisor-employee work relationships, frequent misunderstandings of job tasks or policies/procedures, and unclear expectations. These issues often surface from poor listening, relationship building, clarifying, and feedback skills and lead to frequent supervisory problems.

Key questions include:

  • Do supervisors and managers establish rapport and positive relationships with employees?
  • Do supervisors and managers engage in frequent methods of in-person communication?
  • Do supervisors and managers actively listen to employees’ concerns, problems, and questions?
  • Do supervisors and managers clarify points and issues, trying to better understand work problems employees have?
  • Do supervisors and managers ask for employees’ viewpoints and opinions?
  • Do supervisors and managers exhibit effective non-verbal communication with employees? Do their words match their body language?
  • Do employees often feel confused when completing work assignments, or do misunderstandings frequently occur?
  • Do employees receive enough performance feedback from supervisors and managers? Do they understand where they excel and where they need to improve?
  • Is the feedback provided by supervisors and managers constructive and well-targeted at behaviors needing changed?

Challenge 4: Failing to resolve conflict

Many managers fail to resolve conflicts between employees and coworkers or may perpetuate too much conflict in their groups. It’s common for supervisors and managers to avoid conflict altogether. In addition, they may not do enough to prevent conflict.

Key questions include:

  • Do supervisors and managers work to accurately define and identify key workplace conflicts or are problems frequently incorrectly identified? 
  • Do supervisors and managers recognize the causes of conflict?
  • Do supervisors and managers understand and costs of conflict on your business and recognize its effects on productivity?
  • Do conflicts generally go unresolved by supervisors and managers, or do supervisors and managers create different strategies to manage and resolve conflict, ensuring that it has a limited effect on performance?
  • Do supervisors and managers frequently collaborate and strive for “win-win” approaches to conflict?
  • Do supervisors and managers try to prevent conflict by encouraging positive coworker relationships, encouraging recognition of individual differences, and addressing work problems quickly before they escalate?
  • Do supervisors try to adapt to different personalities and styles in order to maximize their effectiveness?

Challenge 5: Not understanding their role

Typically promoted from individual contributor roles, supervisors and managers find themselves not understanding the new requirements and expectations of their role, or encountering common challenges like micromanaging, distrusting employees, treating employees poorly, or not making time for them. 

Key questions include:

  • Do supervisors and managers frequently encounter challenges on the job, in dealing with employee issues and problems?
  • Do supervisors and managers understand how their role is different than that of their previous role as an individual contributor? Do they understand its importance in driving results through others?
  • Do supervisors and managers understand the responsibilities of their role and how to carry them out?
  • Do supervisors and managers make time for employees, balancing task completion and building supportive relationships?
  • Do supervisors and managers show trust and confidence in employees?
  • Are employees excessively directed and micromanaged?
  • Are employees treated with respect and courtesy? 

Addressing Management Challenges

If your supervisors don’t have the right competencies in place, there are a number of ways to develop them. In our experience, these are the most common and effective ways to build supervisory and management skills:

  • Supervisory and managerial training
    Training is one of the best and most common ways to develop supervisors’ and managers’ abilities. Consider registering them to attend ERC’s Supervisory Series, an affordable training program that develops their skills in all of these critical managerial areas including communication, conflict resolution, performance management, and employment law. This program can also be delivered on-site and customized to your organization’s needs. 
  • Skills coaching and mentoring
    Sometimes a more personalized and customized approach is necessary to develop skills and solve specific managerial and supervisory issues, particularly when training has already been conducted. This can be facilitated either through mentorship of leaders internally or skills coaching with an external consultant
  • Management literature and educational materials
    Articles and learning aids are another great way for supervisors and managers to develop their capabilities and can be great follow-up resources for after training to help transfer skills learned back to the workplace. Checklists and forms that guide behaviors learned in training can help them stay better organized on the job. These can be created in-house or training programs may have them available.  

Interested in learning more about training your supervisors?

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