Everyone has come across a bad manager at some point in his or her life, am I right?
It may have been the absentee boss you rarely interacted with during your first part-time job in high school or the micromanager you encountered when you began your first job in the “real world”. I’m going to guess your experience wasn’t as extreme as the storyline in Horrible Bosses, but go ahead, take a moment to cringe at the memory.
When the word manager comes to mind, employees experience a wide range of emotions. Unfortunately, many of us relate to the negative impression a bad manager leaves behind.
Some envision an influential leader who inspires them to do their best work, while others visualize a power hungry, war monger focused solely on results. Some imagine a person who works alongside them, offering support and gathering feedback, while others think of a manager who left them to figure things out for themselves and didn’t offer the opportunity to voice their opinions. Some picture hearing powerful words of encouragement and meeting for regular check-ins where problems can be identified before they become big-ticket issues, while others anticipate hearing from their manager only after something has gone wrong.
On the left side, we have the managers and on the right side we have the employees. We expect a good clean fight from the two…now, LET’S GET READY TO RUMBLE!
Why the Divide?
With little surprise, there is often a sense of hostility between corporate management and their subordinates. Are leaders overly focused on the power they hold? Are they too confident or arrogant? Does management value input from their subordinates, and if so, do they make sure all employees are equally involved in the process?
Employees look for someone who is constantly “in their corner,” similar to the person known as a cornerman in a boxing match. Forbidden from instructing during a fight, a cornerman must wait for a break between rounds to offer advice. In the workplace, an effective manager fits the same description – there to offer their support, but ultimately waiting for the opportune moment to offer feedback.
Unfortunately many employees encounter the contrary, a micromanager – someone who needs a play by play account of how things are coming along. Micromanagers can be detrimental not only to those they are supervising, but to the whole company. Some encounter the authoritarian-like boss – one who feels the need to have constant control and is not afraid to shake the confidence or offer blunt opinions in the process. There are also bully bosses who abuse their power and intimidate employees, and divisive bosses who play favorites and impact the environment in which their subordinates work. All of these ineffective managers do have one thing in common – a negative impact on morale which leads to higher turnover and a decrease in productivity.
If you find yourself to be an ineffective manager or are in the midst of dealing with one, despair not! Below are some tips for bridging the employee/manager gap.
Bridging the Gap and Obtaining Employee Support
To bridge the gap between staff and their managers, employers need to ensure their managers have what it takes to motivate their teams and have the tools necessary to create a positive and productive work environment. For employees to succeed, they need an effective manager guiding them (not hovering) down a path of continuous growth.
Most employees have the desire to learn and are interested in seeing how things are done, rather than just arriving at the end result. To bridge the gap, effective managers need to be teachers who disseminate knowledge while retaining a willingness to learn. When a boxing coach is training their fighter, they do not tell the boxer to simply knock out their opponent. The fighter needs to learn how to exploit their opponent’s weaknesses and minimize their own weaknesses to achieve victory. This technique can be applied in the corporate world as you would not simply tell a new salesman what the results of a successful sales call would be (that is a given). You need to walk them through the process by preparing them with the examples that have worked in the past. Successful leaders challenge those around them to work smarter, while promoting growth in the process. Employees who have the chance to learn from their leaders should embrace the opportunity, whether they agree with their managers style or not. If something is not making sense or you don’t agree with the way something is being done, respectfully inform your manager. There is the chance that they could learn something from you in the process, which could lead to the possibility of more responsibility for you in the future.
- Demonstrate integrity
In my opinion, two traits all leaders should possess are honesty and integrity. Leaders fail when they focus only on the power that their title carries. Being the boss does not mean you are always right or that you cannot learn from the employees you oversee. Admitting to your own mistakes and allowing employees to make mistakes can be extremely effective. When your employees make mistakes, you encourage them to move outside of their comfort zone. They can recognize their mistakes, own them, fix them, initiate preventative measures to avoid them in the future, and most importantly, learn from them. Maintaining honesty instills a sense of trust between managers and employees and is extremely important in strengthening the relationship, and setting a good example. Employees should also demonstrate integrity and be honest with their managers. Own your performance, whether good or bad, and be honest if you make a mistake. Respect needs to be earned and it all begins with honesty.
- Be willing to learn:
Allowing employees the opportunity to show you different and effective methods they use when working through their job is a great way to further support the relationship between you and your employees. Taking the time to listen and learn from your employees will provide leaders with insight on how the employees strive to be successful.
- Check-in regularly
Regular staff meetings are a way to engage employees, foster communication and gain support. Depending on your company’s size, the frequency of check-ins may differ, but scheduling time to meet with employees is one way to strengthen relationships. Personally, at the beginning of every week, I meet with my manager for 30 minutes and could not think of a more effective way to evaluate my progress. During this time, we discuss my biggest frustration & biggest success from the previous week and how I plan to allocate my time in the coming week. These meetings provide me the opportunity to address issues in real-time, while obtaining feedback on my performance.
Round 1 Results:
The results are in and the employee wins this round. Although employees can assist in facilitating the relationship between themselves and their superiors, managers are the ones who hold the bulk of responsibility when it comes to bridging the gap, and have some work to do. There are many ways for leaders to improve their effectiveness and motivate their teams to work harder and smarter.
Check back next week to see who wins Round 2: Communication Conflict!