“Management: The process of dealing with or controlling things or people.”
— Oxford Dictionaries Online
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We often hear about how management is more of an art than a science — and that probably rings especially true when small-business owners are in the thick of a management challenge. But most of us aren’t entirely equipped to handle difficult employee behaviors. Having that tough conversation with a poor-performing, experienced, high-level manager is every senior leader’s nightmare.
But we do know how to spot problem behavior. We know because we see it ourselves or we hear about it from others. Identifying and pinpointing what exactly the challenge is about an employee’s behavior is only the first step. Managers and owners then need to determine what to do about it — and that’s the hardest part.
Business on Main figured who knows better about key problematic employee behaviors than an executive coach, a chief human resources officer and an executive recruiter? Together, they regularly see and hear about most of the issues that trip up employees in the workplace. We turned to them to help highlight some of the most common employee problems, as well as creative ways to manage those problems.
Problem: A manager just gives orders to employees and doesn’t put requests into context or explain the goals or desired outcomes of requests. He or she is seen as a dictator.
Impact: Employee disengagement. The manager is inadvertently disempowering his or her employees, especially if you have smart people who want to have input and are very strategic themselves. For them, it’s especially important to see the big picture and understand the context in order to contribute on a greater level.
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Solution: It’s essential to have a clearly articulated goal for the company that everyone understands in terms of their roles. Most managers are in a hurry and just want results, so they don’t always understand the importance of context. It isn’t from a desire to withhold information, but that’s often the way it’s perceived by employees. These managers must understand and realize the importance of communication surrounding each action that’s related to the company’s goal.
To improve the process, the manager needs to be open to feedback from the team in one-on-one meetings and better understand what motivates each employee. He or she needs to ask what works well, what doesn’t, what motivates them, and what could be done better around communication issues.
To be successful, the manager needs to start with the overall goal, then break it down into what each employee’s responsibilities and roles are in relation to that objective. The manager should have a matrix that’s shared with each employee on what the daily, monthly and weekly actions or directives are to meet those goals. Many managers don’t do it because it takes time. But when it’s done, they’ll gain productivity, innovation and engagement.
— Jaye Smith, president and CEO of Breakwater Consulting, an executive coaching and organizational development consultancy
Problem: A busy manager with three reports brings in a lot of business, but his ego tends to impair his judgment and get in the way of how he manages his employees.
Impact: This toxic boss is condescending in a way that impairs employee morale and keeps others from driving business results. His behavior really hurts the overall business operation.
Solution: The manager needs to be made aware and understand how his behavior impacts business results, as well as the potential for the loss of talent because of his actions. Regular heart-to-heart meetings with this manager are a must. The meetings need to focus on how the key derailment issues can affect his career going forward. Oftentimes, managers like these have a low emotional quotient (EQ) and need help becoming more self-aware. The manager can be given assignments to help eradicate the problematic behavior.
— Janice Reals-Ellig, co-CEO of Chadick Ellig, an executive search consultancy
Problem: The manager has a significant issue in terms of building relationships and having honest and open communication with co-workers and peers. Despite several conversations, the poor-performing manager is defensive and takes no responsibility for the problem.
Impact: It has an effect on trust and morale among his or her employees and peers.
Solution: Deliberately shift responsibility to the manager to start taking ownership over his or her leadership performance. Ask the manager to review specific direct reports and meet with peers over the next month to ask for sincere, open feedback. Contact all involved individuals and inform them about the feedback sessions. Ensure there’s an open line of communication afterward. After these meetings, the manager must report back about what he or she has learned and any consequent actions. If the manager comes back with nothing, the case is clear — it’s time to let go of the manager. Peers and co-workers will feel heard and valued for being given the opportunity to step up.
— Pernille Spiers-lopez, former chief human resources officer for the IKEA Group and CEO for IKEA North America