Want to know five dumb things that managers do that could be avoided with the use of a little common sense? We looked at ten mistakes managers make managing people earlier. These behaviors and approaches have common sense solutions, too. Here are five dumb things managers do and the recommended actions they need to take instead.
- Take credit for the project or an employee’s idea or plan.
Smart managers learn quickly that one of the most significant forms of employee acknowledgement and recognition occurs when a manager gives credit – publicly – where credit is due. On the flip side, managers who consciously or unconsciously take credit for an employee’s idea, completed project or contribution, are universally despised.
And the reality is, the credit-grabbing manager is fooling nobody. The manager’s job, by definition, is to get things done through people. No one expects that all the brilliance is the manager’s. In fact, managers who can bring out the brilliance in others are cherished. Managers look like good managers when their reporting staff succeeds.
In a worst case scenario, employees will begin withholding ideas, wait until witnesses are present to share potential solutions, and make sure that they address the idea with the manager's boss, just to ensure that they receive credit. Your boss's reaction? He wonders why your employees won't talk with you.
- Make rules to control the actions of a few employees that must be extended to the many.
You will always have problem employees and smart managers address the problems directly with the problem employee. Unthinking managers make up new policies and make everyone accountable for adhering to the new policies – whether their performance was problematic – or not.
A corollary to making new rules to govern the behavior of a few people occurs, for example, when a manager addresses a problem or issue with his or her whole team when a limited number of team-mates were performing inadequately. By dressing down the whole group, the manager alienates the positive, productive employees who wonder what the problem is and resent being “yelled at.” And, the employees who have the problem hide out in the crowd, fail to take the criticism to heart and rarely reform their behavior.
For example, in a high school, the principal became increasingly upset with a few teachers who persistently arrived late to work and were unprepared to teach their first session. Or worse, they were not there on time to supervise their students. He began by yelling about attendance at every staff meeting. When his yelling created no improvement, he yelled louder and threatened the entire teaching staff with suspension.
Then, he created a sign-in list in the main office and required teachers to sign in and out daily so he could monitor them. This caused, on a daily basis, teachers who formerly entered the building by the door convenient to their classroom, to make two unnecessary treks to the office each day. Several had to make child care changes and all felt as if they were not trusted. The sign-in list was a true morale buster the entire school year and the behavior of the miscreants never changed.
- Keep the wrong people – for too long.
Managers know fairly quickly that a new employee may not be a good fit for the organization’s needs. But, managers hesitate to address the problem quickly and decisively. They dislike conflict, delude themselves into believing the employee will improve with training, or dread the recruitment and resultant time investment in finding a replacement. They also hate to look like they made a bad choice. No one likes to be wrong.
But, wrong becomes right when a manager quickly addresses a bad employment decision or match. In a recent email, a manager told this sorry tale. He hired an employee who had repeatedly demonstrated an unwillingness to abide by the company safety rules. Within the first 60 days of employment, the employee had received two written warnings. On the day he wrote to me, the employee disobeyed another safety rule and broke his ankle.
The organization had decided to fire this employee, but they let the situation go on too long. Now they have a mess, a worker’s comp claim, an injured employee, a safety recordable accident, consultation with a lawyer, and all the immeasurable time and attention that addressing the situation will require.
Make promises that you can’t - or won’t – keep or promises that have conditions attached that you don't share.
Employees take managers at their word and they are willing to listen and give credence to a manager's promises one time. If they’re burned, they won’t trust the manager and he will have difficulty overcoming the lack of trust in the future. Six words are important in a manager’s vocabulary. They are, “I don’t know; I’ll find out,” when a manager is faced with any questions or situations about which he or she can’t predict the outcome.
In a colleague’s company, for example, a manager promised employees that they would receive comp time for working every weekend for six months. The manager refused to honor the promise because the project failed. At best, the manager won't have any employees who are willing to work overtime now or in the future. Morale and motivation are shattered. And, at worst, the manager will lose the entire team. In this instance, all but two members eventually quit.
- Fail to trust employees until an employee proves himself untrustworthy.
Similar to dealing with offenders directly before subjecting all employees to rules, managers need to make trusting employees their norm, not blindly, but believe that the majority of employees are trustworthy. Then address untrustworthy behavior directly with the employee who is untrustworthy. When managers treat employees as if they are not worthy of trust, they will regard their manager with distrust in return.
During an economic downturn, a colleague’s company announced that all exempt employees would be expected to work 7.5 extra hours per week without an increase in pay. The VP decided to check employee attendance by walking around to see if employees were working the extra hours. He even started spot-checking how long employees spent at lunch and breaks. Why was this stupid?
Before the added requirement, almost everyone in the department had already been working 50-60 hour weeks, rather than the 35 expected hours. The manager’s actions inspired many employees to cut back on their hours to work just the hours expected. Plus, when he checked and found people in the cafeteria for 30 minutes instead of 15 minutes for what he thought was break, he took punitive action. He forgot to check whether the employees were actually in a meeting about work or on break. Distrust and micro-management breed distrust.
Managers have a tough job because they deal every day with people. But, they don't have to make their jobs even more difficult. Addressing management and employee interaction with common sense goes a long way toward developing an employee-friendly workplace. Positive employee morale, motivation, and engagement result when managers do the right things right with people.