Anyone in a management role, including supervisors at all levels, is keenly aware that he or she has a tough job. Managers are responsible not only for their own performance, but also for those who report to them. While this role is tough, it can be extremely rewarding in terms of both career development and influencing what happens within the organization. Ultimately, management personnel are the face of any company, and they must maintain that face through all business cycles.
Over the years, I have witnessed this list of behaviors that just might make a manager’s job a little easier:
1. Recognize that you are in the fishbowl. As a manager, your actions are amplified in the eyes of your employees. Therefore, it is critical that you act in a manner that shows you are supportive of the company. In order to develop enthusiasm within your group, you must be enthusiastic yourself. Get excited about successes achieved and communicate good news whenever you can. In tough times, maintain a positive outlook. Convey your belief that things will turn around and get better. Your employees will be more confident if your behavior is positive. If you act in a negative or even defeatist manner, it is likely your employees will as well.
2. Be fair when dealing with employees. Managers can fall into a number of traps when dealing with employees. These include:
- Allowing first impressions to dominate—Although recent evidence suggests that first impressions may be highly accurate for some, it is dangerous to assume that everyone’s first impressions are always accurate. A new employee may have a tough time at the beginning, but he or she must be given time to adapt before an accurate assessment can be made. Likewise, just because an employee’s first assignment yielded great results, this does not mean that all future assignments will turn out as successful. Evaluate an employee based on everything he or she does over time.
- Relying on hearsay—Just as first impressions should not dominate when evaluating an employee’s performance, feedback from others should also be moderated in the performance-evaluation process. We all probably have seen highly praised employees who have not performed as expected, as well as those viewed negatively by others who turn out to be solid performers. Managers must evaluate employees based on their own experiences.
- Relying on memory instead of documentation—We all occasionally experience lapses in memory. It is because of this that relying on memory can be dangerous when evaluating an employee’s performance. Relying on memory as a basis for telling employees that they are “late all the time,” or they “make a lot of mistakes” may make a manager look foolish if it turns out that these remarks are exaggerated or wrong. To be safe, document employee performance problems, then rely on that documentation when discussing performance with that employee.
- Varying standards of performance—Having different performance expectations for different employees can lead to problems. It’s one thing to expect less from a new employee, but employees with similar job responsibilities and experience should be expected to perform at the same level. Holding everyone to the same standards of performance demonstrates a commitment to treating everyone equally.
3. Reward good performance whenever possible. While monetary rewards are great, they are not always possible. When they can be given, it is essential that a fair and objective system be in place for deciding who receives such rewards. If there is even a hint of favoritism or the perception that monetary rewards are not really “earned” by the recipients, the reward system will lose credibility and employees may become unmotivated. When monetary rewards are not an option, there are other ways to show recognition of good performance, such as giving lunch vouchers; letters of appreciation; opportunities to attend off-site training programs or conferences; and apparel or useful items with the company logo. Even opportunities to participate in high-profile teams charged with tasks that are critically important to the company can be a reward.
4. Address and correct poor performance. Coaching, counseling and sponsoring are employee performance-improvement initiatives in organizations. Regardless of the name given to this process, it begins with identifying the poor performance. This requires an understanding of performance expectations or standards. An employee not meeting these expectations needs to be notified. In some cases, employees might recognize the problem, while in others there might be genuine surprise or even “less-than-genuine” surprise. Once the employee has been notified, a plan for performance improvement must be developed mutually by the manager and employee. The employee’s input is critical in assuring there is ownership of the plan and a commitment to improved performance. Working with an employee to improve performance is one of the most important responsibilities of any manager and probably one of the most rewarding.