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5 Steps to Solving Trouble Spots With Managers

There is a seemingly endless debate in the human resources (HR) world about managers’ role in helping or hindering employee performance. Whatever side you’re on, managers are at the center of the Venn diagram: between the employer on one side and the employee on the other. Like it or not, their ability to manage directly impacts your workers.

While there are hundreds of thousands of postings for “manager” jobs on Indeed, the age-old tradition of promoting high-performing employees up the ranks means managers also come from within. The problem is, not everyone has the aptitude or the ambition to be a manager — and you may find that out the hard way. 

To be clear: Most managers are amazing, and we should celebrate the essential work they do, often while under pressure and under-recognized. But everybody has a different skill set and you should not overlook that. Here are five workable strategies for identifying problems with managers and addressing them before they go viral.

Harness the power of analytics

According to Gallup, up to 75% of U.S. employee resignations can be traced back to the manager. The American Psychological Association finds that the same percentage of Americans say their “boss is the most stressful part of their workday.” If you have data on performance and attrition, take a closer look at where it’s coming from, then pinpoint the weak spots — down to the department, section and team.

This is not an encouragement to interrogate your entire management. But if it’s come to your attention that employees are grumbling, calling in sick or rolling their eyes, it may be time to look closer.

Survey employees on engagement

Engagement is the canary in the coal mine when it comes to employee retention and performance. Gallup finds that 53% of employees are disengaged at work, which leads to higher absenteeism, lower productivity and (unsurprisingly) lower profitability. 

To reveal hidden problems and gauge employee sentiment, conduct surveys on engagement, then cross-reference the data between managers. This can uncover information from employees who are reluctant to speak up, don’t want to complain about their boss or are unclear as to why they’re disengaged. If troubling answers come to the surface, ask more questions.

It’s better if you already have a feedback program in place — but if you don’t, this is a good time to start. Once you open up the dialogue between employer and employees, keep it going regularly. Just keep surveys anonymous, or risk inflaming tensions and damaging morale. 

Sample survey questions include:

  • How do you feel about the quality of communication between you and your manager?
  • Do you feel you can reach out to your manager at any time?
  • Does your manager lay out clear expectations?
  • If a problem arises, are you actively involved in troubleshooting?
  • How would you characterize your manager’s leadership style?
  • Does your manager give you room to learn, or do they micromanage?
  • What kind of feedback are you getting from your manager?

Go to the source

When a conflict arises, ask managers…

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