Are You a Heavy Breather?

We’ve probably all had at least one—a problem manager who is too aloof to be available, or worse, so involved you can feel his or her breath down the back of your neck. But what kind of manager are you?

I myself used to be a heavy breather! Shortly after I first entered the full-time workforce, I was promoted to the job of mailroom supervisor. We opened and routed the mail, which often contained donations, and I was responsible to account for every cent we received. As a 21-year-old, I had never managed people before, but the company culture idealized excellence bordering on perfectionism. Trying to measure up, I watched my direct reports like a hawk, not because of the money but because the company was very precise about promptness, attendance, and strict 8-hour days. My free-spirited nature found these confines very stressful to enforce, and I was relieved when an opening in another department came up.

Years later, I almost wished another manager would breathe down my neck just a little. In sink-or-swim fashion, this manager rarely ever came to my workspace, and I seldom received any feedback other than the occasional correction. How my boss even knew what I was doing was a mystery, and I constantly felt like I was making up my job as I went! It was awkward to never be quite sure I was doing it right.

Fortunately, I’ve had several really good managers over the years as well. My favorites challenged me by introducing me to new types of work and giving me clear enough instruction to tackle the job. They also gave me regular feedback or performance reviews with enough correction to make me rise to the challenge and enough praise to keep me motivated. They’ve also given me work that plays to my strengths plus a lot of space for me to figure out the best way to accomplish the task, for which I’m very grateful.

Comparing your style to the managers I’ve mentioned, how do you manage your direct reports? Are you unavailable to your employees–or perhaps too available? Do you clearly set out their course, give them room to own their projects, and provide them with constructive feedback? If there’s one area today where you see room for personal improvement, make a goal, set up a plan, and put it into motion. Who knows–your employees may blog about you someday!

Are you about to hire a new employee but too lazy to do a reference check? Here’s why you shouldn’t skip it!

By Marcianne Kuethen

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