Are You Frustrating Your Direct Reports?

One of our clients recently enlisted our help to recruit for several open positions. As Scott Kuethen, our CEO, worked to discover more about the organization’s operation, it became clear that the company was experiencing some internal difficulties. Over a period of several months, Scott spoke individually with various employees and facilitated group discussions. What he uncovered was a pattern of poor two-way communication due to the high expectations and strong authority of the manager. While the manager truly cares about the employees and desires to hear their feedback and opinions, the company lacks a strong work and quality control process. This combination creates a negative environment as employees fear making drastic mistakes and become increasingly frustrated and withdrawn.

As a manager, you undoubtedly care about the people who report to you. But do you ever wonder what your employees think of your management style? Just for fun, I went around the office today and asked people to tell me a quick story about a manager who had frustrated them in the past. From their stories, I learned that people get frustrated by managers who:

  • only care about their own need, even when the employee is experiencing a genuine family emergency
  • change direction so often, it’s hard to tell where the department is going
  • make false conditional promises and never come through with, for instance, a raise, additional training, or a promotion
  • say they’re going to take care of something, and never do–then blame the employee for the negative results
  • behave inappropriately (sexual harassment)
  • take credit for an accomplishment the employee actually achieved
  • communicate a directive, change their mind, but then fail to communicate the change
  • expect a lot out their employees but don’t give them the resources to complete the task to their standard
  • set goals that are not realistic or achievable
  • remove a perk or make a new rule for everyone because one person is missing the mark
  • have poor communications skills and are unreachable
  • play favorites so other employees lose out

If that list doesn’t ring any bells, Patti Johnson gives a few more ideas in her article 6 Ways You May Be Driving Your Team Crazy and Don’t Even Know It. For example, you may be managing too much by email: “Have a performance issue? Send an email. See errors that are causing problems with a client? Send an e-mail. Want to check in on the anxious new just-out-of-college hire? Yes, send an email.”

Sometimes, we’re too close to a situation to realize how our actions negatively affect others. How can we become more self-aware and learn what patterns of behavior we may need to change? One way is to ask an outside observer to help you, as our CEO helped the company mentioned above. Having the experienced eye of a staffing consultant can help you get a 360-degree view of what’s really hanging up your organization. Or you could try a simpler approach and just ask your direct reports, “What’s one thing I did that frustrated you this past week?” Unfortunately, not every employee will feel free to tell you the truth to your face! But if they see that you’re asking because you genuinely care about their welfare and are open to their opinions, it may be a start to better communication and positive change.

Could you be a better leader? Find out six mistakes you might be making.

By Marcianne Kuethen, Marketing Director

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