10 Stupid Things Managers Do To Mess Up Employee Relations

Even the best organizations make mistakes when dealing with employees by messing up their opportunity to create effective, successful, and positive employee relations. These organizations invest vast amounts of energy in actions that ensure employees are unhappy. For example, they treat their employees like children and then askwhy employees fail to live up their expectations. I watch as managers play favorites and apply different rules to different employees and wonder why the workplace morale is so low. I observe employees working hard only to infrequently receive positive feedback.

Here are ten other stupid mistakes managers make to mess up their relationships with the people they employ:

  1. Fail to create standards and give employees clear expectations so they know what they are supposed to do. The manager then wonders why they fail.
  2. Ask employees for their opinions, ideas, and continuous improvement suggestions, and fail to implement their suggestions or empower them to do so. Better yet, they do not even provide feedback about whether the idea was considered or why it was rejected – it goes into a “suggestion black hole.”
  3. Make a decision and then ask employees for their input as if their feedback mattered.
  4. Find a few employees are breaking the rules and company policy and then chastise all employees at company meetings rather than dealing directly with the rule breakers. Better yet, make everyone wonder who the “bad guy” is. Best yet; make up another policy to punish everyone.
  5. Treat employees as if they are untrustworthy by watching them, admonishing them for every failing and doing this because a few people have been dishonest.
  6. Create policies for every contingency which allows very little management latitude in addressing individual employee needs.
  7. Conversely, having so few policies that employees feel as if they reside in a free-for-all environment of favoritism and unfair treatment.
  8. Ask employees to change the way they do something without providing the big picture of what is being accomplished by the change. Label them “resisters” and send them to change management classes when they do not immediately accept the change.
  9. Expect that employees learn by doing everything right the first time rather than recognizing that learning occurs most frequently from one’s mistakes.
  10. Letting an employee fail when they had information that could have helped them in making a better decision.

The next time you are confronted with these employee issues – ask yourself – is the action likely to create the result for powerfully motivating employees? If the answer is “No”, you need to rethink your strategy so you can avoid these employee relations mistakes.

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Take a Chance, Have Faith!

You will see me write about how to be a good manager by having faith in yourself.  In this blog, I am writing about having faith in other people, specifically the people you lead and work with.  Trust me when I say I have had my share of disagreements with fellow employees over the years.  There were even those disagreements that definitely were not my finest moments.   Some of those people were real jerks; other people were disagreeable by nature, but still others were simply those people that just had a different point of view (even though I am positive that they were usually wrong and I was usually right.)

For the most part though, the people I have worked with, the ones I worked for, and those who I have attempted to lead have been people who wanted to contribute, wanted to succeed, and truly wanted to make a difference.  Occasionally, they just did not know exactly how to do these things.  Sometimes, they just needed a bit of motivation and encouragement to get them on the right path.  But by and by, the people I have had the opportunity to know and work with in my life have been overwhelmingly good people.

I believe that as a leader, you have to hire the right people, give them tasks to accomplish, and then get out of the way (empowerment).  Let me give you a couple of examples of this.

There is a job classification within my organization that we continually need to hire for.  The position is a low level clerical position where people stay the minimum (a year or two), and then move on to bigger and better opportunities, either within or outside of the organization.  I get it – this is an entry-level position which attracts people who just are not settled.  The people that fill this position have each brought their own strengths to the job and although each of them has done the job tasks well, they have chosen different ways to complete them with equally excellent results.  Each individual worked within his or her strengths and as a result have felt more involved with their job even though they eventually left.

Just recently an employee has left our organization that had been with us for seven years.  When I initially hired this employee for the position, it was something that I had been doing myself.  I trained this person in their job duties and for a while watched over them closely until it became apparent that they could do the job well.  This employee did things different from me for sure.  In fact, it was not until sometime later when I had to step in to handle something because they were out just how much the job was now unfamiliar to me.  This employee adapted it to fit their strengths and accomplished excellent results.

I see those managers that attempt to dictate every aspect of an employee’s job performance from the organization of their desk, down to the color of the ink they should use on a letter.  I know they have their reasons or at least they think they do, but usually I am finding that micromanaging an employee detracts from overall performance as the employee does not excel the same as when given just an end result, basic knowledge, and then trusted to accomplish and organize it by whatever means works best for them to deliver the required results.  If you are going to attempt to lead others, work with others, and follow others, you need to get to the point where you give people the respect they deserve, and the trust earned.  It is only when you Have Faith in others that you achieve the results you want.  Do you agree?

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Employee Empowerment: Is It Just a Buzz Word?

Employee empowerment is defined as giving the employee the power to make some decisions without first consulting the boss or reporting manager. Leaders committed to the continual growth of their employees recognize empowerment as one of their most important strategic methods to motivate employees. Empowerment is also a key strategy enabling people who have the need, the answers, and the knowledge, to make decisions beneficial to the organization. 

Why if empowerment is such a great tool and strategy for accomplishing work, customer service, employee retention and employee motivation, is it rarely implemented effectively?  In my experience, here is why managers fail at employee empowerment: 

  • Managers do not truly understand the definition of empowerment.  Empowerment is such a “buzz word” and leadership trainings/readings all talk about it being the must thing to do.  However, lip service about empowerment without truly understanding what it means will make it fail. It’s about growth for the benefit of the organization and enabling employees to make decision about their job.  
  • Managers do not establish the boundaries of empowerment.  Empowerment can backfire because a manager can hand over too much responsibility to the employee especially if the responsibility is beyond their current job description.  A manager can cause the employee to feel overworked and/or taken advantaged of.  A manager needs to tell the employee what decisions can be made by them and which ones need to be managed up. 
  • Managers begin to micromanage the employees they have empowered.  This usually occurs because the manager does not trust the employee to make the right decisions.  Employees seeing this lack of trust begin to go around the manager to hide the decisions they are making.  The manager’s empowerment just got lost.  The manager needs to begin coaching and believing in the newly empowered employee.
  • Managers second guess the decisions of employees they have empowered.  This undermines the whole process because you just damaged the employees’ competence, trust, and support.  As a manager, you empowered them for a reason.  Have faith. 

Employee empowerment should be thought of as a philosophy and a strategy to help employees develop talents, skills, and decision making competency. This development helps employees feel competent, empowered, and successful.  Have you ever seen this in your workplace?  I would like to hear your stories about empowerment.

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4 Steps to Managing the Unmanageable

Having a difficult employee to manage can be a real nightmare.  You know the employee I am talking about.  They have a bad attitude, they question everything (usually to criticize), and they do not take criticism/feedback well without blowing up or better yet acting passive/aggressive. It seems that no matter how much you draw upon your management/leadership skills; it feels like you cannot get this employee under control – they are simply unmanageable!

Managing difficult employees is not easy but it can be done.  These are the things that I have found work really well when dealing with the “unmanageable”:  

  1. Confront the Problem:  It is important to tackle the problem and act quickly. In my experience, employees behave badly because they have never been held accountable for their behavior (i.e. previous supervisors won’t deal with them because they were easier to ignore than manage).  The problem will not fix itself and as managers it is part of our jobs to manage – Isn’t that what we get paid to do?
  2. Address the Behavior, Not the Person:  Focus on the inappropriate behavior; don’t attack the person.  By attacking, we behave no better than the employee we are trying to change.  We are just providing fuel to their discontent.  As you talk with a difficult employee, actively listen to what they say and stay calm and positive.  It is important to remain impartial and non-judgmental when they are explaining what caused them to behave inappropriately.  By doing this, you may be able to find the source of the bad behavior which gives you a better chance of finding a solution. Isn’t your job as a manager to develop a solution, not to “win”?
  3. Come to a Solution:  The desired result from confronting a difficult employee’s inappropriate behavior is to find an agreed upon solution.  This can be accomplished by giving the employee the chance to provide input into the solution.  Make sure they agree to the solution.  This helps with them “owning” their behavior and acting responsible for it.
  4. Set Clear Expectations Moving Forward:  Provide examples of what you expect from their behavior moving forward.  Make sure that they reiterate back to you what you expect so there is no miscommunication or misunderstanding.  It is best to document the expectations via a memo/letter especially repeat offenders.  And let them know the consequences that will happen should they continue to behave poorly (i.e. progressive discipline, termination).  Remember they agreed to this solution; now they need to be held accountable to act appropriately.

By trying these steps, you can know that as a manager you have done your best by acting responsibly, ethically, and legally.  It also makes for positive employment relations and good management practice.   

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Trust: It Really Does Matter!

Trust is fundamental to a positive employee relationship.  In this current economy, I am finding that trust is being questioned in so much that people do not trust others like before. In the past when trust was high, leaders could say something wrong and an employee would still stay with them and follow their proper meaning. Today with trust being low, a leader can be precise and employees will find a way to twist their words, misinterpret their meaning, find or invent hidden threats, or misrepresent their intent.  Trust is getting lost and it is taking a lot more effort to get it back.

Trust is not an effortless concept.  Trust requires alignment of values with a clear understanding of expectations. Trust can be easily lost when bad results are created by way of poor execution and compounded by inadequate communication, no matter the character or noble the intentions.

Recently, I listened to a webinar from Stephen Covey from which he discusses the concept of trust specifically he provided a synopsis of his book the “Speed of Trust.”  In the webinar, Covey messages the “economics of trust” as not merely a social virtue; but as a vital factor of any sustainable business relationship. Covey stated that “Trust is a performance multiplier” in that doing business at the “speed of trust” can dramatically lower costs, speed up results, increase profits and build influence.

Covey further explained that a paradigm shift is taking place in which it is becoming recognized that trust can be grown and is a learnable skill.  As such, trust should be the #1 competency of leadership today.  Leaders who make building trust in the workplace an explicit goal of their jobs elevate trust to a strategic advantage for the organization by accelerating growth, enhancing innovation, improving collaboration and execution, and increasing employee value. 

In my HR role, I talk to leaders about trust and its importance to the health, wellbeing and engagement of their employees. Moreover, trust needs to be a two-way process, where both the manager and employee feel that they have an open and honest (trustworthy) working environment.  Employees must be enabled to tell their employers/managers anything relevant to their jobs, without feeling that it will adversely affect their job security, career advancement, or promotional opportunities.  For employers, trust is just as important from the employee so as to allow the ability to communicate with them about relevant aspects of their work without it becoming adversarial: how their performing, engaging, and following the mission/objectives of the organizations.

With trust, an organization can create an environment that boosts a sense of community that is positive where employees thrive!  As Warren Buffet has said “trust is like the air we breathe…you don’t know you have it until it’s gone.”   

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Why Can’t We Just All Get Along?

These famous words by Rodney King seem to reverberate through my head as I think about some of the complications that managers and supervisors face when dealing with employee relations.  I know that is not possible to get along with everyone.  And that it is easy for managers in the day to day demands of production to overlook the very foundations of creating positive relations with their employees such as trust, respect, acknowledgment, and empowerment.

However as managers and leaders in an organization, it is essential to understand the impact of positive employee relations. My description is simplistic in that a positive/good employee relationship means to create an atmosphere which delivers what people look for and want in their business environment.  Employees want to feel trusted, respected, and good about who they are, what they do and where they work. They want to be comfortable with what their employer stands for and be a part of the organization’s mission and objectives. Maybe it is optimism that has me believing this.  But I don’t think so.   

It is my hope that with my blog we can share tips and ideas on how to create good relationships with employees.  As a Human Resources professional, I have seen the consequences to both managers and employees when we don’t even try.  Why can’t we just get along?  It just may be possible.  I invite you to follow this journey.  Please provide any comments/feedback you may have.  It is going to be great hearing from you!

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