Managing Your Managers

As business owners, executives, and supervisors are all aware, managing employees is one of the hardest parts of running a business. You must balance their strengths and weaknesses, their personalities, and their skill sets, all while trying to earn and maintain their loyalty. And then, like a marching band conductor, you must bring them all together so they’re working in unison for the success of your organization—each member playing the right note, at the right time, from the right location on the field.

Managing your managers is no different. They act as your section leaders, training and directing those in their departments, and providing coaching and encouragement as needed. But they still need direction from the highest level. You’ve still got to pick the music and write the drill.

The principal reason to manage your managers is to ensure that they operate as a team. Each of your managers has a distinct personality and approach to management that affects their leadership style. One may be deadline-driven, another prone to dawdle. One may focus on building their team’s strengths, another on correcting their team’s weaknesses. One may communicate a lot, another only a little.

These differences can work, but they can also cause trouble. Employees who report to or work with more than one manager may not know what is expected of them. Or they may find themselves overworked if managers don’t coordinate workloads. Cross-team efforts may be delayed or even ruined due to misunderstandings or failures to communicate (imagine the tubas and the piccolos trying to inhabit the same space on the field). The organization may be guided by several conflicting personalities instead of single, unified company culture.

To bring managers together, you need something to unite them around. This is your company culture—the personality of the organization, its mission, and values, working environment, policies, and practices. But a company culture can’t exist in the abstract. It needs flesh and bone. So have your management team develop a set of shared goals and priorities—and make sure they’re specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound (aka SMART goals). Think of this as your musical score.

Of course, you won’t have much of a half-time show if everyone isn’t on the field, instruments in hand, and ready to play. Hold regular management meetings to ensure managers are working well together and that their teams are working well together. In other words, confirm everyone’s on the same page. These meetings should have clear objectives, provide managers a chance to work through conflicts, and give you an opportunity to coach them. This would also be an opportune time to ask managers what they need from you and from each other.

Even if your managers are talented and can be trusted to lead their teams, it still helps to direct their management efforts towards a singular purpose. Even a band with top notch section leaders will be improved by a skillful conductor. Likewise, to coax the best results out of your organization, ensure that you give your managers ample direction and the tools they need to lead their teams to success.

The Best Managers Expect Change Then Embrace It

Change is inevitable. It can be driven by internal factors such as a merger or an acquisition to grow the business. Or, it can begin with the resignation of a key leader, or the hiring of someone new to the organization. Change can also be driven by external factors such as the addition of a new product, a new regulation requirement. Or, it can begin with the introduction of another competitor to the market.

Because we all know change is inevitable, managers can drive future success in their departments by fostering a positive attitude toward change. 

How?

By being fully aware of the need for the change and the direction the organization is headed.

  • An aware manager can better articulate to employees where the company is now and where leadership sees it in the future. 
  • Managers should also be able to articulate why the company needs to change, relative to things like shifting market forces, new opportunities, financial issues, or a new strategic approach.

By anticipating it and purposefully planning for change. 

  • Employees work better with concrete, achievable goals.
  • A manager can help employees see the roles they play in achieving the new goals and what it will mean for them, their coworkers, their unit, and the organization once the goals are achieved.

By eliminating fear of change. Address change in an intentional, goal-oriented manner. 

  • A manager should recognize and describe change as something that people should do, not something that is done to them.
  • Encourage risk taking and opinion sharing. The most important thing to help employees adapt to change is to create trust. One way this can be accomplished is by creating an environment in which people will not face consequences for trying something new and questioning established processes.

By encouraging inclusion in the process. A manager will make employees more comfortable with change when they invite them to participate in planning for or implementing it because they gain some sense of control which reduces their fears.

  • Hold all hands meetings where you allow employees to submit questions and receive answers from senior level leaders.
  • Adopt a continuous feedback tool where employees can give feedback directly to leaders directly involved in the implementation of a change.
     

Blog written by:

Tina Garner, PHR, SHRM-CP

Human Resources Director, RideNow Powersports

8 Tips for Handling Tough Employee Conversations

We all get cold feet when it comes to addressing difficult issues with colleagues in the workplace. It’s stressful, and you just can’t help but think of all of the ways that a well-meaning conversation could go sideways. You worry about the longer-lasting effects of a damaged work relationship but know that you must correct problematic work performance or behaviors before they get out of control.

Uncomfortable conversations about personal behaviors and poor performance are tough, and putting them off just allows the problems to worsen. Use your knowledge of the situation and put together the right combination of management skills to tackle the talk now.

Imagine these all-too-familiar employee situations that you know you need to address but don’t think you have the wisdom (or can’t muster up the courage) to handle:

  • The “No Good Deed Goes Unpunished” situation. For the past several months, one of your team members has been underperforming, and it has dragged down your business unit’s productivity. The underperforming employee has shared that she has a number of family and financial issues and is trying her hardest to stay focused on work because she needs this job and loves the company. She lives your company values and is well-liked by her co-workers. Everyone feels bad for her situation and has been picking up the slack, but they are growing resentful of the extra work with no end in sight. You’ve been trying to be kind by avoiding the issues as her performance has slid from bad to worse. It is now impacting your company’s overall performance and degrading the employee relations climate.
  • The “Bad Behavior, Great Performer” situation. One of your employees consistently exceeds his production goals at the expense of the company culture. He is highly critical of others, issues demands from other work teams without regard for their other priorities, and employees grudgingly drop everything to deliver on impossible deadlines because they believe that they cannot push back. It’s all about him and his performance. He is regularly recognized by the company leadership for being the top producer, and employee complaints to management about his behavior have not been addressed. While production goals are good, your company culture is sinking and you’re starting to see increased absenteeism and turnover among your staff.

Don’t Overlook the Signals

In addition to employee resentment and lost productivity, there’s a bottom-line impact for not tackling these tough talks at the right time and in the right manner. The key is to pay attention to the signals and not feed the problem with neglect.

In the first scenario, trying to be a kind and sensitive boss worked in the beginning but is now backfiring. At first the team worked together to help their struggling colleague, but without a plan to fix the problem in the longer term, it created three serious issues for you to fix: employee morale, lack of confidence in your leadership for missing the signals of “team fatigue,” and not having a plan to keep the team on track — all resulting in lost productivity.

The best thing you can do in situations like these is to work with the struggling employee to develop a plan that puts her back on track or helps her consider alternatives if necessary. This type of conversation requires sensitivity along with some firmness because you need to steer the conversation from the personal issues back to actionable work deliverables.

In my experience dealing with circumstances like the second scenario, typically management allows the top performer’s behavior to go unchecked for fear that if the employee is corrected his performance will suffer or he will quit the company. While there may be an element of truth to those concerns if the individual is unwilling to accept constructive feedback, the bigger fear should be for the company’s culture, employee erosion of trust and confidence in the leadership team, and the motivation, performance, and retention of the other company employees if the behavior is not changed.

Often the top performer continues to use the same work patterns that have been successful and isn’t even aware of the impact on others. Addressing the issues sensitively so that he can make personal changes has the potential to create even higher levels of team unity and performance.

What Signals are You Looking For?

For starters, watch your team’s interactions with each other, be sure that each team member understands their key performance objectives, and take the time to “check in” regularly and solicit feedback about the job, work team, and overall company with each employee.

Having direct conversations on a regular basis helps you nip problems in the bud and shows your employees that you care about their concerns. You also learn each other’s communication patterns so that when it comes time to have that awkward or difficult conversation, you both are less uncomfortable.

Groups where team members work remotely increase the chances that signals can be missed. When telecommuting is coupled with the use of instant messaging and other forms of communications in place of direct face-to-face or voice communications, the sender’s well-intentioned messages may get lost in translation. Be sure to follow up any electronic communications with a direct phone call or meeting.

Eight Tips for Tackling These Conversations

Strategies to manage conflicts with subordinates are not fully taught in business classes. More common are courses addressing project conflicts, where the focus is on fixing the “what” of the problem, such as resetting priorities, changing business plans, or repairing broken systems or processes. There are fewer tools focusing on how teams communicate and repairing broken business relationships. Preparation and planning are critical to get what you need from these hard conversations while keeping your relationship with the employee intact.

  1. Focus your own viewpoint first. If you start out thinking the conversation will be really hard, you’re going to be more anxious. Chances are the conversation will be harder. Instead, position this discussion as a means to enhance your relationship while helping your employee develop better skills, understand company priorities better, or work more positively on the team. Think about how you can deliver the difficult talking points with honesty, courage and fairness.
  2. Recognize the emotions you will be feeling. Are you disappointed in this employee? Angry about the problems they’ve caused? Scared that your conversation will damage your work relationship? Put your negative feelings aside and consider how you will frame the problem you need to discuss and how your employee may feel. Try to come at the discussion with consideration and compassion for their feelings and frame the conversation with a desire for the employee’s success. “John, we need to have a hard conversation today, and I’m feeling anxious because I want you to win. Please know that I am invested in your success and will work with you to make that happen.”
  3. Be intentional in planning the conversation, but don’t script it out so that your delivery sounds mechanical. Some consultants suggest drafting a script and considering alternatives based on the employee’s reactions. In my experience, these conversations never go completely according to plan, and scripted conversations feel artificial. Instead, write down key points and plan as if you are just having a simple conversation with a colleague. Be prepared to provide specifics and pace your conversation so that you take time to gauge your employee’s reactions to your comments. Your employee may react defensively if you provide vague statements. Instead of saying, “Sue, people in the company are telling me that you are difficult to work with and have a bad attitude,” frame the issue with examples, such as, “Sue, I am concerned because I’ve noticed in the last four team meetings you arrived late and weren’t prepared with project updates. As a result, both Joe and Sam missed their deliverables, and you didn’t let any of us know in advance that the timeline was slipping.”
  4. Recognize that you own part of the problem, too. Your goal is to have a conversation between adults where each owns some responsibility for the issue and solving the problem. This takes the conversation from finding fault to finding solutions. “Rob, I realize now that you have too many priorities and I didn’t provide you with the resources to deliver on the project. I also realize that I avoided addressing the problem at the beginning of the project and let it go too long without discussing it with you.”
  5. Outline what you want changed. Don’t just discuss the problem; describe the end result you envision. Discuss realistic and achievable outcomes and be willing to offer resources and assistance as appropriate.
  6. Ask the employee for his or her viewpoints. The last thing you want is a one-sided conversation. Slow the pace of the conversation, observe the employee’s reactions to your comments, and ask for feedback and suggestions for solving the problem. You may learn new information about what may have caused the problem, and the employee could offer even better solutions than you thought possible. Throughout the conversation, look for areas of consensus and acknowledge the employee’s feelings and concerns. That shows respect.
  7. End the conversation on a positive note with an action plan. Thank the employee for working with you through the difficult discussion. Acknowledge that it was a tough conversation and express appreciation for the employee’s professionalism as you both work towards a better outcome. Develop a going-forward action plan to solve the problem. “Tom, this was a hard talk, and I know it wasn’t easy for you. You provided some good ideas for fixing the issue, and I appreciate your professionalism. You can do this, and I am here to help you win.”
  8. Close the loop and follow up. Give the employee a little time to reflect on the discussion, but no more than a day or two. Follow up and ask the employee if they would like to have another discussion to cover any additional information or clarification. Put the agreed-upon action plan in writing, schedule regular status meetings, and recognize progress and improved performance. Taking these steps demonstrates your respect for the employee and desire for them to succeed.

Keep the Conversation Going

Great managers keep the conversation going to ensure team members are aligned and supporting each other to create a healthy corporate culture and successful company. When problems arise, they have the tough conversations to get things back on track. Handling these discussions well takes courage as well as empathetic listening and communications skills. Pay attention to the signals, develop your communications plan, and you’ll be more confident in tackling your next tough employee communications challenge.

6 Steps to Determine What to Pay an Employee

As a small business owner responsible for paying your own salary, you are most likely sensitive to the importance of satisfactory pay for a hard day’s work. You know that compensating your employees fairly and competitively is important to a positive and productive work environment, but how do you go about setting a pay scale?

For most small business owners, it’s not simply a matter of starting an employee at minimum wage. According to small business owners surveyed 81 percent pay above minimum wage and 66 percent support an increase in federal minimum wage.

What to pay an employee is generally based on a candidate’s experience, training and past salary. Use these six steps to determine a pay rate for new employees.

1. Write a job description

A job title isn’t enough. There are a wide range of jobs with the same title, and your small business environment likely requires specific talents and entails certain responsibilities. A clear idea of exactly what the position encompasses is necessary for determining pay. List all of the duties of the job, starting with the most important and moving down to less significant tasks.

2. Consider experience and training

Determine the minimum experience and education necessary for the position. If the job calls for prior training, note how many months/years are required. Also consider education. Does the position require an advanced degree or certification? Generally, the more training and education an employee has, the higher the pay.

3. Check out industry rates

Use your job description to compare industry rates. Do an online search on employment sites and compare pay rates of similar job descriptions in your geographic area. Ask an HR Consultant to benchmark your jobs in the same industry. Note the bottom of the pay scale, the top and the average.

4. Factor in benefits and perks

As best you can, determine the value in dollars of any healthcare coverage and retirement plans you offer, as well as opportunities like flextime, working from home, reduced workweeks and the use of company vehicles.

5. Set a salary range

Using all of the facts you’ve gathered regarding the position, determine a payment range. Start with the lowest salary you discovered for the position and offset that figure by the dollar value of benefits you offer. Then define that category with the lowest required education and training. Repeat the process for the next level.

A resulting starting salary pay scale might look like this:

  • $30,000 salary for 1-3 years of experience and no or limited education
  • $35,000 salary for 4-5 years of experience and a degree
  • $42,000 salary for 5+ years of experience and an advanced degree

6. Be flexible

Be willing to tweak your salary range, if necessary. For instance, if you find an employee who made $2,000 more a year than you’re offering, but the candidate looks especially promising, consider matching that pay, if your budget allows.

Offering potential employees a fair wage sets the stage for a happy work environment that’s bound to inspire productivity and encourage creativity.

You Can’t Wear That! Dealing With An Employee Who Dresses Inappropriately

If you’re a small business owner with staff, at some point you’re going to have to deal with a sticky, employee-related situation. Whether it’s an employee who’s always out sick, staff who look for sneaky ways to abuse benefit privileges or team members being careless on social media, your people may make choices that don’t suit your business—including what they wear to work.

It’s a situation no business owner wants to face, but you and your employees may not be on the same page when it comes to appropriate work attire. As workplace dress codes continue to get more casual across the country, business owners and their staff may struggle to determine what’s acceptable to wear at work and why.

Use these tips to determine how to communicate with staff when an employee dresses inappropriately.

1. Have an answer for ‘Why Can’t I Wear This?’

It’s important that all members of your staff understand why certain clothing items or styles aren’t acceptable in your workplace, and that sometimes it’s about more than just making a good impression. For instance, if you work in an environment with machinery, tools, heavy equipment or other potential dangers, inappropriate clothing may not adequately protect  your workers. Even worse, some clothing, such as wide, loose sleeves, may interfere with equipment and pose a safety hazard.

2. Send out reminders when necessary.

Sometimes, the best way to deal with a minor “wardrobe infraction” is to post a reminder list on the wall in the break room or send out a simple company-wide email reminding your staff of the expected dress code. This subtle reminder may be all that’s required to get the attention of the specific offender, plus any others who may be tempted to stray toward inappropriate clothing choices for work. If this doesn’t work, though, prepare to talk to the staff member in question.

3. Be really specific about acceptable work clothing.

When communicating to your employee about what is and isn’t acceptable attire, be as specific as possible. Explain that what they’re wearing isn’t safe while working at a lathe, for example. Also prepare to clearly explain what’s included in any terminology you use. Instead of saying that your employee should avoid “casual wear,” specify that they should avoid “weekend casual wear” and list the clothing items that are included in this category.

For example, your non-acceptable “weekend” casual wear list could include:

  • Athletic shoes
  • Flip-flops
  • Sweatpants or yoga pants
  • Hats
  • Hoodies and sweatshirts
  • Halter tops
  • Crop-tops (belly-baring shirts)
  • Jeans

And your acceptable “business casual” list could include:

  • Khakis
  • Cotton trousers
  • Skirts
  • Blouses
  • Polo shirts
  • Pullover sweaters
  • Cardigans

The key is to clearly communicate to all your staff what is and isn’t acceptable work attire.

4. Understand the do’s and don’ts for talking about inappropriate clothing.

Before you talk to your employee about his or her clothing choices, review this list of what to do and what to avoid.

Do

  • Make the conversation easier by preparing. Make sure you are well-versed on your company dress code, and more importantly, that your dress code is legally compliant.
  • Choose a private setting to talk to the staff member, so you can address the issue without embarrassing them in front of others.
  • Choose your words carefully. For example, “I’ve noticed your clothing choices, which, though they may be appropriate outside of our office/shop/business, are not in keeping with our dress code. I’d appreciate your cooperation in making some minor changes.”
  • Introduce your meeting as a time clarify your dress code and make sure your employee understands it.
  • Be specific about the problem. For example, “The shoes you’re wearing expose your toes, so they don’t meet the safety requirement of closed-toe shoes in our dress code.”

Don’t

  • Attend alone, especially when speaking with an opposite-sex employee. Bring in another staff member.
  • Make it a personal attack on the  person’s character. This is about the clothing they wear at work, not an attack on their lifestyle, religion or political choices.
  • Use the word “improve.” If you do, it may sound like you’re dealing with a performance issue.

5. Have “The Talk” with your employee.

If an employee wears something inappropriate after you’ve sent out a group email, it’s time to talk specifically to them. Keep in mind the information from tips three and four, and act quickly.

“Don’t delay taking action—even if just verbally and even if you learn of the infraction long after it occurs,” says human resources consultant Linda Michaels. Clearly point out any dress code violations plus how to remedy them.

Discussions about acceptable workplace clothing can be uncomfortable. They require a sensitive and delicate approach. To keep inappropriate clothing at work from becoming an extended issue, the best strategies are to head it off before it even starts and address any wardrobe infractions immediately.

5 Tips to Protect Your Company from Wrongful Termination Lawsuits

Most jobs are considered to be “at will” employment, but employees may still be able to sue an employer if the reason for termination is determined to be illegal. Unfortunately, termination is something that nearly every workplace must deal with, so it’s important that this matter be handled with delicacy and professionalism. The following are a few tips that can keep a workplace safe from wrongful termination lawsuits.

1. Communicate Regarding Expectations

Letting employees know what’s expected from day one can help to prevent performance issues and protect an employer if an employee is fired for failing to meet expectations. Of course, regular feedback should be given so that employees know whether or not they’re meeting expectations. If an employee is consistently warned about performance issues, it should be no surprise when termination follows.

2. Keep Great Documentation

Even if an employee is alerted to issues with performance, tardiness, or behavior, it can be difficult to prove that this feedback was given if there’s no documentation. Keeping great records can not only help to protect an employer from wrongful termination, it can also improve transparency and communication regarding ongoing issues. This can in turn improve consistency and organization, preventing problems from several angles.

3. Be Compassionate During Terminations

Being fired has been identified as one of the most stressful things that can happen in a person’s life. When the time comes to terminate someone, no matter what the reasons for the termination, being compassionate can help to ease the inherent tension in the situation. How an employee feels during and after the termination can be a big factor in whether or not the employee feels the need to pursue legal action.

4. Purchase Liability Insurance

Liability insurance is an added expense for the business, but may help to save dollars if an employee sues the company for wrongful termination. Not all liability insurance is the same, however. It may be prudent to make sure the option still exists to defend against a lawsuit and avoid a settlement, even if liability insurance is available to help pay settlements when they are found to be the best course of action.

5. Help Employees with Next Steps

Employees that find new jobs very quickly after termination usually don’t sue for wrongful termination. For this reason, it can be beneficial to assist employees with next steps as part of the termination process. Providing a reference or helping with networking, especially in cases where an employee was let go because of downsizing, can help the employee to move forward fast and prevent stress-inducing downtime.

Termination can be difficult for both employers and employees, so following certain guidelines can ease stress of the situation and prevent the hard feelings that sometimes lead to wrongful termination lawsuits. By detailing expectations and establishing a consistent chain of events that happens prior to termination, employers can protect themselves from liability. Employees may also feel more secure knowing what to expect and seeing that other employees are held accountable.

Your HR Partner

AZ HR Hub

 

4435 E. Chandler Blvd., Suite 200, Phoenix, AZ 85048

877-294-7482

linda@azhrhub.com

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