Micromanager

How to reform a micromanager

Simply by position alone, managers have a major impact on employee productivity. This is good when the manager has the skills and experience to get the best work out of their direct reports. It’s not so good when managing slides into micromanaging. As anyone who has ever worked under a micromanager can tell you, it’s a surefire method of making employees feel stressed and disengaged. Here are a few tips on how you can recognize when supervisors are veering into micromanagement terrain and guide them back to supporting their staff members in a healthy way.

Identify your micromanagers

Harvard Business Review provides a handy checklist for identifying micromanaging behavior. It finds that micromanagers:

  • Are never quite satisfied with deliverables
  • Often feel frustrated because they would have gone about the task differently
  • Laser in on the details and take great pride and/or pain in making corrections
  • Constantly want to know where all their team members are and what they’re working on
  • Ask for frequent updates on where things stand and prefer to be cc’d on all emails

Productively reform your micromanager

First, it’s essential to realize that people with a tendency to micromanage are usually passionately dedicated to their work and deeply invested in good outcomes. As you assist them in taking a step back from the jungle of details they’re wading through, you can express your appreciation for their commitment to organizational goals.

Next, help your micromanagers articulate why they feel they must take responsibility for everything. Their reasons are often based in fear that too much is at stake or that the work won’t get completed correctly. Once they clearly identify their concerns, you’ll be in a position to help them logically examine these issues. In some cases, you may uncover actual personnel problems that need to be addressed, but usually you can ease their worries by presenting the benefits of stepping back a bit.

It’s also beneficial to encourage micromanagers to ask for feedback from their teams. In many instances, overly involved supervisors sincerely believe they’re being helpful by shouldering responsibilities, and they may try to change their habits if they hear from direct reports that their approach is actually counterproductive.

Strengthen productivity by improving management practices

Managing the managers is one of the trickier interpersonal challenges facing HR directors and executives, but it’s a crucial element of organizational success. Employee engagement and productivity throughout your company are nurtured when workers feel trusted to carry out tasks on their own.

Employee Performance Review

Real-time feedback vs. annual reviews: A showdown

The performance review process is undergoing a revolution. One by one, mega-corporations like GE, Adobe, Accenture, Microsoft, and Netflix are announcing they’re scrapping their annual rankings- or ratings-based performance management systems and replacing them with real-time feedback systems. The reason is clear: Real-time feedback is a better fit for today’s fast-paced business environment and a younger, tech-savvy generation of workers.

Out with the archaic system

The traditional annual or semi-annual employee performance review system is the model that most businesses still use to assess performance, justify compensation increases, and provide feedback. In a technology-driven, constantly changing corporate environment, the often tedious, once-a-year evaluations—that risk inspiring employee fear more than improved performance—are already in danger of becoming archaic.

The traditional rank- and ratings-based system carries a lot of potential negatives, including causing high levels of employee frustration, pitting employees against each other, and fostering disengagement. In the context of neuroscience, the disengagement emanates from the employee’s brain responding negatively to being compared to others instead of being assessed as an individual. Once disengaged, feedback falls on deaf ears.

Annual or semi-annual evaluations can also be ineffective when the focus tilts too heavily toward things said and done many months ago. Millennials want real-time feedback as a means of achieving high performance levels in their current environment. As the first generation of workers to grow up with instant communication, they expect more frequent evaluations and fast, relevant feedback.

Reluctance to let go of the past

There has been a reluctance to let go of the traditional employee performance review process. For all its faults, it’s a well-embedded process, and alternatives are untested by time. Only 10 percent of Fortune 500 companies have moved away from annual ratings, per the Institute for Corporate Productivity. However, when GE decided to scrap performance reviews, people took notice because the company had one of the most rigid review systems for one of the world’s largest workforces.

In the old GE system, employees were reviewed annually, ranked against peers, and the bottom percentage fired. The new system works very differently. GE is rolling out a process in which managers and direct reports hold regular and informal “touchpoints” for reviewing and revising priorities based on customer needs, and providing immediate feedback following assignments. Regular, personalized feedback is delivered via an app to 307,000 employees.

Deloitte conducted a public survey on ranking- and ratings-based performance management systems, and the results were dismal. Only 8 percent of respondents believe their performance management system drives high value levels. Deloitte concluded from the responses that traditional performance management systems actually damage employee engagement and alienate high performers.

In with the new real-time feedback system

With such large and well-known companies realizing it’s more effective to regularly provide employee feedback because one size does not fit all, more widespread adoption seems likely to follow. Real-time feedback can make your employees feel recognized and appreciated for the work they’re doing now, not 12 months ago. It can also improve the quality of feedback because it concerns current performance, enabling employee behavior adjustments that can improve productivity immediately.

Real-time feedback also creates a valuable and uplifting two-way dialogue, rather than a top-down assessment. Your employees get unique feedback without being boxed in by a set of questions, and high performers can get the tools needed to succeed now. Real-time feedback turns the employee performance review into ongoing coaching. There are various forms of real-time feedback. They include weekly one-on-one meetings with managers, routine catch-up sessions via email or an intranet communication program, engagement surveys, feedback apps, and real-time recognition programs.

Real-time recognition programs can be particularly successful in building engagement within the broader business context, because they include peer and management feedback. Across the company, your employees can celebrate wins together. The showdown between real-time feedback and annual reviews has arrived, and real-time feedback is off to a fast start.

Company Mission Statement

Why you should integrate employee ideas into your mission statement

How many of your employees could recite your mission statement, or even summarize it? If your answer is “almost none,” you’re missing out on a powerful engine for employee engagement. Too often, the company mission statement quietly resides on a website page no one ever looks at, while the actual fabric of company life is woven from the strings of daily tasks. Here’s why your organizational health depends on having a mission statement that resonates with your employees, and a few words about how to make that happen.

Mission statements should drive engagement

People need a purpose for the work they do. A job for which a paycheck is the sole motivator usually leads to a disengaged if not alienated workforce, and obviously no business thrives in that condition. While few workplaces may be subject to such a total emotional disconnect, many still have plenty of room for improvement: In our 2015 North American workforce report, we discovered that more than half of today’s workforce (57 percent) don’t find their company’s mission statements inspiring at all. Here’s one possible reason: 61 percent of survey respondents stated that they didn’t even know their company’s mission.

Employees play a crucial role in setting the mission

Bruce Casenave, Nautilus Inc. CEO, points out: “Not only does your company need to maintain clearly identified values, but every employee must understand his or her role in supporting the mission in order to achieve the collective results.” Harvard Business Review adds, “Employees who don’t understand the roles they play in company success are more likely to become disengaged.”

How to encourage employee input

Soliciting and vetting ideas from large employee populations may sound like an impossible time sink, but with today’s collaboration platforms, it’s more doable than ever. Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst relates his company’s successful use of a global communication tool to invite employee input on rewriting the mission statement. He admits that the process did give rise to blunt commentary from workers to managers, but a free exchange of ideas was essential for establishing companywide buy-in to the final statement. A leader can jump-start the creative process by posing open questions to workers, such as “What do you think we do well?” or “What should the company core values be?”

Allowing your employees to express their vision for the company mission can only have a positive impact. Such mutual goal-setting is a great practice for making sure your employees feel aligned with your overarching business objectives and motivated to help you meet them.

Stress Management at Work

7 ways to reduce employee stress around the holidays

The holiday season is a cheery time, filled with lights, presents, and time with loved ones. Unfortunately, it’s also a stressful and exhausting time for employees trying to balance work and holiday responsibilities. So, in the spirit of giving, here are seven tips for helping employees deal with stress management in the office:

  1. Provide free flu shots at work

Arranging for free flu shots at work saves employees a trip to the physician’s office or pharmacy. This simple act also sends the message that you care about their health and time. Meanwhile, you benefit by having fewer absences during flu season.

  1. Allow flexible work schedules

Allow flexible work schedules so employees can get still get work done while attending to personal holiday obligations. For example, allow a four-day workweek, or time off during the week to run errands with make-up hours worked at home or job sharing/balancing.

  1. Assist employees with daycare

Students get up to two weeks for holiday break, creating a trying situation for parents of young children and obligating them to use vacation hours during what may be your busiest time of year. You can help relieve the stress by allowing telecommuting or providing access to daycare services during the school holiday period.

  1. Adjust workloads and deadlines

Employers usually have leeway when it comes to assigning workloads and setting deadlines. You can look for ways to temporarily lighten the load by only requiring critical projects or tasks, or moving deadlines to allow more time to complete work. Be realistic about what can and can’t be accomplished as the year winds down.

  1. Offer holiday benefits

Holiday benefits include everything from floating days to financial and other rewards. The key is to give the benefits early enough in the holiday season so employees can take them into consideration during their holiday planning.

  1. Offer holiday health and wellness training

People tend to adopt unhealthy habits during the holidays, such as eating fatty foods and foregoing exercise. Departure from regular routines can be a great stress inducer, so offer health and wellness training that proposes specific strategies for maintaining healthy habits during the holidays.

  1. Celebrate your employees 

Businesses succeed because of their employees. During the holiday season, employers should celebrate and reward employees, commending each on his or her yearlong contributions to business success.

Stress management at work is good for employee mental and physical health, as well as for workplace productivity. A Virgin Pulse survey found that 64 percent of respondents admit that stress distracts them from work and reduces the quality of the work produced. But the good news is that you, as an employer, can do a lot to help employees enjoy the holidays while keeping the business on track.

How to deal with difficult customers

Dealing with difficult customers? Help your employees maintain morale

Difficult, upset or angry clients create challenges for your workplace beyond the obvious need to turn dissatisfied customers into happy ambassadors for your business. When your employees routinely deal with difficult customers, the work environment can become highly stressful, and as a manager you have to take steps to guard against damage to employee morale. Failure to recognize and support workers who undergo this kind of pressure can harm your business and create a negative feedback loop: Stressed employees will provide poorer customer service and eventually seek a different job. You’re left with the repeated expense of hiring and training, while your (perhaps dwindling) customers are served by discouraged or inexperienced representatives. Here are three tips for supporting your workers and helping them learn how to deal with difficult customers.

  1. Provide specific training

Dealing with confrontations in a business setting requires a specific skill set, and no one is an automatic expert. Provide your workers with plenty of training in best-practice customer service responses, and include a chance to role play difficult interactions with specific scripts. This will help your staff avoid falling back on existing emotional patterns of dealing with family arguments.

  1. Empower your employees

In many cases, the best way to satisfy an unhappy customer is to offer them a special service or exception to the rule. Employees on the front lines of handling customer complaints need to have the power to make such decisions without being required to seek management approval. This provides a streamlined customer experience, while also building employee self-esteem by showing that you have faith in their decision-making.

  1. Brainstorm proactive measures

An excellent way to reduce your employees’ stress levels is taking measures to reduce future customer unhappiness. Meet with your staff on a regular basis and ask for their input about changes that may alleviate client frustrations. This team orientation will avoid isolating stressed employees, and will identify customer satisfaction as a mutual goal. You can also take this opportunity to praise individual employees for having handled a difficult interaction especially well. Expressing appreciation is especially critical for supporting employees on the front line of customer service.

When your employees are happy and engaged, they’ll have the emotional strength to put their training to work and handle difficult customers. As a result, your brand will benefit from reduced turnover and from the repeat business that comes from a highly professional customer approach.

Office Holiday Party

Underdressing & overserving: Avoid these common issues at your office holiday party

Do you dread throwing the obligatory annual office holiday party? Don’t worry; you’re not alone. While popular among employees, holiday parties can be stressful for managers because spouses and partners may be present, alcohol is usually involved, and inhibitions are generally lowered. Here are six of the most common pitfalls of office holiday parties, along with easy tips for heading them off.

Reluctant guests

This fact should go without saying, but we’ll say it anyway: Attendance at the office holiday party should not be mandatory. Some employees are just not the party-going kind, and even party lovers will feel more festive if they’re there by choice. Likewise, significant others may be welcomed, but their attendance should not be heavily stressed.

Employee costs

If you can’t afford to hold your party without asking your staff to pick up part of the tab, your goodwill effort might backfire. Management expert Alison Green notes that a simple party with small treats will feel like more of a gift than a pricey dinner that your workers have to subsidize.

Overwhelming details

Party planning works much better if you keep your priorities in order. Young Upstarts points out that color-coordinated napkins and perfect tablecloths won’t matter nearly as much as plenty of good food and a generous bar, including options for non-drinkers too.

Drinking and driving

If you’re serving alcohol, HR specialist Suzanne Lucas urges you to make it easy for partygoers to be responsible by making prior arrangements with a cab company, renting a bus, or holding the party in a location that’s convenient to public transportation.

Too much drink, not enough food

You can head off potential overindulgence in alcohol by making sure there’s a steady supply of munchies. Include protein, vegetables, and gluten-free options so everyone will find something appealing.

It’s a party, not work

As a manager, the office holiday party is not the place to bring up work topics. Trying to use the good cheer to fuel work tasks will only deflate the team’s holiday spirit and deplete their motivation.

When handled well, holiday office parties can deepen the camaraderie among team members and build warmth that lasts well into the new year. If you’re sensitive to the potential pitfalls, you can plan ahead and avoid them. Then, you can throw a holiday party that’s enjoyable for workers and management alike.

The Peter Principle

Promotions & the Peter Principle: how to find the sweet spot where employees succeed

How do you choose which employees to promote? If you’re like most managers, your answer is straightforward: You move up the workers who perform their duties most competently. Unfortunately, relying on strong performance as your only criterion for promotion may cause your organization to suffer from the Peter Principle. This principle was identified over four decades ago by Dr. Laurence J. Peter and Raymond Hull. They observed that as workers were steadily moved upward in a hierarchy, they eventually reached a position where their competence could no longer warrant further promotion. As a manager, it’s crucial that you understand and guard against the Peter Principle operating in your organization. Here are some insights to help you build an effective promotion strategy and make sure each employee is positioned at the level of his or her greatest strength.

Maintain a fluid organizational structure

Steve Jobs encouraged innovation at Apple by moving workers around from one project to another, taking advantage of individual skills and combating stagnation. Likewise, Zappos fueled its vigorous profit margin by eliminating the classic management hierarchy in favor of a model made up of team “circles.” By sidestepping the traditional hierarchies, these successful companies enable workers to display a wider range of abilities. People skilled at a particular function receive pay raises rather than promotions, thus rewarding them while maintaining them where they excel. Individuals with leadership skills are able to put their talents to use in an organic way, emerging over time as natural leaders.

Identify the unique skills each position requires

Each successive level of responsibility doesn’t necessarily require more the same skills as the previous position. Proctor and Gamble chairman A.G. Lafley observes in Harvard Business Review that promotions can be a “jump shift,” especially at the executive level. Humana Board Member William J. McDonald adds, “I think one of the biggest mistakes boards make is to assess people only in the context of their current jobs.” If you clarify the precise skill set of the new position, you can objectively decide which candidate is best equipped for the job.

Test out and nurture leadership ability

There is no magic formula for recognizing intrinsic leadership talent among the ranks of your employees. But if you make a practice of giving everyone occasional responsibilities outside of their usual duties, you can discover unexpected abilities. Switching up the standard task allotment has the additional benefit of breaking up boredom and increasing worker motivation. Management development expert Jeanette Suflita advises, “Provide your potential leaders with temporary leadership opportunities. It’s an excellent way for them to try out their skills and to identify both strengths and areas for improvement.” Those with standout management talent can be offered mentoring, coaching and formal leadership development training so that they’ll be ready when a new position becomes available.

Understanding the Peter Principle is essential for the health of your business, because an incompetent manager will drive your best employees to look for more satisfying positions. A recent Gallup study found that 50 percent of employees who left their jobs cited bad managers as their primary reason. If you promote your natural leaders to management roles, and leave the talented line workers in place to apply their unique competence, you can build a robust, productive organization.