Managing people is the organizational equivalent of Whack-a-Mole: the moment you have one staffer functioning, another pops up on your radar with a time-draining issue. It’s best to hone your supervision skills so you’re not adding to the problem. Avoid these ten pitfalls when working with your team (or invest in an employee assistance program to give them workplace counseling):
1) Have no respect for their time
There’s a time and a place for unannounced inspections, but meetings, training sessions and conference calls need to be scheduled with as much notice as possible, especially if it may require your team members to arrange things in their personal life, like child care. Make sure your meetings start and end on time.
2) Expect them to read your mind
When in doubt, over-communicate with your team. If you want them to bring certain materials to a meeting, tell them with as much notice as possible (see item one). Don’t be cryptic or sarcastic – tell them clearly what you expect from them. If you’re not sure you’re being clear, ask them to tell you what they think you want – you might be surprised what they got from what you said.
3) Write nothing down
Employees can refer to your e-mails and memos when you’re not around, so follow up important conversations with an email. When you schedule a meeting, put all of the important details in the e-mail (when it’s being held, where it’s taking place, how long it will take, what the subject is, and what they should bring with them).
4) Never admit your mistakes
All bosses make mistakes, but not everyone admits to it. If you snap at an employee, apologize. If you gave out incorrect information, apologize and correct yourself. Fessing up fosters trust in your employees and keeps their morale high in times of stress. It also encourages them to confess when they have messed up.
5) Have different standards for different people
If you have 6 people in the same job title, all six of them should have the same standards of performance, regardless of who you know from college, who knows your parents, who knows your boss, or who you find attractive. Don’t think your employees don’t notice favoritism – they do.
6) Put them in difficult positions
Gossiping with your subordinates about which of their superiors you like or dislike and why is no-win for anyone. Many employees will repeat what you tell them. Meanwhile, you erode your trust with them: they soon realize you’re capable of talking about them behind their backs too.
7) Don’t reward good performance
Even when corporate purse strings are shut tight, find a way to recognize people whose performance shines. If you can’t afford raises or bonuses, write out your praises in an e-mail and send it to them, copying everyone. Buy hard workers their favorite formula at Starbucks or favorite candy bar from the vending machine.
8) Contradict yourself, and do it often
Everyone needs to change standards sometime, but make sure it’s the exception, rather than the rule. If employees know they can get a different answer from you on different days, they will quit aiming for any target at all.
9) Don’t give them the tools to do their jobs properly
While thrift keeps costs down, don’t be cheap. If no one takes their coats off inside the office, it may be time to turn up the thermostat. Make coffee, tea and water available all day long.
10) Lag waaaay behind in technology
Drive as much material as you can to web-based applications that employees can access from anywhere. Automate payroll for hourly employees with timeclocks. Send out reminders with broadcast phone message apps. Make things easier on them and yourself, and give your employees a sense of pride in their workplace at the same time.