The ‘ONE’ Mistake To Avoid In Managing People

Mistake To Avoid In Managing People

You probably have read articles, books or listened to presentations detailing the top mistakes managers make in managing people and, possibly, how to avoid them. Well, this piece is a little different – it is focused on analyzing just ONE (yes, one) mistake you MUST avoid as a manager, failing which will crash your efforts at effectively managing your team and achieving your set goal.

Managers (and I mean just anybody responsible for staff – department & sectional heads, supervisors, team leads, chief engineers, senior officers, etc.) are usually saddled with the responsibility of achieving certain organizational objectives using their team’s efforts. They manage people and resources to achieve their end. Someone once told me that a manager’s job is all about using other peoples’ efforts to run their department. Well, I think he is correct to some extent, perhaps to even a large degree.

Anyways, the fact remains that to succeed managers have to use other peoples’ efforts in addition to their own. Some are able to do this, while others are not. From experience (as a professional who began his career from the lowest rung of the ladder, rising through various layers and having had the privilege of closely working with and watching various managers’ styles and interacted with many employees and carefully analyzed staff perceptions towards their bosses) I can firmly say that, while other mistakes managers make will hurt their success, the ONE mistake with the strongest potency to actually limit and even impede on a manager’s success is:

“The Mistake of not treating all your employees equally – whether real or supposed”

Before going further, let’s be clear here, you don't necessarily have to treat every employee the same (and you really shouldn’t), but you must ensure they all feel equally treated. The perception that you have pet employees or that you play favorites will undermine your efforts to manage people. Don’t play favorites. Once a manager shows obvious favoritism, he or she loses credibility and the respect of the rest of the team and it’s usually hard to bounce back from this mistake.

Employees who are not in your 'inner circle' will always believe that you favor the employees who are – whether you do so or not. This perception destroys teamwork and undermines productivity and success. And if you do not take urgent and sincere steps to quickly address this mistake, it will finally culminate in losing the loyalty and contributions of those members outside your ‘inner circle’.

This mistake is expressed (or perceived by employees) in one of two ways:  ‘one-and-others’ or ‘some-and-others’ syndrome. The former refers to a perception (or real situation) where the manager has one favorite employee in his team, while the latter means that the manager has some favorite members within his team. Remember, this may not be the real situation, but as long as it is perceived so by your team members, you are headed for the rocks, and you better take urgent steps to correct that impression (or real condition).

Symptoms of this Mistake (or what makes employees believe you have ‘favorites’)

Quite a few signs are interpreted (or misinterpreted) by employees as signs of a manager not treating them equally. Some of these signs, which also constitute action steps managers can take to avoid this mistake, include:
  •  Looking in the direction of just a single or specific set of employees during every meeting session with your team. It is very much ok to look in the direction of a staff who made a very reasonable contribution in a meeting. But it is not ok to make that your regular posture in every meeting. Others will believe you are meeting with that employee(s) only.
  • Always referring to certain employee(s) as model to copy when correcting your team members. Even if they should be copied for their ingenuity, it’s not wise making it obvious that they are better than the rest. Remember, it’s a team and every chain is only as strong as its weakest link.
  • Always asking just a specific employee(s) what they think about every suggestion raised by others in a meeting. Even if that employee has the best analytical mind in your team, allow him to make suggestion of his own volition. Asking him what he thinks about others’ comments will give you away as one who isn’t treating his team equally.
  • Always asking certain employee(s) to wait behind after meeting with your team. Yes, this may be necessary to further instruct other high-ranking officers in your team, but my point here is that managers should be careful of always meeting with specific member(s) of their team after a general meeting with the whole team. This will throw-off the signal that you are re-evaluating the points that were originally agreed with your favorite team member(s).
  • Giving gifts only to specific member(s) of your team. You need to watch this seriously! It is one of the strongest symptoms of this mistake.
  • Befriending (and/or dating) your employees. If you do, you will surely make other staff believe your friend is your favorite. In this case, managers need to be wise and careful. You should be seen as a friend to everyone not just a specific person.
  • Applying different standards of discipline in your team. This happens when you only shout at and take disciplinary actions at some employees when they err, but you do not do so to some others. Those you shout at will believe there are sacred cows in the team, and they are not.
  • Recognizing (and rewarding) the efforts and contributions of just a specific member or few members of your team, while others are hardly noticed regardless of how much they contribute or try to contribute. Remember that recognition doesn't always have to be about appreciating best performance only, sometimes it should include the very effort of even trying to perform.
  • Adopting any member(s) of your team as your personal 'informant' who always relates insider information to you. This actually means 'gossiping' with some of your team members. While it is ok to once in a while get insider information about your team and probably what they think about you and your style from anyone, it is really not ok choosing a so-called 'trusted' person who always brings this information to you. It will break your team if the rest get to know.
  • Showing obvious 'over-dependence' on a single or few members of your team probably because of their responsibilities or job functions. This is not good for effective team management. You must know that any other team member can be groomed or mentored to perform same functions too.

Conclusive Notes:

While the above points may not have highlighted every aspect of this issue, they sure give a summary of what managers can avoid and also do to create a better working atmosphere within their team. As a manager, strive very hard to avoid the minutest appearance of favoritism. Promote an office atmosphere that makes all employees feel worthwhile and important. Don’t play favorites with your staff, and that doesn’t mean you will not have (and even recognize) stronger, more productive members of your team. Give everyone in your team equal chance and opportunity to grow, if they don’t use the opportunity well, they will only blame themselves.

I hope you enjoyed this piece and gained a thing or two. Please leave your comments below to further share other aspects of this issue not covered here.

No comments

Powered by Blogger.