Managing People is Difficult

Filed in Living by on May 15, 2014 0 Comments

Managing People is DifficultIt isn’t easy being a manager. The human species can be very odd and quirky—and unpredictable!

I always considered it somewhat of a privilege to be a manager. I was being entrusted with the livelihood and welfare of other people, which I deemed important. I thought a lot about, and always tried very hard, to be a good manager that people both liked and respected.

Most of you report to a manager, unless you are either self-employed or retired. Some of you also have managerial responsibilities. Either way, I think it is useful to be aware of some of the issues that make managing so challenging.

Friendly & Fun vs. Firm & Fair

Let’s call these the “4 F’s,” much like the 4 P’s in my book! I always tried to be friendly, and even somewhat fun, in my interactions with the employees I managed. I figured life is too short to be serious all of the time, and we weren’t engaged in life and death issues anyway, so why not keep things a bit light? The problem is that really important projects, situations, and deadlines arise quite often at work. When this happens, a manager is required to be serious and firm. Also, some employees are prone to weak performance and need to be dealt with firmly and fairly.

The balancing of “friendly & fun” with “firm & fair” is a highly challenging part of being a good and effective manager. For me, and I suspect many managers, this is a delicate balance and a daily struggle.

Level of Involvement/Supervision

Managers have a fine line to walk in terms of their level of involvement in the activities that are occurring in their areas. First-time managers find this particularly difficult. When first given the authority to manage others, they tend to micromanage. They want their subordinates to do things exactly as they would do them. This is a mistake, and unnecessary, because there are often several “right” ways of accomplishing a task. Also, employees will not grow and progress, or develop into future managers, if they are not allowed room to formulate their own solutions and make the occasional mistake.

At higher levels of responsibility, the tendency is instead to be too little involved in what is happening beneath you. I fell into this trap occasionally after I reached higher levels of management. You have so many departments and people to manage that the tendency is to feel somewhat overwhelmed and not often enough engage with the people and processes beneath you. This is also a mistake, in that what you don’t know can come back to bite you, and it is an important part of a manager’s job to be both visible and actively guiding their staff.

There are many other challenging aspects of being a manager, including finding and hiring good employees, implementing cost savings measures (especially layoffs), and balancing the mandates of upper management with the realities of your day-to-day work.

I hope that if you are a manager, this discussion has provided you with some useful tips to be a better one.

And for those of you who report to a manager, maybe you now have a bit more empathy for him or her. Just think, what if you had to manage you? Now that’s a really tough assignment!

About the Author ()

TIM MCINTYRE retired in 2004 from his position as president of Applied Systems after facilitating a successful sale of the company. At only forty-six years old, he made the unusual decision to fully retire to pursue other interests and simply enjoy free time. As a hard-driving Type A personality, this turned out to be a significant challenge for the Notre Dame and University of Chicago-educated MBA, CPA, and Certified Cash Manager.

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