How Do You Manage Today's Worker

By Alvin Mason

Managing workers in this day is so much more challenging than managing workers years ago. First Managers have to realize that the times have changed. Vince Lombardi, one of the greatest football coaches in history might not be successful today with the management style he used in the 1960's. Today many organizations are inclusive and value diversity. Today a manager has to be able to reach different people. One rigid way of dealing with people might make leading a group more difficult.

A manager might have two totally different assignments or one assignment with many types of people. Speaking from two extremes, on one extreme there is the educated highly ambitious worker and at the other extreme there is the unmotivated worker with no ambition.

The atmosphere in the workforce today is much different than it was years ago. The manager today has the advantage of technology, in that they can use email to communicate and as proof of specific discussions but still dealing with people is a little more complex than years ago.

First let’s discuss managing the ambitious college educated worker. Many of today’s workers expect to be put on the fast track with regard to their career growth. In addition to the challenge of being a middle manager where you have to communicate upper management’s requirements and expectations to your team. There is the challenge to effectively manage people some of who have their own ambitions and expectations that don’t necessarily integrate with team goals. The experience of being a middle child does not help the middle manager who has to keep a positive attitude even when relaying objectives from upper management that he or she might not agree with.

Then the manager has to manage people with the following backgrounds. Workers who got their positions by networking. A worker who has a relative in senior management. There are workers whose parents gave them everything and always made the person feel special.

One other interesting scenario is the worker who is more qualified than you. If you have an over qualified team member I salute you for not being so insecure to work with a person with superior qualifications who does not mind being underemployed to meet their responsibilities. You can learn from them as you are never too good to work any job. Always remember that with today’s profit motivated businesses and the number of people only worried about themselves that one day you could be asking for a job below your qualifications.

To the other extreme are workers straight from high school or with no high school diploma. There are people who have no ambition, some who don’t want to work and still others who hate authority. Some of the workers of today seem to have addictions to their cell phones.

As far as cell phone use, that is one of the specific areas that should be covered in the interview and/or orientation. People will need to make personal calls or text but it should not affect the work environment. Some situations might require no personal cell phone use. The manager has to stay aware of problems initiated from cell phone use.

How do you take corrective action against a person whose parents are friends with a company executive? What about the person who accuses you of hollering at them when you correct them. How do you deal with the cutthroat who lies about other co-workers has no initiative with his or her own projects but has a higher up sponsor?

On the other extreme how do you manage a person who does not communicate well? Is it a challenge to manage a worker with low self-esteem? Then there is also the time when you might be assigned a worker whose background will allow your company a tax break such as a former inmate or a welfare to work person.

The manager needs to be fair and treat everyone equally regardless of how they got their positions. The workers will have low morale when the manager plays favorites. In many organizations all the workers are specialist or have single responsibilities. How do you manage an employee in your department whose job you don’t understand?

Many people who have managed in the past, no longer seek a position that requires supervising others. For one it is very difficult for a manager to create an atmosphere that reflects their personality. Another reason is many talented people would rather work on a project as an individual instead of dealing with the give and take that comes with today’s workers personalities. One other reason is the duty to execute policies from people who don’t understand the complexities of the job. Too many times decision makers are too far removed from the front line.

It all starts in the beginning. First and foremost you give respect then you have every right to expect respect in return. You should also try to understand all your subordinates’ jobs. As the manager you might have to train someone to do a job.

There is a difference when you become the manager of a team of workers who were there before you as compared to being the manager when a new worker comes aboard. With the new worker the manager can set the tone in the interview of what the expectations will be from the new team member. With preexisting workers the manager needs to understand the workflow and department atmosphere before making changes.

Managing your department means understanding all the separate pieces that make the whole. The manager should always have a knowledge base of what each of their subordinates do. If you are deficient in the knowledge area, then you should sit down with each employee and let them explain their job to you. Depending on time constraints spend enough time to gain understanding and some experience by doing a few task. A person who can explain their job and teach the basics more than likely is proficient in what they are doing. Should a team member complain about teaching you specifically stating that the amount of work that has to be done won’t allow time for him or her to teach you, then explain that if you understood the job and the volume of the workload involved that you will fight to get that employee some help if you think help is needed.

The manager needs to recognize talents as well as weaknesses. In addition the manager needs to identify personality traits. The reason why is because when there is a problem you need to identify the problem then correct it. When the problem is due to one or two employees being behind in their work, it might be possible to give them help.

Is the problem department wide or with one or two people only? The manager needs to decide if they need to have a meeting with the whole department or call people in the office individually and talk to them. The sensitivity of some team members might necessitate individual conferences.

The manager needs to listen. Remember what your workers told you in the interview or in a meeting. The most effective way to get a desired outcome with your team and with upper management is to use words previously spoken by the person who you are trying to change as a selling point for your objective.

The manager needs to communicate with his or her employees and alert them of things that might be on the horizon. When discussing possible future changes you need to qualify weather it is actual or on the drawing board. Try not to make promises you cannot keep. Understand that people sometimes have bad days. Evaluate every employee’s workload and try to have an equal burden. Make changes that improve your department and fight for your employees without upsetting upper management.

Talk to your team with respect. Ask don’t demand. People will work for you and even go above and beyond for you, if they like you. When you can, cut a team member some slack especially if they are good workers. You don’t have to enforce every single rule. Be aware of your teams work habits. For example if one team member starts work early every day or works late a lot and needs to leave early, or took a longer lunch, let it go. Be especially helpful when possible when a team member is taking classes or working on a degree. Sometimes you can reward good effort by being nice. Give compliments on their work when it is warranted. That will also let the team members know that you are doing your job just by being aware.

There should be no issue of micromanaging if a finished project is going out the office. You need to look at the work and make recommendations.

Remember as a manager you are also a leader. So leadership skills will help you become a more effective manager.

A good manager maximizes the positives and minimizes the negatives. A dynamic business leader has abilities and instincts that are not measurable, such as evaluating the people and the situation, then managing accordingly. Some people want to be told what to do and then left alone to do it. Other people want and/or need constant supervision. Every person and situation is different and the manager’s style and demeanor should be contingent on the situation. For instance if you are in an operation that has a room full of customers waiting to be helped, then the manager can and should become a working manager. In being part of the battle the manager sets the tone for customer urgency. Getting ones hands dirty and/or working on the front lines will earn the manager, employee respect. It is much easier to get things done from the front lines than by being an autocratic manager. At the same time the employees need to be corrected when they are not following proper policy. Correction should be made as private as possible. Definitely not in front of customers and many times not in front of other employees. Sometimes it is better to tell the employee, “let me handle this” and teach later.

The manager has position power which leads to some instant respect at the beginning, of the manager employee relationship. There is also personal power to consider. If as a leader you also have the personality and/or disposition of a person who likes and cares for people, than employees will not mind doing things for you. Personal power on top of position power can make a dynamic manager/leader. That dynamic leader working the front lines, and occasionally taking the trash out or mopping the floor will show the employees that the leader does not think of themselves as too good to do any task that he or she ask them to do. As a matter of fact, you the manager are not too good to do any task and you are not better than your employees.

The manager should have some sort of personal relationship with all their employees. Depending on the job, ambitious people will be looking to better themselves. When you see talent acknowledge it. You can tell the employee that it is possible that the position they are presently holding is a pit stop in their career. Maybe just a short chapter of their life. Now if you are so company orientated that you don’t understand that every organization is not a fit for every person then managing some team members will be more of a challenge.

When you have time share what wisdom you have to your team. For instance for the unmotivated team member encourage them to set a goal and devise a plan to achieve that goal. Also tell them, “from what I see, you are better than where you are now”. Sometimes just say, “you are better than this”. Inform your team members that whatever goals they have that the particular job they have on your team will help them get where they want to go. Explain that in life you have to build bridges not burn bridges. Encourage your team to always do their best because good things do happen to people who deserve it. This is one way to integrate employees personal goals with organizational objectives.

Roll up your sleeves and work. The keys are knowledge and respect. When people see you giving your best they will give their best in return. Always encourage input and get your team members to buy into your vision of the workplace. A good leader is a good manager and a good manager is a good leader.

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