Do you manage your staff or do they manage you?

word cloud people skillsRecently I have come across a situation that I call Upward Management.

This is where staff are managing their managers rather than management setting goals and managing their staff.

An extreme example was a situation where an administrator was supposed to complete their daily workload before leaving the office but instead they often went home leaving critical work unfinished. This meant that her boss was having to complete client reports due that day under service level agreements.

Despite frustration and resentment, the boss was not confronting the staff member or the situation in order to resolve it. Instead the boss simply made oblique comments to the person concerned which triggered an emotional and somewhat aggressive response.

There can be a number of reasons for this, including a failure to set measurable goals, or having set them failing to monitor performance.

This situation can also arise where a manager is either afraid of confrontation or has not been properly trained to manage people. Perhaps they have risen to manager level but are not entirely comfortable with it. Perhaps they fear that staff might walk out or hold the threat of doing so over their manager’s head.

In this particular example my personal view was that the subordinate controlled their boss through passive aggressive behaviour.

The qualities of an effective manager

To manage people effectively a manager should be able to empower people, motivate them and be confident about delegating work.

Effective empowerment is about setting boundaries so that people understand and take responsibility for their work. It also means encouraging them to stretch their abilities and to be innovative. This will work provided there are proper support structures in place.

When staff are motivated they are likely to perform better, and this does not depend solely on salary or bonuses.  An effective manager should be able to motivate people with interesting work, creating a sense of their being part of a team and most importantly by recognising and appreciating hard work.

Delegation works well if a manager understands people’s strength and weaknesses and is able to match the person to the task in a way that stimulates them and shows that they are considered competent to carry out the work successfully.

Ignoring poor performance is not helpful either to the staff or ultimately to the business.  Dealing with the situation does not have to mean an uncomfortable confrontation. A supportive conversation that identifies, what is the problem and what support a person needs to improve may be a more constructive approach.

When the situation like the example cited involves a level of bullying, it is crucial that the inappropriate behaviours are highlighted and addressed.

Finally, it is worth remembering that the longer a problem goes on the harder it will be to remedy.

(Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

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