Managing people – delivering a difficult message

Management is an under-appreciated skill. Yet nothing will make a workplace more unpleasant, even downright miserable, than poor management. Sadly, it is something I see far too much.

Part art as well as science, the ability to work well with subordinates isn’t something that should be taken for granted. Business owners, if you want a productive workplace, with loyal employees who deliver great work and stay with the company, pay attention to your first line managers. Make sure they get the guidance and training they need.

One of the more difficult tasks any supervisor or first line manager faces is delivering bad news to an employee. That news can range from “you didn’t do that right” to “you’re fired” and still be challenging. I got over the hump as new manager by reminding myself that, if I didn’t tell the employee he/she was doing something wrong and give them a chance to fix it, I was doing them a grave disservice.

Why do managers hesitate to say anything? The most basic reason is fear of confrontation. I believe this is the reason most times. I like to believe that people are basically good at heart and wouldn’t stoop to ignoring an employee in order to make him/her miserable enough to leave. Not only is this rather sadistic, it is counterproductive to the company. Poorly performing employees can do a lot of damage, both in their own jobs and by creating a miserable work environment for others.

My message to managers: Have the courage and the compassion to be direct with your employees. Don’t sidestep issues. They will fester and grow like cancers. If you need help delivering the bad news, get some. Talk to a business coach, a fellow manager, your own manager, an HR specialist. Think through your delivery carefully and rehearse it. The first time you have to do this will be the worst. It will get better with time.

Ultimately, your employees will appreciate your honesty and your guidance.

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