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Dealing with the Frustrations of Managing Others: A Mini Case Study

Managing OthersA big frustration for many managers is dealing with those who report up to them.  And the more people reporting up to a manager, the more frustrating it can be managing a variety of personalities and trying to provide direct reports the attention necessary to keep them engaged in the organization.

Stan’s Situation

Stan manages a staff of 12. The majority of his direct reports are fairly young, only being in the workplace 5 years or less. The balance of his direct reports have an average of 15 years’ of work experience among them. Stan is frustrated. His organization has significant projects in the works and are in a very tight battle with a competitor to secure a large contract for the business. Managing his staff is frustrating for him. He doesn’t have the time to give them the attention many of them need and a few of them are becoming adamant about wanting more of his time. He feels like he can’t juggle the work he needs to do with handholding his employees so they complete their work. Just the other day in a team meeting he told his staff they need to get moving in finishing projects to avoid any more delays. He was tired of them dragging their feet and not working hard enough.
This didn’t go over well. In fact, one of his staff stood up and said she had had enough and he may want to understand that they are under stress too. She told him, “A bit better support from you may actually help us to do better work. No one ever knows what you want!”

Stan realized he was getting increasingly frustrated with his staff and obviously they noted it also. He recognized this was a problem and needed to be corrected. But how to start.

Frustrations are common for those in management roles. It is a fact of the job! Frustrations come from any number of areas, not just from staff. Here, however, we’ll focus on providing a few ideas to reduce frustrations from managing direct reports.

What Stan Might Do to Reduce Frustrations with his Staff

Stan, while busy with his own responsibilities, needs to realize he also has responsibility for his staff. Given that many of his direct reports are very young with limited experience, they rely on his guidance to be effective in their role. This means that Stan should be doing the following regularly:

  • Holding weekly or bi-weekly one-on-one meetings with each direct report (30 – 60 minutes in duration)
  • Holding monthly team meetings (with the entire group)

Additionally, Stan should re-evaluate his method of delegating work to this staff. This should start by taking the time to get to know each direct report – their skills, expertise, experiences and interests. In this way, Stan will be able to better match the correct initiative with the correct staff member. Ensuring that his direct reports have the skills and ability to perform specific tasks will reduce his need to have to provide significant oversight. Additionally, and just as importantly, Stan needs to evaluate his method of delegating to his staff. It is likely he is not providing sufficient upfront information about what he wants them to accomplish and by when. He should not be telling his staff how to do the work he assigns them, but rather what the end result needs to be and when it needs to be accomplished. Regular “check in” points will enable for him to track status of the initiatives they are working on and enable them to ask questions if additional information is needed. It is essential that Stan provides staff members the authority and decision-making capability necessary so that they can be successful in performing the assignment as well as access to needed resources.

This all needs to be a priority for Stan. If he doesn’t change his leadership approach with his staff, he is very likely to see increased staff turnover which will impact his department’s ability to successfully meet the goals of the organization.