This can be one of the most difficult tasks for a manager to accomplish. While tact and process are often unaligned (or misaligned) within an organization, meaning the HR functions within a corporation dictate a certain approach to constructive criticism, still an effective manager may use simple human decency to facilitate this. There can be so many good ways to redirect a subordinate, but I find that directly, and without malice is usually the best. In the best cases, to address in a direct, and timely manner the infraction that occurred, and do this redirect with as simple wording as possible (hopefully in person) is ideal. If it has to be done over the phone, try to ensure that understanding is clear throughout. Remember, you’re not speaking to a child, but an equal, even if this person is in a subordinate role, they’re still a peer, and should be treated as such. Try to be cognizant that the opposite will often be fearful during these conversations, particularly in these uncertain economic times, and that your methods are to ensure that clarity in regards to their role in the company are laid out. If this is not the first time, and they are on shaky ground, this needs to be established, and why, but if they aren’t unstable, then that needs to be stated as well. Make certain that this is redirect and keep communication two way.
I believe whole-heartedly in healthy two-way communications. Establish a pattern of consistent bilateral conversation, not only in terms of how work is going, but as well, attempt as best you are able to show an interest in how things are happening in your employee’s personal life. Be a friend. These seem to be simple and logical things, but we are all busy, and I’ve had experiences with wonderful managers who’ve not had time to get to know me.
I’m reminded of the somewhat trite, but always true book by Robert Fulgham :
All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten, in this tome, Fulgham plays on these almost silly rules, such “Warm cookies and milk are good for you,” and “Take a nap every afternoon.” But he also throws in these bits of wisdom like “Play fair,” and “Clean up your own mess.” While these sound quite simple, they’re far broader statements, and intended as such.
Corporate structures, in most environments, have matured to understand that there’s a functional limit to the number of personnel that can truly be managed by a single manager. The reason for this, even at the top levels has been due to the requirement for that individual requirement of personal touch. In my recent experience even, my manager has proven a distinct interest in how my life has been going. It helps to “talk me from the ledge.” Most truly, with positive results. We may love what we do, and for whom we do it, but often need just a bit of validation and confirmation.
How are we paid? It’s not all about money is it? In IT particularly, but not only, there are many intrinsic additions to the salary. I’m not talking just about bonus or commissions. I’m referring to training, trade shows, insurance, long term savings plans like the 401k, and profit sharing. An effective manager will try to understand what’s important to their employee and work to facilitate these either through HR at the hiring process if possible, or throughout the employee’s tenure at the company. Some organizations consider them perks while others look at them as simple functions of being a part of the company. Whatever the viewpoint, it’s always important to know what the employee sees as motivating, as well as why. For example, the why may be the boondoggle (one may want to go to a trade show for the enjoyment of the spectacle or hanging out with friends, another may want to sell product… Truly differing motivations, right?).
All-in-all, it boils down to staying involved in the lives of your team. I don’t use that word lightly. We are, and should be a team. The more we act as one, the better off we become. As the great Cubs trio, of roughly 1910-12, we’re all in this together… Remember – Tinker to Evers to Chance…