Each month, "The Balance Sheet" provides questions and answers from experts on a topic that's important to you as a manager. Please feel free to share this information with other colleagues who also manage people.
Q. I am a new manager and in my first job as a supervisor. What problems might I encounter early that I can prepare for now? If I feel overwhelmed, can BJC EAP help me?
A. Becoming a manager can be exciting, but be sure you understand your role and responsibilities. Have this discussion and nail down the details early. This will prevent many problems you would otherwise face from overlooking important aspects of your job. Be prepared for difficult challenges that lead you to question your ability to do the job. This is normal. If your employees are performing well, do not see this as a signal to ignore them until they need you. Be proactive and engage with them regularly. The supervisory role includes influence projected by your knowledge and abilities, and leverage naturally linked to your authority. Both dynamics influence employee productivity. BJC EAP can help you with time and stress management; tips on organizing work; consulting on how to manage difficult employees and how to coach; education on conflict resolution and managing teams; support when faced with tough decisions like terminating an employee; and counseling to help you avoid burnout.
Q. I am a new supervisor. I am sure there will be many challenges, but with all the different personalities of employees I supervise, how can I best help each one perform to his or her peak?
A. Understanding that each of your employees will see you differently, will relate to you differently and will need different things from you is the place to start. Many managers make the mistake of seeing their employees as “the troops.” As such, they communicate with them as though they are Marines in a barracks waiting for orders. Take the opposite approach. It takes time, but over months and years, pay attention to how your employees are unique in five key ways: 1) Communication style and needs 2) Career goals, hopes, dreams, education desires 3) Motivation triggers and reward preferences 4) Limitations, avoidances and dislikes 5) Leadership and problem-solving capacity. There are more, but these five hit most of the bases. Growing to understand each one will help maximize employee job satisfaction and productivity.
Q. I am a new supervisor and want to know right now what the pitfalls are for people like me. I have 40 employees, and many of them have been around for years. I can almost feel the tension in the air that I have to prove something to get their respect.
A. You are new to the work unit, and your employees know it, of course, so your number one mistake will be communicating in some way that you know everything, either accidentally or nonverbally. Sending this message will set you up for a rough ride in the months ahead. To reduce the likelihood of that, you do not have to admit that you are not knowledgeable about the work and operations of your unit — you simply need to be a good listener and ask questions. Treat employees like they are valuable resources for you, be respectful and be thankful for their ability to get you oriented. You’ve probably heard that old quip or seen it on T-shirts, “Those who think they know everything are annoying to those of us who do.” Your goal is to help ensure that this doesn’t become your reality.