By Bruce L. Katcher, Ph.D. - Research shows that supervisors do a much better job of handling job-related problems than they do handling people-related problems. One of two employees believes that their immediate supervisor does a poor job of solving problems such as motivational, emotional, and personal issues.
Here are some reasons why:
- Supervisors Become Supervisors Due to Their Job-Related Skills
Employees are typically promoted to the supervisory level because of their technical or problem solving skills, not their people-management skills.
- Managing People Problems is Not a Priority
Management rewards supervisors for bottom-line results, not their people-management skills. Supervisors have little incentive to focus on what really matters most to employees.
- Increased Span of Control
Supervisors today are asked to supervise many more employees than in the past. This makes it difficult for them to really get to know each employee and to address their individual problems.
- Lack of Role Models
Who can supervisors turn to when they need advice about managing people issues? Just like themselves, their supervisors were promoted for their technical expertise rather than for their people skills.
- Lack of Training
Budgets for training on topics such as handling employee problems and communicating effectively with employees have been drastically cut or eliminated by most organizations today. Supervisors are therefore not given the guidance they need to properly manage their subordinates.
- The Move to Leaderless Teams
In the past decade organizations have eliminated many supervisors to force the team to make its own decisions and to take more responsibility for production and quality. As a result, there is no one on the team who has responsibility for helping to solve people issues.
- Diminished Capacity of Human Resource Departments
In the past, employees were able to turn to human resource professionals within their organization for support if their supervisor was unable to help them. Today, however, many organizations have drastically cut their human resource staff, and have outsourced or computerized many human resource functions.
WHAT EMPLOYERS CAN DO
- Don't Abandon the Human Resource Department
Cutting the staff of the human resource department to the bone is penny wise and pound foolish. Make certain that you maintain a staff of HR professionals that are skilled in employee relations, counseling, and training.
- Train Supervisors
Continually train supervisors how to handle people-related issues. Evaluate this training to make certain that these techniques are being used effectively by supervisors.
- Mentor Supervisors
Provide supervisors with advice and support by assigning them a mentor or coach who serves as a sounding board to help them better manage the people problems they encounter with their subordinates.
- Recognize Good People Management Skills
Supervisors who do a good job of handling people problems should be publicly recognized for their good work. This will signal to all employees that these skills are valued by the organization.
- Provide Financial Rewards
Good people-management skills should also be rewarded with bonuses or pay increases.
Authored by: Bruce L. Katcher, Ph.D., "The Survey Doctor"
President, THE DISCOVERY GROUP
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