21 Tips to Avoid the Dark Side of Management

News headlines from Seattle to New York are cause for some serious head slapping. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) continues to be inundated with worker complaints.

Even the U.S. State Department issued a critical report of an ambassador, a Seattle businesswoman who was a prolific fundraiser for the first Obama election campaign.

The 2011 Seattle Times’ headline: “‘Abusive’ ambassador says she filed rebuttal.”

Cynthia Stroum quit just one week after the EEOC report accused her of countless personality conflicts, verbally abusing employees, and dubious liquor and travel expenses, according to the article.

It’s hard to believe countless numbers of managers in the public and private sectors continue to generate complaints and legal action.

But they do.

Other disconcerting headlines:

– EEOC Healthcare Bias Complaints on the Rise

– Pacific Seafood To Pay $85K To Settle Retaliation Suit

– EEOC sues Amtrak for gender discrimination

– Pregnant employee claims discrimination by Pizza Hut

In a typical year of complaints, 2010, nearly 100,000 charges – 99,922 to be exact – were filed with the EEOC. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. What about the issues employees haven’t filed with the EEOC? What about the incidents you see every day at your place of employment?

It’s true that not all complaints are valid. Many aren’t. Some originate from mere office politics. Managing employees is difficult. So the purpose here is not to indict the managers who are professional assiduous, empathetic, good motivators and make sure their workplace stays out of legal trouble.

But the fact remains these headlines are indicators that many managers fail to perform their jobs.

Here are 21 quick tips:

  1. Keep an open mind. Don’t think or act like you know everything. If you’re a new manager, don’t make changes right away unless it’s critical to do so.
  2. Practice listening. Know your employees. Get to know your staff. Walk the floor a couple of times a day. Engage your staff. Ask for their ideas. Communicate effectively to avoid unwelcome surprises. An added benefit – you’ll hear about problems early before it’s too late.
  3. Be approachable. Don’t flaunt your position. When an employee asks to talk with you. Let the person talk or set a more convenient time for you both. When the discuss starts, put the pen down. Show good listening skills. Maintain good eye contact.
  4. Avoid the over-use of the pronoun, “I.” Look for opportunities to use the word, “we.” That goes for meetings and written communication.Try never to start a paragraph using “I.”
  5. Recognize employee productivity. Always give due-credit for performance.
  6. Be assertive. Don’t procrastinate on threats to your staff or the organization. Deal effectively with politics. For every problem, anticipate a multitude of solutions. They might not all work, but be resourceful. Keep your ego in check. Understand the difference between being assertive vs. aggressive. Don’t be thin-skinned and don’t let fear motivate your actions. Remember an acronym for FEAR is frantic effort to avoid responsibility.
  7. Timing and mode of communication are important. Know the time when it’s best to communicate matters and how to do it. Personal meetings are more productive than e-mails on introducing critical topics.
  8. Respect your employees. Be fair. Don’t under-estimate them. For example, if you have a cash-flow issue, talk with them about it and discuss options. Eliminate all possibility of discrimination.
  9. Don’t confuse process with outcomes. Explain what’s going on without making rash promises you can’t keep, especially where it applies to remuneration.
  10. Budget your time. That goes for your employees in listening and delegation. If you’re bogged down in clerical work remember you are an unnecessarily expensive and wasteful manager. And budget your time effectively for interfacing with your boss.
  11. Use diplomacy. Watch what you say and how you say it. Measure your words correctly with employees. Bosses don’t like to be told what to do. If you have suggestions about a sensitive subject to discuss with your boss, use phrases like “You might wish to consider.”
  12. Flaunt your human-mess. Take responsibility. If you should make a mistake, flaunt it. Your boss and employees will respect your honesty. Make amends wherever appropriate ASAP.
  13. Don’t be a milquetoast. Remember people-pleasers are ineffective managers.
  14. Consider the welfare of the organization to be paramount. Don’t let one or two employees disrupt the team.
  15. Lead by example. Practice what you preach in values and productivity. Mentor and demonstrate the paths you want employees to take in their work. Show how it’s important to the bottom line.
  16. Motivate with autonomy. Instead of micromanaging, explain parameters and let your employees make decisions and take actions.
  17. Maintain confidences. Maintaining confidentiality where appropriate shows wisdom. If pointedly asked, say something like “I’m not free to comment now.”
  18. Do your footwork before making controversial decisions. Good managers market important decisions and changes, personally, in a one-on-one basis. Remember many employees are apprehensive about change. Anticipate who will be the obstinate employees and their reasons. Your organization won’t be rife with rumors and other morale issues.
  19. Continually check your productivity. Regular assessments of your performance and your employees matter – for the welfare of your organization.
  20. If you have profit and loss responsibilities, stay on top of financials. Understand your break-even analysis. Be a student of how to grow profits and your company’s assets.
  21. Keep a positive work-and-life balance. Otherwise, both your personal and professional lives will suffer. Encourage your employees to do the same.

Treat your employees as assets – as human and intellectual capital – with respect and professionalism. You’ll avoid the dark side of management and you will be successful.

From the Coach’s Corner, here is additional reading:

 “When hiring key employees, there are only two qualities to look for: judgment and taste. Almost   everything else can be bought by the yard.”

-John W. Gardner


Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry. 

Seattle business consultant Terry Corbell provides high-performance management services and strategies.