6 Manager Habits that Hamper Employee Productivity
As a manager, it’s been dinned into your heads that employees are your most precious asset and their needs must be considered first. Many organisations are now writing out employee-first policies, and all key result areas are geared towards how to keep employees happy, retain them and increase employee productivity. So, many measures are taken to ensure employees don’t burn out, that they are engaged and find value and growth in the company and are more productive in the long run. This is crucial for businesses to thrive.
But have you considered the other side? In your eagerness to ensure your employees produce enough work to justify not only their salary but the time and the space they occupy in the office, are you standing in the way of their productivity?
Here are 6 managerial habits that may be hampering your employees’ productivity:
1. Not truly delegating responsibility is the top reason for poor employee productivity:
The number one advantage of delegation is that it leverages precious time, and speeds up decision making. Most people tend to feel they are too busy to delegate and it’s more efficient for them to just do it themselves — rather than “wasting time” explaining a task to an employee, making sure they do it right etc. Nobody tells you this, but the fact is that one of the most difficult transitions for leaders to make is the shift from doing to leading. As a new manager, you can get away with holding on to work. People may admire you for rising to the occasion and being ready to step in at a pinch to execute. But as your responsibilities become more and more, it will impact your leadership. So in the long run, the best way to do this is to delegate.
Red flags that you’re not delegating efficiently:
● You feel you can do it better and faster
● You have an endless list of to-do activities
● You work longer hours than your team
If you have to unexpectedly take off a week from work will your work progress smoothly? If it’s a yes, awesome you’re on the right track. If it’s a no. You need to reassess.
Make a start:
● Delegation is about assigning tasks and giving some autonomy and authority with it
● Be involved but only to an extent. Offer support only when needed and be accountable.
● Assess the demands that are coming your way – and carefully see what you can do, and where you don’t need to step in. For instance, if your team has to come up with some candidates to hire for a project, delegate the research. Step in only to cross-check that your team member has done it right.
● Remember intent and communication is everything. Delegate tasks that help employees grow and learn. It should be done systematically and should not amount to dumping work on others.
2. Not setting clear expectations is a recipe for low employee productivity:
Unclear standards can lead to serious employee relations problems including complaints, and conflicts which can be very costly for any organisation. Lack of clear expectations not only undermines employee productivity and outcome within a team but also negatively impacts engagement, relationships, teamwork and overall morale of the team. Setting employee expectations can eliminate or reduce confusion and increase the chances of employees being successful in achieving the goals set for them. There are many different occasions when leaders will need to set and be guided by expectations. For instance, when you have to build your team you need to make sure that the job description for each team member is clear and they have clear key result areas. This document must be reviewed and updated from time to time. If you don’t do this there is bound to be overlap and confusion.
Red flags that you are not setting clear expectations:
● Are your team members regularly missing deadlines?
● Do you find your team constantly bickering about job responsibilities, and do you have to step in to intervene often?
● Do you feel like you need to hire more employees to finish the work?
Yes to even one of these means you are not getting it right.
Make a start:
● Sit down with employees, either individually or as a group to discuss team goals, your expectations, and get their buy-in.
● Offer examples as to why you’ve set certain expectations, and explain to your team how these expectations connect to the larger goals of the company.
● Be open to receiving feedback
3. Not offering useful feedback, yet another classic reason for poor productivity:
Negative feedback can be hard to handle and, when poorly delivered, unhelpful. While we have all been on the receiving end of criticism – that uncomfortable conversation often toned down by pleasantries – it is neither easy to give nor take. And yet, if appropriate, timely, and well wrapped, feedback can be a positive and even life-enhancing experience.
Red flags that your feedback is ineffective if:
● The employee shows a lack of interest in work after receiving the feedback
● The employee takes frequent leave after feedback is given
● The employees seem to lose motivation and don’t go the extra mile when necessary.
Make a start:
● Focus on the process and outcome and not on the person
● Be clear and kind with your communication. Or else the employee may misunderstand and misjudge the seriousness of your point.
● First, get the employee to agree to your point before discussing solutions.
● Ask the employee if they need any additional support to improve.
● Give positive feedback with specific examples of when the employee did well.
4. Not giving clear directions when faced with a dilemma:
Decision making is an important managerial function that is often loaded with conflicting opinions and outcomes. Taking irrational, erratic or even worse being indecisive always proves costly. It’s nice not to micromanage and be able to trust your employees. However, how hands-off can you be especially when you’re facing a problem? Some managers don’t give enough direction or are unable to fight for team resources in challenging situations. Effective supervisors and managers work hard to cultivate their skills in providing direction to their team members.
Red flags that you’re not giving clear directions:
● Does your team make the same mistake again and again?
● Are you unable to trust your employees?
● Do you find that employees don’t approach you enough with problems?
● Do you find a mismatch in your expectations and the outcome of the work?
Make a start:
● Always explain to your team your decisions, before any change in strategy.
● Employees sometimes have more insight into how things can be improved. So listen to them instead of simply telling them what to do and come up with a joint solution.
● Look for opportunities to communicate your vision with the team, with particular emphasis on how their individual efforts contribute to success.
5. Not setting the right context for training can prove to be a big bottleneck in enhancing employee productivity:
Despite hefty spending on training, many times employees revert to their old behaviours or ways of doing things, and the learning doesn’t lead to better organisation performance or employee productivity. A poor return on investment isn’t the only bad outcome of failed training initiatives. Employees can become cynical. And leaders may end up believing they are implementing real change while in reality, they are just spending money ineffectively. In short, information without context is quickly forgotten. For example, some employees may be looking for certain kinds of data to better the execution of a project; and having targeted training for this may be the best rather than generic data interpretation training.
Red flags that you’re not setting the right context for training:
● Are your employees performing poorly and having increased work-related stress?
● Do your employees feel like there is no progression and development in their role?
● Are you facing increased employee turnover with feedback that they don’t see growth potential in their jobs?
● Do you experience poor participation in training initiatives?
Make a start:
● The best time for training is when the learner has a strong desire and need to learn.
● The training timing should coincide with providing the maximum window of opportunity to apply the learning back on the job immediately.
● The ability to access information when it’s used, rather than when it’s provided, keeps employee productivity high.
6. Not giving up authority makes the largest dent on employee productivity:
When things are uncertain the basic instinct is to tighten control for favourable outcomes. But the truth is leaders do not get things done by issuing orders and directives to obedient employees. Rather, they achieve success by creating an environment that generates a sense of commitment and engagement in their people and by drawing from the collective wisdom of their teams. This is done by giving away power and not holding on to it. Effective leaders recognise that people are motivated to work hard when they feel a sense of personal responsibility for effectively performing activities that they care about. This is not possible without significant autonomy.
Red flags that you’re holding on to authority:
● Does your company rely only on the management to make decisions?
● Are decisions taken with little or no input from employees?
● Do you receive suggestions or requests for approval on initiatives proposed by your employees?
Make a start:
● The secret to leading without authority and getting things done lies in the power of influence and building relationships.
● Good leaders empower their employees, giving them room for judgement and decision making.
● It’s not just about delegating tasks and monitoring results but about instilling the workforce with a sense of responsibility for the business.
At the end of the day, if your employees love their job and look forward to their work, they’re going to be intrinsically motivated to become more productive employees for your business. Whether it’s inviting employees to collaborate more, help solve problems, encourage risk-taking, and acknowledging that failure is a by-product of innovative thinking. These are all ways to build a flatter more productive, and involved organisation. Figure that out, and the sky’s the limit.
At Yellow Spark, our training methodology has helped our clients fast track their leadership team’s growth. To know more write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Author Profile: Aparna Joshi Khandwala is a passionate HR professional. She co-founded Yellow Spark to work with like-minded people who believe in the power of leadership, which is the only business differentiator in today’s time.