What Employees Say Behind Your Back

Last Updated May 26, 2011 10:42 AM EDT

Good news, middle managers! Your staff likes you more than they do senior leaders. Unfortunately, that's not saying too much, so whether you're in senior or middle management, you've got some work to do.

At least according to a new survey conducted by Harris Interactive for CareerBuilder.com. Nearly six in ten employees said they thought their managers were were doing a "good or great" job, while only half said same about their senior leaders. Those who follow Gallup research first published in the book, First Break All the Rules, will not be surprised that employees have higher regard for immediate supervisors than those in high positions.

According to the CareerBuilder survey, employees had issues with senior leaders in the following areas:

  • Not addressing morale/not listening enough (40%)
  • Not enough transparency (33%)
  • Making major changes without warning (30%)
  • Productivity demands unreasonable (27%)
Takeaways for senior leaders

None of these employee complaints are out of the ordinary. The obvious lesson for senior leaders is to communicate more clearly--and more often. Reading behind the numbers, though, it is evident that senior leaders also need to listen more, as well as be more visible to employees. Neither is easy to do, especially given senior leaders' serious time constraints.

What would make the difference, and I have seen it, is making the effort. Get out more with the team. Be available when possible, even virtually.

Senior management must be able to make changes on a dime. The challenge is to prepare your people for such inevitabilities beforehand by pushing the organization to be more adaptable, flexible and ready for new things.

Complaints about middle managers
Immediate supervisors also came under scrutiny in the CareerBuilder survey for the following shortcomings including:

  • Dealing (ineffectively) with issues between co-workers (25%)
  • Motivating team members (22%)
  • Performance reviews (15%)

As my colleague Wally Bock pointed out in his insightful blog on this survey, management needs to spend more time preparing new managers to be in charge. According to the CareerBuilder survey, 58% of managers said they received no management training, and nearly a quarter said they were not ready to lead.

So what to do?
  • Managers need leadership training. Large organizations have resources to offer in-house services. Smaller organizations can bring in outside experts.
  • Invest in on-the-job development. Smart organizations pair their new managers with mentors who are available to advise. These savvy veterans can help a new manager get his or her hands around the job and offer suggestions on how to handle employee concerns, issues and conflicts. So often a quick word with a seasoned manager can head off problems and help the new manager acclimate more quickly.

To be sure, these are easy suggestions to make. What will take to implement them is the understanding that just as managers have high expectations for their employees' performance, so too, do employees have high expectations for the leadership abilities of people who supervise them and their work.

What do you think employees are saying about your management--or your bosses'?


image courtesy of flickr user, d3l