4 Ways Supervisors Frustrate Their Employees—Are You Guilty?

When I first became President of Thomas Nelson, I began hosting an event called “Pizza with the Prez.” Once a month I invited a different workgroup to have lunch with me—without their supervisor being present.

A Frustrated Employee - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/J-Elgaard, Image #16731921

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/J-Elgaard

This event provided an opportunity for me to get unfiltered feedback. It was one of my favorite activities. It also proved to be one of the most productive.

It confirmed what I thought was true: The further you move up the chain-of-command, the less likely it is you will get the truth. Information is often filtered, spun, and managed. People either tell you what they want you to know—or think you want to hear.

Some time ago, I read The Last Czar, a biography about the life of Czar Nicholas II, the last emperor of Russia. While his generals were brutally suppressing dissent, they told him civil unrest was the result of foreign influence and assured him his own people loved him.

The Czar didn’t have any other source of information. When the Communists took over, he was caught by surprise and forced to abdicate. Sadly, the Bolsheviks eventually executed him and his entire family. It is one of the saddest stories I have ever read.

Though extreme, his story demonstrates the difficulty of getting good information at the top. If you are a leader in any capacity, you must develop a pipeline for unfiltered feedback. “Pizza with the Prez” was one of the ways I did this.

Typically, I had ten to twelve people join me for lunch in the boardroom. After a few “icebreaker questions,” I always asked them:

  • What do you like about Thomas Nelson and want to see us continue?
  • What do you not like about Thomas Nelson and want to see us stop doing?

Although I only scheduled an hour of time together, it was always a challenge to finish on schedule. I was always amazed at how open people were and how many good ideas they had.

I have also noticed a recurring theme: most people’s frustration at work is inflicted by their supervisors.

Don’t misunderstand me. These workers loved their colleagues. They loved the company. But they continued to be frustrated by leaders who unwittingly hindered their productivity.

Here are the four most common complaints I heard. See if they ring true in your experience.

  1. Supervisors call too many meetings. Many of them are a waste of time. The issues could easily be handled by e-mail. Even those that should be called last twice as long as is necessary. This is because they don’t have a clear idea of what they want to accomplish or a specific agenda to get them there.
  2. Supervisors are often late to their own meetings. Since they called the meeting, the other attendees can’t start without them. As a result, they waste a lot of time waiting for the leader to show up. This makes them feel disrespected.
  3. Supervisors don’t really understand the work process. They don’t appreciate the amount of time it takes to complete certain tasks. Consequently, they sit on—or slow-walk—approvals and bog down the whole process. By the time the worker gets a response, they are in crisis mode. If a deadline is missed, they get blamed. This creates a lot of unnecessary stress on everyone.
  4. Supervisors are not responsive. They don’t answer their e-mails. They don’t return their voice mail messages. Workers often feel like they are sending e-mails into a black hole. By the time the manager does respond, the issue is resolved or it has escalated to a new level of urgency. Why can’t they just respond more quickly?

More than likely, you are not guilty of these behaviors. But, if you are, I hope you’ll take a moment and try to see how frustrating this can be to your teammates. You may not be able to change your boss, but you can change yourself and provide a better environment for the people you are leading.

Question: What other ways do you see supervisors frustrate their employees? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • http://www.hackman-adams.com Linda Adams

    Unfortunately, I’ve seen all of these frustrations many times.

    When I was in the National Guard, the senior leaders would call a meeting to discuss next month’s drill. The meeting was held at the end of the last day (after five) and all non-commissioned officers had to attend. The meeting often ran three hours because it was so disorganized and chaotic. The senior leaders, who were fulltime Guard, never seemed to get that some of the people had to drive three or four hours to get home and then get up at five the next morning to go their regular job.

    My brother ran into the same thing at a company he worked for. He ended up showing them how he felt with his feet.

  • Lindsay Terry

    I liked this article and thought it very helpful, for the most part. However, two things come to mind.

    1. If you correct something in the day-to-day operation of one of your department heads, will he or she not suspect that you got your information, and the need to make the correction, from the person in his department who attended your “Pizza With the Prez?” Would that not, perhaps, cause a strained relationship between that department head and his worker?

    I. In your article HOW TO GET YOUR BOSS’S APPROVAL, January 22, 2007, you stated:

    “1. Meet your boss’s needs. This is the first and most important key to getting to ‘yes.’ Everything else in this article is a footnote to this point.”
    “Face it: no one cares about your needs. Okay, maybe I’m overstating it. A few people care. But, certainly everyone is more interested in having their needs met than yours. That’s just reality. The sooner you accept it, the faster you will get to ‘yes.’”

    2. That seems to be somewhat in conflict with the second paragraph of this blog:
    “The further you move up the chain-of-command, the less likely it is that you will get the truth. Information is filtered, spun, and managed. People either tell you what they want you to know or think you want to hear.”

    I would like to know your response.

    Keep the blogs coming, especially the information on “leadership.” Of course, most of what you have said, that I have read, has to do with some aspect of leadership.

    EVERYTHING RISES AND FALLS ON LEADERSHIP – Lee Roberson

    Blessings,

    Lindsay Terry

  • http://www.michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

    Lindsay,

    In response to your first question, you are absolutely correct. I have to protect the source of the comment. And, they are not specific about which boss. We don’t name names. We are simply trying to address cultural issues we see and then I can speak to them generally.

    With regard to your second comment, I don’t quite understand the conflict you see. Could you elaborate?

    Thanks,

    Mike

  • Lindsay Terry

    Mike,
    I suppose this could get a little complicated, but it seems, according to you comments (“Meet your boss’s needs. This is the first and most important key to getting to ‘yes.’), that if an employee went in to get an approval, he should first of all think,”How will this meet my boss’s need,” and not “How will this further the interest and effectiveness of the company?”

    You would think that the two would be synonymous, but unfortunately that is not always the case. There are some employees that seem to have a greater vision for the company, and what is best for the company, than the boss.

    If a boss is NOT able to see, after an employee’s very worthy, thoughtful proposal has been made, that “This is not exactly
    what will help me, but it will, in fact, help the effective of the company,” then he has hindered the progress of the company.

    I think a boss should be able to carefully weigh any proposal, not on the basis of, “First of all, how will this help me?” but, “How will this help or hinder the effectiveness of the company.”

    On the other hand, I do agree that any boss wants to feel that his employees want to “help me meet the goals I have set for the company.”

    Maybe I have misunderstood your premise, but those are the thoughts I had.

    I think it is marvelous that you encourage the exploration of these matters.

    Thanks for your time,

    Lindsay

  • Lisa Rollins

    Although I am not high up the chain of command, I have worked with people high up the chain of command for a number of years. In my experience, employees sometimes do not communicate problems to their boss or upper-management because they feel that they do not want to bother that person with something which seems insignificant compared to everything else a leader has on his or her plate. Also, they do not want to be seen as a problem-bringer or as someone who always shares bad news with their boss.

    And that’s why things get tricky when it comes to communicating annoyances and problems. On the one hand, I think that many bosses may feel that there are certain employees who DO seem to always be bringing trouble to your door (you may inwardly groan when you see an email from them pop up in your Inbox or when they catch you in the hallway). On the other hand, employees who notice issues and are not afraid to call them to their boss’s attention are a great partner to a busy boss, since they are in a position to notice the details that their supervisor may not have the opportunity or time to see.

    I sometimes feel frustrated when it seems that employees complain reguarly about something but are unwilling to bring it to anyone’s attention because they feel that it is not important enough to bother their supervisor with. If it’s not that important, why complain about it at all?

    There are a number of things that can be resolved quickly if the right people know about them. And that is why I urge people to use their good judgment and escalate the issues that are really bugging them. Often it seems that things are not resolved because the right people don’t know about them, rather than because people are deliberately NOT doing something.

    Once an issue has been communicated by an employee, it is then the responsibility of the leadership of a company to explain either the steps they will take to resolve this issue or to explain why resolution is not urgent or possible at this time. Some issues seem to fester because no one is willing to just tell employees, “This is the way things are and they are not going to change. Accept it, and move on.”

    As you have mentioned in many of your posts, Mike, it all boils down to effective, two-way communcation.

  • http://www.michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

    Lisa,

    Great input!

    Thanks,

    Mike

    • John

      Hi Michael.,

      This is about myself and my team. It was a very complex situation where I failed to understand why team behaved like this. I was leading a project and my entire team was working from different state and myself from different state. But my boss was also operating from the same location where my team used to sit. After 13 years of experience and more than required knowledge I was not able to understand their attitude but came to know later that my team used to talk to my boss everyday where as I was updating on weekly basis.
      The problem started when My superior started asking me questions without any basis. But it didnt finish there and my team started providing me wrong updates which created more issues. I did tell my boss but it was of no use because my team already =filled his ears. My Boss made sure that he should not listen to me because few of the team members worked with him. He used to get every iupdate from my team and never called me to discuss. If a person with 2 years of experience become more important then what can we do to resolve such issues.

      Regards,

      John

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  • http://twitter.com/TesTeq TesTeq

    The solution is easy – just fire all the supervisors. You will have happy and productive employees!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Until you realize, I AM a supervisor!

      • http://darensirbough.com/ Daren Sirbough

        I wouldnt fire you :)

    • http://www.brianhinkley.com/ Brian Hinkley

      Happy employees, YES maybe.
      Productive employees, NO!
      Only speaking from what I have seen through experience. I  am however always productive when I’m not accountable to someone else.

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

      Sometimes… But then again there are plenty of employees that need to be supervised. (-;

  • http://deuceology.wordpress.com Larry Carter

    I’m sure I frustrate my folks some, but I can’t imagine not answering their email or voicemail.  Of course, I sit right in the the middle of mine, so we would have an uprising if I didn’t and I might meet a Bolshevik.

  • Amy

    Avoiding the important conversations. I got a raise recently …. And was notified by a letter mailed to my home. I wish I could say that this is a large, bureaucratic organization where raises are a strict formula. I can’t say that, though. It’s a twelve person organization.

    While I appreciate the raise, I’m insulted that my employers couldn’t have a real conversation about the work I do on a daily basis.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      And your employer missed a great opportunity to create a positive emotional connection with you. This is a really great addition to the list. Thanks!

    • http://www.tnealtarver.wordpress.com TNeal

       Interesting to note that a positive, a raise, turned into a negative simply because of the impersonal way the news was delivered.

      • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

        I thought the same. Proof that there is more to loving a job than merely getting paid well for it.

  • http://www.alslead.com/ Dave Anderson

     Some bosses speak in vague terms instead of being direct.  This is often a result of HR driven coaching terminology. They believe this prevents HR issues.  It actually hurts the growth of the people being coached.  http://bit.ly/wimpycoaching 

    Get to the point please.  I need to hear what you want and not have to try to read between the lines.  I had many people over the last 15 years in leadership say I was the first boss they felt was truly honest with them because I was direct.  They weren’t trying to “read” me.  

    Can you imagine a job where you weren’t trying to read your boss.  You knew where you stood and what he wanted all the time.  Thats the environment a boss who speaks directly can develop.  A vague boss has people walking on egg shells and second guessing everything they do and say.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I totally agree. In the absence of clear, direct communication, people make up stories. It’s human nature. 

    • http://www.tnealtarver.wordpress.com TNeal

       That advice works well in marriages too. I know this was a difficult lesson for me to learn as a young husband–just say what you mean, ask for what you want, tell her what you’re going to do, etc.

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

      Yesterday I listened to Dave Ramsey’s Entre Leadership podcast, during which he discussed the five enemies of organizational unity. The first? Poor communication:

      “Poor communication  takes many forms. But when the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing, strife sets in.”  

  • http://missionallendale.wordpress.com/ Joey Espinosa

    Two other ways:
    1. Not empowering (or even allowing!) employees to make decisions.
    2. Saying, “because I said so” more than once per month.

    I had that supervisor. It was a toxic situation, as you can imagine.

    • http://www.tnealtarver.wordpress.com TNeal

       #1 has been the area causing my wife the biggest struggle in her job.

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

      I’ve seen #1 in churches too, with volunteers as well as staff. It’s demoralizing to the entire team and creates an atmosphere of distrust.

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

      Joey, your number 1 is such a drag on energy. It’s so frustrating when you can’t do something to take care of a customer or when an employee has to contact a supervisor for a simple task. 

      Imagine the time and money that could be saved by simply giving the employee the power to make decisions, even simple ones. 

      • http://missionallendale.wordpress.com/ Joey Espinosa

        Yes, I love your last sentence. Even if you didn’t want to empower employees, at least you could do it for the betterment of the organization.

        • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

          So true. It makes me think back to my retail days and how many times we had to interrupt management for a simple price override or a customer question. So many delays, unhappy customers, and wasted money. 

  • http://twitter.com/MaggieHolbeck Maggie Holbeck

    Being dishonest with us. I have a coworker who keeps putting in for  a promotion when an available position opens up. She is told by our supervisor that she does a great job and she cannot wait to promote her, but never does. Then she gives her reasons for not being promoted that appear to be flat out lies. Once she was told, “we went with someone who has more experience,” but when we met the new employee it turns out she was fresh out of college with no experience at all. It would be better if our supervisor would jest tell her whatever reason it is that she does not want to promote her so she can either accept it, or move on which she is reluctant to do because she is still hanging on to the hope that she will get the promotion she wants so badly.

    • http://www.tnealtarver.wordpress.com TNeal

      I just read this morning in “Necessary Endings” about the problem with hope. If I’m uneasy about a particular road (maybe I missed the turn), hope keeps me traveling on the road longer than I should be. Hoping things will change without any real support for that belief hinders us from making the decisions we need to make to improve our situation. The key here is learning to distinguish between real hope which helps us endure to a better conclusion and false hope which keeps us stuck in a bad situation far too long.

  • http://twitter.com/sparkvoice D

    One thing I’ve noticed is supervisors making what appears to be a sudden change in the scope of a position, or in people.  While they may have been thinking about it over and over in their head, the workforce has not.  Then the supervisor gives the person a one day notice on what their future job assignment is or what their new roles are.  Mentally, all involved have to process the information.

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

      I can understand that D. But sometimes decisions like a change in position or people cannot be discussed. It’s one of those catch 22 positions.

      • http://twitter.com/sparkvoice D

        True – there are definitely fine lines.

  • Chris

    This may be just a rabbit trail, but could be of some importance to us Michael.  What are some examples of your “icebreaker questions” that you used to get those meetings started?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I usually started with this one, “If you could plan your ideal Saturday, what would it look like?”

  • http://www.robsorbo.com/p/welcome-from-disqus.html Rob Sorbo

    I can hardly think of anything negative to say about my supervisor. She’s been a real blessing.

    It actually creates a challenge for me. I’d really like to start moving toward a different career path (and she’s even told me she thinks I’d be great at it and would support me fully), but I’m hesitant to move forward when I won’t necessarily have such a great boss and team around me.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I’ve definitely been in that position too.

    • http://www.tnealtarver.wordpress.com TNeal

      You sound like you’re in a great position–good job with a supportive supervisor or move into a challenging future. You’re poised to stay or go.

      What then is the one question you need answered to know when to make that next move?

  • http://emuelle1.typepad.com/ Eric S. Mueller

     I’m in a spot where I’m frustrated by my direct supervisor and the chain of command above him. My supervisor doesn’t know how to delegate, so everything that comes into our branch is high profile and requires his direct oversight. That leaves him busy and stressed all the time, while he has three managers working for him looking for work to do.

    My organization also isn’t communicating at all. We have a major event coming up, and all I hear about it comes from rumors. We used to have a weekly stand-up meeting where my supervisor would give us information on the org, but he’s been so busy we haven’t had it in weeks.

    • http://www.heartyourchurch.com/ Jason Stambaugh

      Delegation is a big deal. I worked in a big commercial kitchen and mantra for managing was “delegate yourself into availability, not out of responsibility.”  Managers need to free themselves up to lead well and attend to the needs of their team.

      • http://emuelle1.typepad.com/ Eric S. Mueller

        I’d love it if organizations would stop promoting people who can’t delegate and/or mentor. Unfortunately, they’re promoted BY people who equally don’t know how to do either.

      • http://www.tnealtarver.wordpress.com TNeal

         Excellent mantra for being in a responsible leadership position.

        • http://emuelle1.typepad.com/ Eric S. Mueller

          I haven’t told my supervisor yet that I got an offer for another job yesterday. Often, when frustration builds, that becomes an option for employees. I reached the point where I don’t want to work there and be frustrated and under-utilized anymore.

  • Lisahemmie

    Hello,
    First, I really enjoy your daily emails they are quite helpful.  Question, I try to employ as many of your principals as well as a bit of the Disney way of thinking.  Once challenge I continue to run into with the 18-30 age group is lack of understanding or accepting constructive comments in relation to job performance.  I continue to experience a lack of accountability and a “re-direct” to something else approach.  any thoughts?

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

      Lisa, I have two children in that age bracket and spend a lot of time with young people of that age, and I’ve experienced the same lack of teachability and a resistance to personal responsibility. The only thing I know to do is to engage in frank conversation about the relationship between personal responsibility and true maturity. Until you can take responsibility for self, you can’t take responsibility for others. Thus, moving up in an organization is directly related to how much you’re willing to take responsibility for your growth (learning, being teachable) and for your failures.

  • http://www.thegeezergadgetguy.com/ Thad Puckett

    I really think the problems described are two-fold:  

    1.  Relationships of trust don’t exist (antidote is building relationships between supervisors and teams) 

    2. Communication processes aren’t clear (antidote is making meetings purposeful, and making emails short, clear and to the point [i.e. "no-scroll rule" rules] and timely.

  • http://www.kellycombs.com/ Kelly Combs

    I was in a ministry meeting where the leader told us what we were going to talk about, then we talked about it, and then launched into a recap of what we just talked about. (Weren’t we all there? Recap? And the meeting minutes would be coming out within the week). I was so frustrated at the huge waste of my time, I actually excused myself from the recap, explaining that I had gotten everything and needed to get back home to my kids.

    Supervisors need to trust their people. We don’t need to be spoon-fed, and if you have people who do – you hired the wrong people. :-)

    • http://www.heartyourchurch.com/ Jason Stambaugh

      Were any “decisions” made during the meeting?

      • http://www.kellycombs.com/ Kelly Combs

        I feel like it was just circle talk, going around and around. I think a few “details” were worked out on previously made decisions, but nothing big or new was created. The meeting was over 6 months ago. I can’t recall all the content now. (Maybe if I had stayed for the recap. *wink*) I just remember the extreme sense of frustration.

        • http://cherionethingivelearned.blogspot.com/ Cheri Gregory

          Kelly — I SO understand! I once spent 2.5 hours in a meeting during which our only goal was to “affirm” a decision that had already been made and regarding which I had no influence! 

        • Tracy B

          I agree with you too.  I will say this though, I think written recaps sent out a few hours later via email are not a bad idea.  I say this because while I am quite attentive in a meeting and I do take notes, I am a much better visual processor.  Meaning I may have heard a decision in the meeting, but might have drawn something a little different from it.  Therefore, those follow-up recaps allow me to clarify anything that I may not have fully gathered.  It’s always interesting to me how you can have a meeting full of people, and then when you walk out different people have different ideas about what was said or done in the meeting.  Perception and communication play such a huge role in those things sometimes.

          • http://www.kellycombs.com/ Kelly Combs

            Tracy – I am all for the minutes after the meeting! My complaint was we didn’t need to do a group recap within the meeting itself, only to receive the minutes (with the recap) in a few days. Thanks.

    • http://www.ninanesdoly.com/ Nina Nesdoly

      I completely agree about the spoon feeding- in my opinion it often makes the supervisor feel good about having run a meeting for the sake of it.

      At one of my part time jobs the supervisor is bad that way, calling random meetings, whereas at the other job we have a monthly lunch, address topics and make a plan, then go home.

  • http://www.fieldofdebt.com/ Jen McDonough

    My pet peeve is when leaders don’t address the issues directly with individuals…instead, they call a group meeting to address a particular problem and address it to the group. My advice:
    ·         Quit wasting time, productivity, and morale by treating it as a group problem when it is an individual problem.
    ·         Quit glossing it over when there is a white elephant in the room – buck up and address problems immediately.  Problems can be like an “ooze” in an organization.
    Now that my tail feathers are ruffled, I can simmer down – perhaps a nap will do me good!
    Thanks for the great post Michael.
    Live Beyond Awesome.
    Jen

    • http://TillerFamily.org/ John Tiller

      So true, Jen.  This usually happens when the leader is too intimated to initiate constructive confrontation.  Or if the leader simply doesn’t take the time to invest with the individual.  Either way, it’s very frustrating and unproductive.

      BTW, I’m going to take your advice and Live Beyond Awesome today! 

    • http://cherionethingivelearned.blogspot.com/ Cheri Gregory

      Jen, you took the words right out of my mouth! Our joke when someone makes a mistake is “Uh-oh, you’re gonna be an agenda item this week!”  

      This is especially frustrating when no effort has been made to discover the why behind the issue. One staff member, who always dresses very professionally,  triggered a “no jeans on the church platform” rule. Nobody bothered to learn that he’d been in jeans because he’d spent the prior 8 hours fixing major problems with the church sound system and never made it home to eat lunch or supper, let alone change clothes. 

      Certainly, a one-on-one discussion of how to prevent this in the future would be appropriate: more help w/sound…bringing food and a change of clothes to the church…

      But the group announcement was insulting to all and resulted in a loss of trust.

  • http://www.doublehockeysticks.com/ Susie

    One of the greatest frustrations I see is when an action is incorrect, but a supervisor addresses it with an incorrect negative motive.  For example, maybe an employee followed the directions given, but the supervisor expected something they didn’t articulate.  The employee would be glad to do it differently if so instructed, but instead the manager says the employee is selfish or uncommitted to the organization or some other negative motive.  Creates an unhelpful, unnecessary mess (to say the least!)!

  • L2Hess

    Boy did you nail the big four! I work in education, and we’ve discovered (not surprisingly) that the longer it has been since a supervisor has been running his or her own classroom, the more entrenched these four behaviors are. We often wish those at the top could walk in our shoes for a week. A day isn’t long enough to truly see what the job is like. To be fair, I’m sure we don’t fully understand the pressures they operate under either, but it seems that some open communication could resolve both of those things. Without mutual trust, though, that’s not possible.

    • http://TillerFamily.org/ John Tiller

      Well, said!  Education is an especially tough industry because of the red tape involved.   This makes opening up communication lines all the more important!

    • Tracy Brininstool

      I agree with you.  I used to work in a VERY large school system and of course the larger it gets, the more magnified these issues become.  However, on another note, I just wanted to say from one educator to another, I used to do this exact thing with my students.  (I taught the upper grades at the elementary level).  Once a month (or twice if necessary) I would schedule an “Advisory Committee” meaning.  I explained to my students that advisory meant I would receive advice and input from them on what was working well and not working well in our classroom.  Initially they voted in 6 people, 3 boys and 3 girls whom they felt they (as students) could talk to and those that they felt would adequately relay their concerns, frustrations, or praises.  Each month I would announce when the next meeting was going to be, and ask for any items to be on the agenda.  I would then quickly type up an agenda and allow them to see it during the meeting.  The last bullet point on the agenda was always the category of “other” because let’s face it these are kids and sometimes things just came up that they needed to talk about (or that they remembered at the last minute, but not in time to be put on the agenda).  Also, another caveat was that anyone of the students could come to the meeting (not just the appointed members).  I did this for a few reasons, 1) I like allowing the voting system to work because at it did allow students to appoint who they saw as leaders (popularity hasn’t quite become an issue with this grade level) 2) it allowed students the opportunity to make the choice not to attend (because let’s face it, it’s during their lunch (aka social time), but they could still have their voices heard.  One time a very carefree student attended a meeting, I think mainly because he thought we were in the classroom having a party or something and he was missing out.  After the meeting is over, he inquired is always like that in the meetings?  And I knew what he meant, it was very dialogued based and on topic, and I responded in the affirmative, and he said “oh, I thought it was something totally different”…needless to say, he never came back to a meeting, but he was the kind of kid who needed an outlet in the day, and recess and lunch were those for him.  The third reason  is kept the meeting from getting too large and then not having adequate time to for everyone to be heard.  If I had too many non-ad students want to come, we would just hold 2 meetings that month.  At the very end of the meeting, students would fill out a very quick questionnaire about whether they enjoyed the meeting, felt it was productive, and what they would change for the next one.  My only job in this meeting was to listen (and to not allow my face to display any emotion when points of criticism were brought up).  These meetings were their chance to communicate how they perceived things.  And the end result is often one meeting would bleed over into another one, and typically it might take us 2 or 3 lunches to get through an official meeting (we only had 20 minute lunches) but it was SO WORTH it!!!!  One last thing to note, students could never talk about students by name or bring up issues about other teachers in front of their peers.  I had to be very careful about protecting what we talked about, while recognizing that these are kids and they were going to go back and relay what was discussed to everyone.  So I never wanted anyone to get their feelings hurt or to undermine loyalty and trust among my colleagues.  We worked  A LOT on using “I” statements and talking about how our perceptions aren’t necessarily the way everyone else sees it.  For example, they couldn’t say “you seem to like Little Johnny better than so and so.”  But they could say I am concerned that maybe certain students receive more attention than others, and I would help them get their point across without divulging specific information.  On that same questionnaire, there was also an option to have a private chat with me and there was a section titled straight talk.  This just allowed them to say whatever they wanted.  (Basically they could use names here because only I would see it.)  Anyhow, my post was much longer than I anticipated, but I really loved this and while I gave up lunch/break time from the kids to be with them, it was just SO SO worth it.  I really learned a lot from them.

      • Lisa Lawmaster Hess

        Many of our teachers regularly hold class meetings to do just what you are describing, Tracy. It is a great idea, and a great way to empower kids by teaching them how to respectfully institute change.

        I am a school counselor, so I’m in a unique position when it comes to student input :-) When we lose sight of what it is to be “the little people,” we miss a unique perspective.

  • Larry Thompson

    Another thing I have seen supervisors in Christian organizations do is listen and act on others comments and gossip about another coworker. It is very rare that a supervisor even asks if they have talked to the person about the issue they are “throwing them under the bus”about.

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

      Gossip is another one of Dave Ramsey’s 5 Enemies of Organizational Unity. In fact, it’s the one he seems to feel the strongest about. In his words, he warns a gossip ONCE. After that, he/she is fired.

      You can listen to his podcasts here: http://www.daveramsey.com/entreleadership/podcast

  • Elizabeth

    Too high of expectations.  I realize I’m in the minority, but I always push myself harder than anyone else pushes me.  So, if a supervisor’s expectations are “too high,” I still try to meet and even exceed them.  I have a position where, in order to get top scores, I have to get 100% every single month.  This simply isn’t possible, so it leaves me feeling both disheartened and powerless.  If I get a 99%, it’s not good enough.  And if I’ve already had a 99% earlier in the year, even 100% isn’t good enough.

  • https://www.bloggoround.com/ Jonathan Thompson

    Sounds like it would also be a good idea to have an event called “Subs with the Sups.”

    Not only could you get their feedback and their side of the story, but you could relay anonymously some of the issues from their subordinates.

  • Bob Morales

    micro-managing the employee’s work…Hire them to do a job, then “coach’ them to success

    • http://TillerFamily.org/ John Tiller

      Well said, Bob!  Of course, there are times when micro-mgmt is appropriate, but there are way too many times that it happens when inappropriate.  

      I remember a time when the President of my regional banking organization (at the time, my third-level superior or my boss’s, boss’s, boss) sat with me for a half day telling me how to run the details of a project for which they had hired me to run as the “expert”.  I understood the Pres wanting to be informed because the project was important to the organization.  However, I told my boss candidly, “Really, you should just fire me and save the organization my salary, if our bosses are going to run this project themselves.”  

  • TracyS

    Setting aside the serious issues within the organization to focus on the petty frustrations:
      1) Making us all rewrite our goals in the format of the acronym-du-jour of the latest management book she’s read. I’m working on them this week, so that’s why it was #1.2) Taking our questions asking her to clarify schedules and responsibilities and spinning them to sound like we are asking for favors (“I can tell by your question about whether I need you to come in early on Friday since X is having outpatient surgery,  that you really want to be able to leave early Friday afternoon, so, since it is so important to you, I will let you do this”).  My blood pressure is going up as I write this!3) Making us take online personality evaluations for our performance reviews last year.  I asked her if this was a mandate from above and she said no, and I told her I was uncomfortable about it, but she said she “needed them”. I need a new job.

  • Roxdickerson

    One other source of frustration is when the supervisor does not go to bat for employees and removes obstacles the employees don’t have the authority to remove.

  • http://blog.cyberquill.com/ Cyberquill

    There’s method behind the madness of holding frequent meetings. I think most supervisors have a very clear idea what want to accomplish, namely to give themselves a credible excuse for refusing to deal with anyone they don’t wish to deal with at any given moment; for if they spend a lot of time in meetings, word gets around that they spend a lot of time in meetings, and the more they do, the more  credible their assistants’ excuse “Mr So-and-so is unavailable right now—he’s in a meeting” becomes even at those times when they aren’t in a meeting.

  • Chinamom3078

    I immediately thought of the cluelessness of the “Undercover Bosses”.  Interesting how many of them miss what I would assume is obvious. Reflecting back on my own experiences as worker and supervisor, I know I missed the obvious too. Many opportunities were missed to have both personal and work related conversations which would have helped us in productivity and feeling valued.  

    • http://TillerFamily.org/ John Tiller

      Great perspective! Good point, also, that opening up that communication line is so unusual and dramatic, that it has made for a successful TV show!

  • http://www.suttonparks.com/ Sutton Parks

    What a great idea!  Most people in upper management I have encountered feel a certain loyalty to their managers and, since upper management doesn’t know what’s going on most of the time, they will side with their managers.  

    Not listening, not caring and jumping to their own conclusions were constant frustrations my peers and I had when I was in corporate America.   When I had a boss that would listen and that cared I was loyal and a very hard worker.  Most of the time I didn’t have a boss like that and I let that affect my actions as an employee.   

    It is rare for a CEO to hang with it’s “front line employees”.  I’m sure your people loved you for it!  It’s a great idea!

  • Gingrichemail

    Supervisors play favorites by listening to some ideas with bias and not all ideas with open eyes.  They listen to the people they are closer to or they like better for whatever reason.  One guy could say something and the person the supervisor likes might say the same thing in a little different way, and suddenly it’s a “great idea!”  Is this just human nature?  I see this same kind of thing on my sons’ baseball teams and classrooms.  We all want to be liked by our peers.  That’s one of the reasons we try so hard to impress and think of better ways of doing things. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/phillipshumake Phillip Shumake

    Looks like it’s time for me to host a “Pizza with the Preacher” meeting!  Thanks for the always practical guidance. I know I am growing from your experience!

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

      Great idea, Phillip. Let us know how it goes!

  • http://brettcohrs.com Brett

    How about confusion on the supervisory structure? Who is supposed to be leading whom? 

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

      Brett, a lack of proper structure can be very frustrating. It leaves many people left wondering “Who do I report to?” or “What does my employer want out of me?” How would you go about correcting this type of situation?

      • http://brettcohrs.com Brett

        Luckily, it’s a smallish organization, so you can usually survey the 3-5 managers who might be the point person for a particular issue. The fun thing is that I’ve been put in a sort of management position and since there is an unclear structure, I’m treating this situation as an opportunity to lead a small division in a way that might make sense. I don’t have ‘official’ direct reports, so I’m just hoping to serve and lead as well as I can and see what happens.

        • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

          That’s awesome Brett. It’s great to see you taking the opportunity by the horns and running with it as if you were the lead person. Keep it up and you’ll be noticed for sure.

  • http://www.workyouenjoy.com Adam Rico

    So many supervisors never ask their employees what they want in their careers and how they can help them. I recently conducted a workshop with managers and asked them how many of them had ever had that sort of conversation with their supervisor. Only one person raised their hand. No wonder they don’t do it with their own employees.  

    Supervisors are often blindsided when their employee resigns because they never had a conversation about where their employee wanted to take their career. It’s a very simple thing to do and it can reap great benefits.

  • http://www.ninanesdoly.com/ Nina Nesdoly

    My supervisor means well, but things often end up awkward and frustrating. Every now and then he tells me that we are going to have a 10-minute meeting at the beginning of all of my shifts, and that day we do have one. 

    He usually tells me what my job is (give orientations, clean the weight room) and tells me that the gym received a complaint about someone else not doing their job, and that I need to do it now, even though it isn’t my responsibility.  Then we don’t have another 10-minute meeting for weeks. The lack of structure in a) having the meetings randomly instead of each shift b) how unprepared he is for these meetings and c) the gym’s inability to have each staff do their own job, is tiring. I enjoy my shift more now that I work on my supervisors day off.

  • http://CaptivatingCappadocia.com Duke Dillard

    I have not read all the comments so this may be a repeat, but you are making the point that Buckingham and ? make in the book, First, Break All the Rules. Great book. I highly recommend it. They give 12 questions to ask whose answers tell you everything you need to know as a company leader. The key point is that supervisors (one level up) are the key to people succeeding at work.

    • Tracy B

      Thanks for the book suggestion!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Brian-Taylor/1286512656 Brian Taylor

    I often found as an employee that what frustrated me was when a supervisor pretended to have the answers fully knowing they didn’t have the slightest idea.

    • Jim Martin

      I agree Brian.  Sometimes it is refreshing to simply hear (or say) “I don’t know.”  Quite often, it is obvious to others anyway.

  • http://www.kylechowning.com/ Kyle Chowning

    This makes me wonder if I’m frustrating my employees, but don’t even know it. It can be dangerous when you think you’re doing okay, but find out that you’re really not. 

    Looks like I have some digging to do. :)

    Kyle

    • Tracy Brininstool

      Kyle- I attend North Point in Alpharetta, GA.  This past Sunday Jeff Henderson just began a sermon series titled Climate Change and it addresses this very issue.  It was about how it’s easy for us to recognize when others frustrate us, but what about if we are the source of frustration.  He assigned an action item that kind of goes along with your plan to do some “digging”  Here’s a link to the message if you are interested.  http://www.northpoint.org/messages/climate-change

      • http://www.kylechowning.com/ Kyle Chowning

        Thanks for sending this Tracy! Much appreciated.

      • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

         Thanks for sharing this resource, Tracy.

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

      Guess that means some weekday pizza parties with the employees? (-:

  • Eemurrell

    Good supervision comes from the top down. IF my supervisor is being pressured from above, he is more likely to give me grief. A company of people trying to produce at an optimal pace has to have a culture of ‘we’re all in this together.’

  • Bonnie Clark

    In reading the comments, I see all kinds of ways that supervisors can frustrate their employees.  However, I believe that my job as an employee is to take control of my own situation and respectfully lead up.  I read a great book by Susan Scott called “Fierce Conversations” which provides strategies to overcome barriers to real conversations and improve clarity and understanding.  She calls a fierce conversation one in which we come out from behind ourselves into the conversation and make it real. 

    If there is an issue with my supervisor, I think it is my responsibility to book a meeting with him/her to discuss it.  I can’t always wait to be invited to a “pizza with the prez” meeting. 

    Susan encourages you to:

    - name the issue
    - provide a specific example
    - describe your emotions
    - clarify what’s at stake
    - identify your contribution to the problem
    - indicate a wish to resolve the issue; and
    - invite a response

    Then pause, and actually wait for a response, and LISTEN.  The more emotionally loaded the subject, the more she encourages us to “let silence do the heavy lifting”.

    If I have a supervisor that is responsive, my situation is likely to improve.  If I’ve provided respectful feedback, I might even become a more trusted employee.  If neither occur, it might be a sign to look for another job.

  • Gary

    Mike,  one of the ways I repeatedly discover when I consult with a new organization, is the fact that managers rarely know the full width or depth of a particular employee’s level of responsibility.  While assignments or responsibilities are given out incrementally, there is never an appreciation of the complete list of things an employee must cover or get done. The first time a manager sees to entire list is when the employee is leaving the organization.

  • Mrunion28

    One of the most destructive problems I have seen is the over use of delegation.  Project managers where I work tend to want someone else to problem solve.  One day I needed assistance immediately to accomplish a supervisor-imposed deadline.  He left me alone to tackle the problem saying he’d be back soon.  Two hours later, the supervisor brought over two other associates.  I had already forfeited my lunch and handled the problem.  My response was “I needed you two hours ago.  It’s done now.”  My manager’s response, “I knew you could do it.”  Hmm… In my opinion, all he accomplished was reinforcing my original opinion (which I will gladly keep to myself).  ;)

  • http://www.liveyourwhy.net/ Terry Hadaway

    It is frustrating when an organization promotes a leadership style and working environment that exists only in the books it quotes. http://goo.gl/3pqnV

    • Tracy

      Yes, yes, yes!  The hypocrisy is soul-sucking and then you can never have a discussion on how to improve things because all you get is slogans.

  • http://www.matthewreedcoaching.com/ Matthew Reed

    An area where I have frustrated others, and have been frustrated by supervisors, is in the area of taking the right follow-through steps following one of the too-often scheduled meetings. No excuses here, though I think the ‘too many meetings’ perpetuates this particular problem. The thought people have coming out of these meetings is: “Things don’t get done for this meeting? No worries, another one will soon follow.”
    Follow-through with purposefulness is a place where I have received coaching to great results.  Now my values and planning help me to not let those follow-through problems happen as a provider of services to clients, to co-workers, those I work for, and those who work for me.

    • Jim Martin

      Matthew, you make a great point here.  I also think that too many meetings perpetuates the follow-through problem.

  • http://www.davidpmariano.com/ Dave Mariano

    Michael, your employees were lucky that those were their complaints. It’s probably a testament to the Thomas Nelson culture. In the past I’ve been most frustrated with issues of character and lack of vision. Lying and too much “spin” drove me crazy. I also had a hard time when Company values were preached but not lived. Probably one of the most frustrating things was when the leader didn’t have a clear vision and, as a result, would change strategies every 6 months when things didn’t work as quickly as he desired. It made it tough to build any momentum.

  • Saulda

    Micromanaging those who have already proven they can work with little supervision and holding some individuals to a far higher standard than others while titles and and pay scales are similar.

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

      Saulda, great point. How do you think supervisors could go about empowering their employees to be able to do that?

  • http://www.tnealtarver.wordpress.com TNeal

    My wife loves her job as a children’s librarian–perhaps her favorite all-time position (the kids certainly respond well to her; think “traveling with a rock star” when I’m out in public with her). Her biggest frustration is with the her supervisor, the head librarian. In Ellen’s case, she feels well equipped for the job but constantly questioned by the boss, a maxed-out micro-manager. That micro-managing does slow down the decision process and even squelches good ideas.

  • Tom Burton

    When reading the memoirs of Ulysses S Grant he had made an interesting statement and it went something like this, “Rather than look for my next advancement I just performed the job to the best of my ability and left promotion to Divine Providence.”  He then discussed how making decisions with positioning oneself for promotion often conflicted with what was the best for the situation at hand and always lead to compromise at the least and out right wrong decisions at the worst leading to disaster.  The principle of doing  your best and what is right without consideration for  organizations welfare is what is missing in our society today. Of course the buck stops in the CEO’s office but at least here if we make mistakes no one gets killed! Thanks for you post and the idea of Pizza with the Prez has huge ramifications for those who will do it!

    • Jim Martin

      Thanks Tom.  Great quote by U.S. Grant!

  • http://www.brianhinkley.com/ Brian Hinkley

    I like this idea. Where I work we have a higher lever leader who has monthly “Cross Talk” meetings with employees. Supervisors aren’t invited.

    He will discuss anything you want to talk about, including your cat who was just as scared at the sight of a mouse running across the room as your were.

  • justmerach

    I resonate with Point 3, though from a different angle.

    My biggest struggle has been with managers who don’t understand the energy-management and creative dynamic of my job.  

    Software engineering requires extended periods of uninterrupted concentration.  (Ideally suited for us introverts :-) )  So, a 1h meeting smack in the middle of the afternoon can shoot pretty much the whole afternoon.  It is not the hour meeting so much as the slicing up of the time around it.

    I’ve got a remote manager right now (2h timezone difference).  I would have expected having challenges around this issue.  But he’s a developer himself and so he gets it, and I’ve far far less hassle ( + more productive time) with his supervision, than with my previous manager, who had all the calandar freedom in the world to plan intelligently.

    (And… for the amusement of geeks :-) ) the best articulation of this I have found was this blog post: http://christinemarie.com/why-programmers-sleep-at-night/  (Sorry, I couldn’t find the original post on the authors blog: http://swizec.com/blog/)

    • Jim Martin

      Your comment is helpful (as well as your link) in helping me understand this from a creative persons point of view.  Thanks!

  • Kathryn

    I work in retail and I am often frustrated because my manager hasn’t told about procedures she wants followed, or else tells me to do something one way after telling me to do it another way.  I feel ignorant and unproductive.  Also, I am frustrated when she comes to work in a bad mood and I have to pussy foot around her.  I get nervous and make mistakes and end up hating my job.  And I really do like my job!

    • Jim Martin

      Kathryn, what you describe must be not only frustrating and maddening, but exhausting.  The irony here is that in spite of this frustration with your manager, you do like your job.  I suspect this could be repeated by many other people, again and again.

  • http://www.nginaotiende.blogspot.com/ Ngina Otiende

    I think sometimes supervisors pass down what they receive from above. Personally, I was guilty of some of these gaffes (and not proud of it). Mostly because that’s how my bosses operated themselves. It was hard to get things moving when sandwiched between two immovable forces. Many things e.g slow work processes, ended up trickling own to my staff. 

    I agree with you Michael – I may not change my boss, but I can change me. 

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

      You make a great point, Ngina. I’ve caught myself doing the very thing (as a manager) that frustrated me when my boss did it. Sometimes feeling powerless to change a situation can lead you to “give in” and become that which you can’t stand. “If you can beat Œem, join Œem.” Not the most healthy response, but it does happen.

  • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

    I think you’ve hit the nail on the head Michael. In my previous positions, I’ve experienced supervisors that have exhibited all of these traits. The most frustrating being Supervisors that are not responsive/follow-through. Drives you nuts when you’re trying to get something done and then it falls by the wayside.

    Another frustration has been supervisors who have forgotten where they came from. Throwing the perks of the position in the faces of their employees. Acting like they don’t know what you’re going through in the position when they complained about it before. It’s amazing how quickly people can forget this… 

  • Anonymous

    Although I think my boss and my boss’s boss and my boss’s boss’s boss are great, I am struggling with my job because, although I was asked to speak at a conference and I was allowed to go, I had to take my own time to do it because it’s “not in my job description.”  It’s frustrating because I do speak frequently for ministry but I am not eligible for that type of position at work because I am the wrong gender.  ARrggh.

  • Tim

    Michael, your latest post has put a big smile on my face! I can identify every single one of these issues occurring at my last company. In fact they contributed to me moving to a new job.
    It’s sad, a lot of great people left that company because of the senior staff thinking they could get away with being late, not replying promptly and calling endless meetings as, in their mind, they were more important than the regular employees and they didn’t have to follow the same rules as the rest of us.
    I firmly believe that experience was helpful towards my career. Looking at the mistakes made by my old employers, I know how not to do things.
    Hopefully your post will help prevent some managers annoy their staff the way I felt. At least it’s not just me that gets frustrated by these issues.

  • Provocationofgrace

    I can relate to what you are saying. I work for a large monolithic corporation. Directives are normally given somewhere above, but we don’t have access to the people that make them. When company policy and formulated corporate templates are given to us, we are expected to fall within a 98% productivity range on top of many other strict guidelines. There was a time when it wasn’t like this. However, freedom in the workplace is now prohibited. We have no access to the decision makers, therefore, we have no recourse. If we fall short one month, we are placed on the first step of discipline. There are four steps. We always refer to it as a machine, and pray that we don’t get ground up in it.  I am not sure, but it seems like our immediate supervisors understand what we do in the field. However, when we explain our plight when falling short for some reason or another, they always say: “I understand, but that is just the way it is.” We have a standard that technicians aren’t suppose to get a 4% re-trip (A re-trip is having to return to the customer’s premises a second time within a months time). A friend of mine received a 4.3% this month  and is going to be placed on the first step of discipline. Two of his re-trips were due to circumstances beyond his control. When he explained it to his supervisor, he just told him that there was nothing he could do. Rules are rules! He said. Our problem is that there is nobody to reason with. Many supervisors are graded in different ways, and so that they don’t get in trouble, they do a lot of blame-shifting. I almost got in trouble today due to a communication problem between myself and the supervisor over the project I was working on. We didn’t connect on a particular detail and it almost hindered the whole effort. However, I prayed for success and this time the Lord delivered me from the wrath of the machine. I was threatened with discipline, but my efforts were approved by an upper manager. Come to find out, the supervisor who I had not articulated to me what the company standard was, was afraid that the budget wasn’t going to get approved for my project. He was ready to throw me under the bus. Nevertheless, with a lot of prayer, God blessed my efforts. I wish that I could sit down with the people who make these standards and find out why, and I would be hopeful that they would like to hear my thoughts, even if they don’t agree.

  • http://talesofwork.com/ kimanzi constable

    By telling them to do things they’re not willing to do, by not being honest.

  • http://www.theworld4realz.com/ Andi-Roo

    I work for a major corporation as a retail manager. One of my biggest problems with this company is that no one will carry bad news for you. We were bought out by said “major corporation” about a year ago and our retail model differed greatly than that of this institution. Mostly in the sense that it is a big box chain trying to fit their big box rules and procedures into our small box store that they bought out. It has been nearly a year now and we have been through 2 District managers. Even after all this time, no one is trying to figure out what is wrong. They have their own version of “small box” stores that they ran before they bought us, both of these are not doing well (as far as they are concerned). It seems to me that if my DM’s were not so worried about shaking things up a little, that some of the valuable information we have provided (having run these small box stores for decades, most of us anyway) would filter through to the top and maybe cause someone to rethink how they treat these style stores. Instead, what we here as an entire district of 30 stores is that we are not performing to their standards and we have to work harder and longer to achieve the desired results. The problem is, certain things are nearly impossible to accomplish because of the payroll hours allocated to this size store, other obstacles are that we are expected to hit the same add on sales marks that the big box stores do even though it is proven that the longer you’re in a store the more you will buy. See empathic listening…

  • http://abetterpossession.wordpress.com/ Craig Hamilton

    Great post! 

    As a supervisor I think I’m either the first to know or the last to know. And I think you’re exactly right in working hard to create that culture where people are free to be honest without fear of getting in trouble for it.

    The questions that I like to ask my direct reports are:

    1) What am I doing that helps you do your job?
    2) What am I doing that hinders you doing your job?
    3) In this next quarter what’s one thing I can do that’s out of the ordinary that would most help you in moving forward?

  • Lead4Him1

    Supervisors who micro-manage their employees. They provide them with countless check lists and then change them regularly without communication. Supervisors who don’t listen well but instead want you to know how much they know about a given topic. Other than that my supervisor is great.

  • dallonchristensen

    From personal experience in my last company before starting my own business, another item to add is when a supervisor automatically assumes his/her way is the best way and just overhauls a process without clearly understanding why I was doing something in the first place. My manager came in and simply took things over with little input from me. It left me frustrated and feeling like what I was doing wasn’t any good at all.

    I’m all in favor of supervisors and managers looking to improve processes, and they can be a great set of new eyes when doing their jobs well. However, totally bulldozing through what someone has done for some time is not a great way to build trust among employees.

  • Efinance08

    I work for someone who does 1 through 4….,..

  • D Smith

    Excellently stated Michael.  One question though, and I think many of the readers here can help too is, what do you do when you’re the #2 guy in a small organization and the big boss is guilty of all 4 issues stated?  We’re really spinning our wheels when we could be moving forward and truly making a connection with our community.  It’s not just lack of leadership and accountability, it’s also lack of experience and knowledge about how business works, from systems and structures to planning and strategy.  We’ve been a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants operation for years and have barely gotten by on the backs of some extremely loyal and dedicated and hard-working people.  But we’re all really burned out and want change.  Do you have any possible solutions?

    Thanks.

    • http://TillerFamily.org/ John Tiller

      It sounds like you have a good feel for the leadership solution and are willing to help implement change.  If so, it might be time to have a heart-to-heart with the boss by presenting a problem-solution type message concluding with the benefits of making the necessary changes (increased production, profits, loyalty, and morale) and the potential cost of not doing so (no new growth, decline from loss of the loyal clients, lost employees from burnout).   Jim Collins’ book, How The Mighty Fall, could be a good tool for you to help you bring clarity to the state of your company and identify how to avoid failure.  

      Many times “fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants” leaders hire the #2 guy because they know that systems and structure are needed.  Your open, honest and constructive feedback and suggestions may be exactly what he’s looking for.

      However, if you discover that the boss is not open to it, I would keep your eyes open for an opportunity with another team where improvement is welcome.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      If it were me, I would work to make sure I had other employment options. Assuming you do, I would sit down with the boss and ask for permission to be candid. Then I would tell him—kindly but truthfully—what he needs to hear.
      If he is a wise person, he (or she) will receive it with grace. If not, then you probably need to look elsewhere.
      Hope that helps.

  • Kate McClain

    One way that I, as a supervisor, frustrated my team is not giving appropriate feedback. I used to only give detailed feedback about what they did wrong, and never really acknowledged what they were doing well. Because of this, they felt under appreciated and weren’t very motivated to work for me. After realizing this, I started giving detailed feedback in areas they were doing well in addition to feedback on how to improve.

    Now, me team is more productive, their moral has improved, and their work displays excellence.

    • http://TillerFamily.org/ John Tiller

      Kate, kudos for making an honest evaluation of your leadership and making adjustments. You deserve the rewards!

  • Julie Swihart

    Supervisors also frustrate by micromanaging.

    Instead, supervisors should properly train new employees, then for specific projects:

    1. Define the desired outcome
    2. Provide a deadline
    3. Be available for questions
    4. Let the employee figure it out

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

      Micromanagement is a near universal frustration among employees. Sounds like we could use a blog post on this subject! (hint, hint)

  • Guest

    Supervisors who don’t hold ANY meetings and do ALL communication through email are just as frustrating. 

  • http://www.enmast.com/ Devan Perine

    I know the exact frustration! I’ve had bosses that would run really late to meetings and we’d get barely anytime to go over what we needed to discuss. Because of it, we would never get to accomplish anything and I wouldn’t be able to make an appointment to meet with them until the following week. 

    Then best yet – they’d have an appointment or meeting right after mine, and made sure we got done early so they wouldn’t be late, squishing my 45 minute meeting a 15 minute meeting. I didn’t feel like I was respected or my time and work was valued..

    I just wrote a post on this same topic the other day – but from the employee’s point of view and what it feels like. 

    I would really love to get your thoughts on it, Michael. 

    When the leader doesn’t lead – an employee’s point of view: http://ow.ly/aYJ1D

  • Phyllis Twombly

    During district meetings the company I used to work for didn’t want to give attendees time to relax and explore the city the meeting was in. In effect, we were supposed to put in unpaid overtime because the company had paid for travel and hotel expenses. While it wasn’t the case a few decades ago the more the company lost ground the worse it became, resulting in a lot of absenteeism during the meetings.

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  • http://www.48dayrebel.com/ Jonathan Brown

    One of the best books I have read on the subject is Hans Finzel’s : Top Ten Mistakes Leaders Make. Many bosses have the ” I’m in charge” mentality’ (Top Down Attitude/ # 1 Mistake)   because they work over their employees not beside them. It’s like they think they are the only one who has a brain!

  • Disgruntled

    They always criticize, and pass blame, but they never encourage or praise. The atmosphere become very heavy and negative and it is becoming harder and harder to digest. Soon I will be ready to walk away from that horrid place.

  • http://www.leadingeveryday.com/ Juan Cruz Jr

    Supervisors send too many emails. 

  • Glenn Nigel

    Excessive control can be a very demoralizing.  Favoritism towards a few members in the group can result in a lack of trust among members of the same group and also encourage group ism.

  • Sally

    Favoritism toward employees where some can “get away with it” and others must tow the line.

  • Kelechi

    Michael,
    You need a print button for your web pages that allows one to print the article without it appearing garbled

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Thanks. There is one at the bottom of each post where it says, Share and Enjoy. Click on the PrintFriendly button.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1123723512 Don McBride

    There are many times I feel like I’m not getting accurate information and I feel at the mercy of those who are presenting information to me. I have to trust them, and if I’m wrong, I become part of the monster of a problem. This was a great post and I’m adding it to my MBWA. 

  • Tim B

    Another to add to the list is the “Grossly incompetant, highly vindictive and opportunistic” supervisor.  I spend most of my time either covering his stupidity or laying low so that I don’t become the target of a witch hunt.. (Usually intended to throw dirt on you to take the focus off of himself.)  What’s more frustrating is our entire department has told upper management about the ongoing issues, but nothing is done either because he has sucked up to the right people or he is friends with others.  It’s incredibly demoralizing and highly aggravating.

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  • Jane

    These are good topics, but I have run into Supervisors who are concern about maintain his or her positions and are willing to hiring other managers who job is to interferer with the employees productivity (aka high turn over)! Profit over productivity is a big issue and now we are seeing guides on how not to take it personal by being professional in every book store and library.

  • Carlos

    Have a supervisor, and after a few months take away their privilege and put them to work as regular employee after another person has come to take your place. Is that even possible?