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Common Challenges in Management

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Communication, conflict and performance management, and managing potential liabilities are all challenges that managers experience.

Here are some practical ways to address these common management challenges and to support and develop their managers:


Often, managers are not aware of the quality of their communication about expectations, changes, procedures and other work-related issues, or how their employees perceive their communication or interpersonal style. Help managers understand your unique communication and interpersonal style and how to "flex" this style in different situations. Provide managers with communication templates, scripts, tips, or checklists. Participate in a role play or dialogue with the manager to help him or her practice their skills and identify opportunities for improvement. Also, educate managers about common communication failures and how to avoid them, and encourage managers to notice signs of communication problems (misunderstandings, consistent performance problems, etc.). When all else fails, provide a personal trainer if communication problems persist

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Resolve the conflict

Many managers ignore problems and do not address conflicts with their employees or team directly. Whether it is performance problems, conflicts between team members, trust issues or personality clashes, managers are challenged to confront and address problems head-on and, as they arise, diffuse employees' feelings and emotions about the problem, listen to the needs and desires of both parties, obtain win-win solutions that lead to more productive and positive working relationships, and avoid future conflicts by fostering positive relationships with co-workers and recognizing the potential for conflict or problems early on.

Managing performance

Managers must balance meeting objectives, managing workloads and motivating employees. These issues, along with the fact that many managers are ill-equipped to provide regular and constructive feedback and may not understand the importance of documenting performance, can make performance management a challenge. To support them, incorporate ongoing performance feedback into the performance management process to ensure accountability. Create an easy method for managers to document performance, such as a database, register or journal. Provide support tools for managers, such as rewards, recognition, training and development to recognize and build on performance Most importantly, train managers in topics such as performance management, coaching and feedback, as many will not have had experience with these topics.

Managing protected employees

Most managers are not well versed in administering the ADA, FMLA, and other laws that protect certain groups of employees, but unknowingly find themselves handling an employee who requires an accommodation, leave, or falls into a protected class.

These situations must be handled delicately because of their legal nature, so managers must be made aware of them:
  • The legal grounds, such as the conditions or disabilities being protected
  • How to determine essential functions and reasonable accommodation
  • Requirements associated with FMLA (eligibility, duration, etc.)
  • Types of employees who are protected by law (gender, race, nationality, etc.)
  • Hiring and interviewing responsibilities (do's/do's, etc.)

Managing policies in a fair and consistent manner

One of the most common challenges for managers is to treat employees fairly and consistently. A manager may allow policies and standards to be ignored by some employees and not by others - or may ignore employment policies altogether. Stretching" the rules for some employees can open up a range of possible responsibilities and perceptions of bias and favoritism that have far-reaching negative effects on the workplace. Be sure to write clear policies and inform managers when changes have been made. Establish clear criteria for employment decisions, particularly when managers must distinguish between employees (recognition, reward, development, etc.). Also, clearly differentiate between policies where managers have discretion to implement them and those where they do not.

Addressing these management challenges before and after can prevent your organization from experiencing many problems and responsibilities. It is never too early to ensure that your supervisors and managers have the skills, tools, and support necessary to do their jobs effectively, so if your supervisor is just getting started, consider developing these important skills as soon as possible.

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