Managers often have to deal with the most difficult situations in the workplace and are given a significant amount of responsibility for resolving the situations. Management degree students, aspiring managers, and new managers should review some of the most common situations to equip themselves for a quick and painless resolution.
1. Employee Grievances: Inevitably, employees have complaints about the workplace, and it’s the manager’s job to listen to the complaints. In many cases, an employee just wants to know that the manager hears and understands the grievance, agrees that it is a problem, and takes steps to escalate it to the proper person’s attention to get it fixed. Updating employees on what is being done about their grievances can help them feel valued.
2. Budget Cuts: Here is a common situation: You forecasted getting a $100,000 for your marketing budget, but your company’s leadership team cut your budget in half. This can be a manager’s worst nightmare, but it doesn’t have to be a cause for panic. There are plenty of ways to cut a department’s budget without changing its core functionality. For starters, managers should look for ways to reduce waste and inefficiencies in the department. Maybe the department could stop eating out for work lunches or switch to a paperless strategy to reduce printing costs. Only after these factors are considered should a manager consider cutting staff in the department, unless you feel that “rightsizing” is in order.
3. Valued Member Leaves Company: Employee turnover is always difficult on managers, but it’s even worse when the person who resigned was a valued member of the team. During this time, it’s the manager’s job to keep morale high among remaining employees and step in to take responsibility, or delegate responsibilities within your team. In addition, the manager should be open to discussing why the valued member left and what the company is doing to promote employees retention.
4. Interpersonal Conflict: Teams working together always have conflict, whether little or small, and managers often have to act as conflict resolution experts. Managers should talk to employees involved in a conflict separately and encourage them to let the differences slide and cooperate with their co-workers. Adjusting teams and work location can also smooth out long-term conflicts that are not being resolved.
5. Employee Requests: Inevitably, managers must handle employee requests for time off, increased pay, and adjustments to responsibilities. As a manager, fairness is key. Rather than playing favorites, it’s important to consider the interests of the team as a whole when approving time off requests and choosing people for promotions and raises. Knowing the company policies as a whole can also help approve requests in a consistent manner, keeping the other managers and their strategies in mind as well.
Clarity, fairness, and understanding are several of the keys for managers who are in the midst of difficult situations. Employees thrive with structure, but also with managers who are humans, not robots, and who are able to sense personal needs and respond appropriately. Managers get better at handling difficult situations as they gain experience, and new managers must remember that it’s normal to make some mistakes. Correcting these the next time around shows growth and improves workplace morale.