The Higher Ed Workplace Blog

How to Be the Manager Everyone Wants to Work For

I love my bossPeople leave managers, not companies. – Marcus Buckingham

In my 25 years in the workforce, I’ve been on the receiving end of many different management styles. I’ve reported to the my-way-or-the-highway manager, the micromanager, the laissez-faire manager, the perpetually cranky manager (huh … thinking back, I’ve had some pretty terrible managers!). Granted, most of these experiences were in non-professional-level part-time jobs I held as a teenager and throughout college, but still … dealing with these kinds of people made work incredibly unpleasant.

Thankfully, since I’ve been in the “grown-up” work world, I’ve had some really great managers — individuals who have led by example, who have allowed me the autonomy to do my own work in my own way while also providing guidance and direction, who have treated me as an equal rather than a subordinate, and who have helped me learn and grow in my profession.

The way I see it, to be successful as a manager, you need the right mix of compassion, flexibility, integrity, thoughtful leadership, due diligence and drive to help your employees succeed.

Whether you’re a manager yourself and could use some self-reflection, or if in your human resources role you’re looking for ways to develop the managers in your organization, here are some tips for how to hone your own skills and teach others to hone theirs … courtesy of Fred Rogan, director of human resources at Samford University and author of the book What Your Employer Meant to Tell You When They Made You a Manager.

Practice Selfless Management
The best managers put their employees’ needs before their own. Says Rogan, “Selfless managers make themselves accessible and available to employees, even when they may not feel like doing so. They think of their employees’ needs at work as just as important as their own. They are generous with their time in listening to and working with employees. They don’t put themselves first when planning time off. And they ensure their employees have the resources they need to perform their job, even if it means the manager has to give something up.”

Manage By Wandering Around
The best managers get out and about among their people. They drop by cubicles and offices to say “Hi,” they dole out compliments, they solicit feedback (and actually use that feedback), they ask “How’s it going?,” and they’re just generally visible. While “management by wandering around” is not a new concept, it is easy to fall off the radar of managers, especially at busy times of the year. Says Rogan, “Don’t be that supervisor that shuts herself in her office all day every day. It’s not effective, it’s not efficient and it’s not conducive to a collegial, collaborative work environment.” 

Communication Is Key
Great managers keep the lines of communication open in all directions — up and down, back and forth. In his book, Rogan offers several tips for managers to help them communicate more clearly. These include:

  • Be transparent. Employees appreciate being in the know — about departmental projects in which they may not be directly involved but which may still impact them in some way, about organization-wide strategies and initiatives, about mandates handed down from above. Unless it is confidential, share information, and do so on a regular basis.
  • Think before you speak. It’s critical in an employment setting that you engage your brain before speaking. Worst case scenario, how is what you say to an employee going to sound when repeated back to you by a plaintiff’s attorney?
  • Practice active listening. Be fully present in conversations, and listen for the point the speaker is trying to make as opposed to jumping to the point you think they are trying to make.
  • Be conscious of your non-verbal communication. You can sometimes say a lot without actually saying anything at all.
  • The manner is as important as the message. If you communicate in anger, frustration, etc., that manner is likely to confuse the message so badly that it won’t be understood or acted upon.

No doubt, managing people is hard work. While different individuals approach the job in different ways, there is a right way and a wrong way to manage. By making employees feel appreciated, valued, important and as if they are your equal, you can be the kind of manager everyone wants to work for. And by helping managers throughout your organization develop their supervisory skills, you can help your organization be the kind of employer everyone wants to work for.

Looking for management training resources? Visit the Management Training toolkit in CUPA-HR’s Knowledge Center.