The top ten hardest things about managing people
Between 2003 and 2013, we asked 37,419 managers (from 891 different organizations), “What is the hardest thing for you about managing people?” We collected narrative verbatim responses to this open-ended question (along with others) in our on-line survey questionnaires.
There were no multiple choice answers to this question. Respondents answered the question unprompted using their own original words. As a result, we received thousands of idiosyncratic responses. Still the vast majority (87%) of responses (32,554) fell into one of ten most common challenges. Indeed, a strong plurality (43%) of responses (16,090) pointed to one of two challenges — clearly the top two challenges facing managers: “Not enough time…” (24%, 8,981) and “Giving negative feedback…” (19%, 7,109). Another 44% were distributed among nine more challenges. Among the remaining 13% of respondents, 5% were entirely idiosyncratic, while 8% of respondents mentioned at least one of nine common challenges.
What is the hardest thing about managing people?
#1 Not Enough Time…or too many people to manage (span of control). Insufficient time to attend to managing direct-reports due to other non-management tasks and responsibilities. (24%)
#2 Giving Negative Feedback… to employees regarding their performance. (19%)
#3 Different Personalities…of the various employees. Figuring out what works for each person depending on communication style, motivations and preferences. (6%)
#4 Interpersonal Conflict on the Team… between and among individual employees and cliques who don’t get along with each other. (6%)
#5 Balancing Being the Boss With Being a Friend…or being a neighbour or a relative… or just being “friendly.” (6%)
#6 Employees with Bad Attitudes…or other behavioural issues such as attendance, tardiness, personal issues, and conflict with coworkers. (5%)
#7 Dealing With Pressure and Shifting Priorities From My own Boss and other Higher Ups. Communicating changes to the team and help employees adapt, repeatedly. (5%)
#8 Cumbersome Lengthy Process to Fire…low performers… and/or to impose other negative consequences short of firing. (5%)
#9 Insufficient Authority and Discretion to Reward…high performers. (4%)
#10 Managing People in Remote Locations (4%)
Among the remaining 16%, the following challenges were mentioned by at least .5% of respondents:
- Managing people with a language gap (3%)
- Hiring the right people in the first place (1.5%)
- When good employees leave (1.5%)
- Getting employees to understand and follow instructions
- Employees with unreasonable expectations and demands (< 1%)
- Training employees so they can handle more responsibility (< 1%)
- Dealing with employees who lack basic skills (< 1%)
- Managing people who work a different schedule than I do (< 1%)
- Managing people of a different generation (< 1%)
- Moving from peer to leader (< 1%)
Bruce Tulgan is a speaker and the author of numerous books including the best seller It’s Okay to Be the Boss (2007), and the classic Managing Generation X (1995), as well as Not Everyone Gets a Trophy (2009), It’s Okay to Manage Your Boss (2010), and most recently, The 27 Challenges Managers Face (2014). Learn more at www.RainmakerThinking.com and follow Bruce on Twitter at @BruceTulgan.
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