your emotions impact your staff’s productivity, what a manager’s schedule really looks like, and more

Over at Intuit QuickBase’s Fast Track blog today, I take a look at several interesting work-related stories in the news right now: how manager’s emotions can impact employees’ productivity, the difference between a manager’s schedule and a “maker’s” schedule, and more. You can read it here.

{ 36 comments… read them below }

  1. Lily Rowan*

    That Manager’s Schedule is fascinating! And is making me think that I should consolidate my internal meetings more effectively. As it is now, I feel like they wreck half the week.

    1. The IT Manager*

      I agree. I can’t quite make my schedule that blocky – I am at the mercy of others for some scheduling – but I think I will think about it as my project ramps up and I start to schedule a lot of meetings.

    2. Jen RO*

      It was equal parts fascinating and depressing to me. (And I am happy I at least have *some* time to actually do my work outside of weekends!)

  2. Jay*

    I’ve gone through the trauma of manager’s schedule, but with the painful addition of having to be the maker as well. I don’t know if it’s consolidation of roles, bad management above, or what – but I’ve had to deal with a lot of being a full time manager while also being a full time maker. And I don’t mean that in the “I’m a bad delegator” sense. I mean, having clients assigned where it’s explicitly laid out that I will be the point of contact for the client, I will be delivering work, etc, etc. Yet another reason I went into business for myself.

    Anyway, I meant to say that it seems problematic that managers are always in meetings. In my previous roles I consolidated and declined meetings like crazy and still had 6-7 hours/day of them. And when you’re in meetings all the time, you’re not available to your team. Even if your team doesn’t *need* you, there is a clear benefit to you just being visible and theoretically available to them. When your employees start thinking you’re not available to them because you’re busy in meetings all the time, it seems to create a lot of morale issues.

    1. Another Recent Grad*

      The full time manager + full time maker thing is definitely happening at my office too — so the managers have to essentially be the FT manager during the day, and the FT maker during the evenings and weekends. And then our upper management dares to talk about work life balance. My own manager wonders why I don’t want to be promoted. Well, maybe it’s because I don’t want 2 jobs.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        That’s a standard academic position, as well.

        The results of the maker tasks (ie research and papers) count for the overwhelming majority of evaluations. But as people get more senior, they get more and more managerial tasks (and in universities, teaching). The standard solution is to do all the meetings and admin stuff during the day, and fit in the research and paper writing in the evenings, weekends, holidays, Christmas, Thanksgiving, etc. I’ve been told this directly by senior faculty – that this is how to succeed, and if you don’t do this, you’re obviously not a real scientist.

        Of course, this system doesn’t take into account the idea that some faculty members might not have a wife at home handling all of the parts of their life that aren’t work – cooking, cleaning, laundry, birthing, nursing and raising the children, caring for elderly parents…

        1. On the Tenure Track*

          Exactly this. I was told specifically that my teaching, management etc “do not count” Two peer reviewed articles and book revision due by Nov. 1st on top of national and local committee service and a paper to be presented in Nov.

    2. Lily Rowan*

      Yeah, my office is a lot like that, too — management isn’t valued, so you have to have a full-time maker’s job as well, essentially. But of course the management also takes all day!

  3. bolistoli*

    I think these are great tips. The one that makes me pause is related to the “feedback sandwich”. While I appreciate the phrase “What I like about that is…”, once you’ve been on the receiving end of the feedback sandwich too many times, it feels gimmicky and disingenuous. At my last company, it was a required method that managers had to use in reviews, so we heard it all the time. We started referring to it as the “sh*t sandwich”. For me personally, at that point I just wanted to hear what I could improve upon. As long as it’s not all negative, all the time, then I’m open to genuine, constructive criticism.

    1. Revolver Rani*

      Every suggestion in that third article sounded gimmicky and disingenuous to me. I can’t imagine someone saying any of those things to a coworker or report and not having it sound extremely patronizing. Top it off with the author’s hand-waving “It’s as easy as that!” and I come away with the suspicion that he is not as great a manager as he thinks he is.

    2. KarenT*

      I think from the management side, too, not only is it gimmicky the piece of negative feedback or constructive criticism is lost or weakened and doesn’t resonate with the recipient the way it should. If you say, “Bob you are so great with clients, but you mixed up the closing dates and it’s imperative you don’t do that again, also great job closing the Henderson account,” the middle piece is not going to sink in as strongly as you probably want it to.

      1. Retail Lifer*

        I’ve seen a lot of newly-promoted people do this…and then they quickly learn that what you said is exactly what happens. When you squeeze it in between two compliments, the issue often doesn’t sound nearly as serious as it actually is.

    3. Mallory Janis Ian*

      It seems like almost any effective method of communication (that people who are good at it use intuitively) can be rendered gimmicky and sh*t-sandwich-y by being distilled into a one-size-fits-all technique. People can tell when they’re being “handled” versus dealt with in a straightforward manner.

    4. Ad Astra*

      I much prefer more of an “open face feedback sandwich,” where I start with something positive like “Well, I really like the colors you chose/the direction you’re going/the overall message/whatever, but…” and then explain what I think should change. But this works a lot better when you’re giving feedback on a project or some other piece of work rather than giving feedback about someone’s performance in general.

  4. Ghost_Hunter*

    Interesting! I’m a maker but I use this myself. I always block out lunches to insure I get a mid-day break, and I also set aside time everyday to respond to that days list of requests. Before major projects, I also block out times to work on said project. Usually I can reschedule any incoming requests to fit in those boxes.

    One thing I will say re: schedules. Just because someone scheduled an appointment during your busy time doesn’t mean it has to stay there or that there isn’t flexibility. There are quite a lot of leaders at my current org who don’t bother to look at others availability when scheduling – they almost always accept my “propose new times”.

  5. AnotherHRPro*

    I find calendar blocking to be a life saver! Mine isn’t as extreme as in the article but it really does help you keep things prioritized. Before I started to do this, I felt like a scheduling victim – running from meeting to meeting without any control. As a manager, your calendar is one of the most important tools you have at your disposal – after all, it represents your time!

  6. periwinkle*

    My manager is adept at calendar blocking. The bonus is that he can move his blocked time around to accommodate emergencies. I’m just a maker but now I also put in those calendar blocks to allow uninterrupted project time (that can be moved in case of emergency). I never thought that I’d credit Outlook for saving my sanity…

  7. Mockingjay*

    Re the Maker’s schedule:

    I’d love to propose this type of calendar blocking to my project’s team leads. Most of us wear both maker and manager hats (even if we aren’t managers per se, we are responsible for controlling aspects of our tasks), and I could see where this would be useful to ensure uninterrupted blocks of time for “making,” which currently I have to fight for.

    Most mornings we tend to have the managerial or status meetings anyway, so there is already a logical division we can exploit. And 3 weeks ago the IT staff finally got the Conference room calendars online, so we can see just how many meetings we have.

    I just have to figure out how to present it. I feel like it could come off as critical of the team leads’ time management skills. Thoughts?

    1. J-nonymous*

      I’d try to build consensus. If you are experiencing this challenge, I bet others are too. Maybe in a project meeting (ha) ask if people are having challenges balancing the amount of work they’re expected to deliver with the number of meetings. If you only hear crickets then it’s possible no one else feels the challenge (or they’re afraid to speak up). But if they do speak up, bring up the article and see what they think.

      I think as long as a) they mostly agree that there are challenges and b) have some conversation around how to approach it, it won’t come off like you’re pushing this on them because they cannot manage their time. (Another thing to note if they do seem to take it that way is that *CEOs* have this challenge – so it’s not a reflection on them; it’s a reflection on the demands of business.)

    2. Wanna-Alp*

      Here’s an approach: Yay! An extra tool for us! This should make it easier for anyone who wants to make time blocks.

      Then see who takes advantage of the opportunity. If they don’t want to, I don’t think you can make them.

  8. Another Recent Grad*

    I’m not a manager but my manager does seem to be in meetings virtually all the time. Same goes for the other managers in our organization. They acknowledge the issues mentioned above and in the article but you definitely have to actively seek out a conversation with them or it won’t happen.

  9. Academic Librarian*

    I am a manager and maker. Managing happens during the day, making happens in evening and weekends. Just the way it is right now. Good news, I love my job. I did take all of last weekend off except for email. State Fair. Company staying over.

  10. Not So NewReader*

    I enjoyed the article on bosses’ emotions impacting their crews. I am baffled as to why this is not common knowledge. I would love to see a study that investigates why bosses cannot figure out “Gee, if I act nasty all day, I might lower morale. Maybe I shouldn’t do that.”

    But the points were spot on about employees refusing to work overtime because of an angry boss. There’s lots of other things that go on, also. For example, I have seen the wrong oil used on a machine, because the boss would not buy the correct oil. Weeks later the machine is down and broken. No one can figure out what happened. In another example, people bury their errors so that they will not get yelled at by the boss. Again, weeks later,”Why are we out of component Y? How did that happen?” And no one seems to know how that happened. Employees go into survival mode, which entails doing enough to survive an eight hour day and let the chips fall where they will on everything else.

    1. ScarletInThe Library*

      Yes! It becomes more about how to avoid pushing a button that would not be a big deal to a sensible person (like ordering a lot of labels because its the new fiscal year and new folders have to be created) than be efficient. It can be rough when the manager has a short-temper and one never knows what button it will be today. And the manager wonders why staff clam up and do not communicate.

    2. Cassie*

      I agree – to me, it’s so obvious! I definitely find that I am much less willing to volunteer for OCB when the person in charge is someone who is an Angry Boss compared to a Neutral or Nice Boss. I didn’t know there was a phrase for OCB – love it!

      It’s so frustrating because management and higher-ups just don’t seem to understand. They ask questions like “well, can you give us an example of how Angry Boss negatively affects your work?” even though you’ve already given a dozen examples. Employees are sitting in front of you, crying out of frustration about Angry Boss, and you’re like “hmmm, well, I suggest you keep an open mind about giving Angry Boss some time to improve”.

      Most people won’t tolerate a negative environment if they don’t have to. If I walk into a store with a negative/weird vibe, I just won’t go back. I’m not going to complain to store management, I’ll simply shop elsewhere. So managers/management who say they haven’t heard any complaints – maybe they’re not listening or seeing the hints.

    3. Graciosa*

      I think it’s a bit analogous to the Dunning-Kruger effect; managers who behave like this don’t perceive themselves accurately. They incorrectly believe themselves to be superior, which leads to refusing to listen to information that contradicts their beliefs (or might appear critical), frustration with “incompetent” subordinates, and the need to constantly express their annoyance that no one else in the company knows how to do anything right.

      I think I was very lucky to have had the experience of managing a team that was doing work I knew I did not know how to do. I was a fairly collaborative manager to begin with, but this forced me to spend a lot of time asking my team what was the best way to accomplish X, and what I could do to help improve Y. Then I had to listen to the answers, do what I was told, and trust that they were right about the work.

      Yes, good managers sometimes follow orders from their staff. I have also been known to issue orders to my boss, who also follows them.

      It is AMAZING the productivity improvements you can get by asking the team doing the work how to do it better. It is also a bit ironic that I, as a manager, get credit for this when the team did all the work (which I tell people at every opportunity, but there’s still some irony in the assumption).

      Unfortunately, this requires mutual trust between the boss and employees, and the boss’ willingness to accept that he or she does not know the best way to do everything. In my experience, angry bosses are also bosses who believe too strongly in their own superiority to stomach this kind of relationship with subordinates.

      They have no idea how much they lose because of this attitude.

    4. Anx*

      Ah, I’m so guilty of having buried my errors before…at a job where the boss had been to court-ordered anger management sessions several times.

  11. Not So NewReader*

    “Help me to understand….”

    While I agree with the overall idea here, that phrase can wear thin. I had a boss say that a lot. And you kind of knew when you heard the phrase you were in for it.

    Phrases wear out but the overall idea, when applied correctly is fine. If it feels like you are saying a certian phrase a lot, you probably are and it is probably time to find new wording. And in this specific example, “help me to understand”, make sure you not ticked off and just waiting to pounce. If you think you already understand, then do not ask for help with understanding. You could ask if you are missing parts of the story or if there were additional inputs that you never received.

    1. J*

      Yeah it sounds weird and a litter condescending. Just ask why. You’re the boss and the question asker, you have plenty of power in that respect. No need to ask people to “help you understand.”

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