a round-up of advice for managing people and projects

I write a bunch of stuff for QuickBase’s Fast Track blog. I worked with them to create a list that they’ve printed today of the best Fast Track posts from last year about managing people and projects — my articles and other people’s too. It covers everything from how to help staff members be more innovative to how to talk about a failing project. You can read it here.

{ 11 comments… read them below }

  1. EvilRecruiter*

    This is perfect timing – my first direct report starts on Monday. I was just sitting here thinking “What does one actually DO to manage someone?”

  2. Amber Rose*

    Any advice for making people do their jobs when nobody cares? I had to clean up year-end stuff and a bunch of monthly tasks haven’t been done since last June because “we were too busy.” Or they “lost the paperwork.” Like, that’s nice but this is a pretty important part of your job, the thing you are being paid to do, you don’t get to just decide not to do it. At least fill out the paperwork and lie that you did it, jeez.

    Sigh. I hate my job sometimes.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Are you their manager? If so, clear expectations, warning if they’re falling short, firing if you don’t see the improvement you need.

      If you’re not their manager, talk to their manager.

    2. kbrew*

      I have this same problem – and I set clear expectations and provide all information they need, etc. Everyone in my department is very set in their ways, so we’ve even gone the “this has to happen in order to survive in our market” talk, but very little change has happened. Some days, I just want to stop what I’m doing and look at them and be real: “You say you want to be promoted; you say you want a raise. You will barely do your job for 40 hours a week without me breathing down your neck. What part of what you’re doing makes you attractive for promotion (hint: time in doesn’t count)? What are you doing right now that is different or better from your last merit increase?”

      I don’t like going negative. I don’t think it helps the case or inspires people; I don’t like going autocratic, that’s not my personal style and I feel highly uncomfortable with babysitting. I just want people to do things without me having to hold their hands the entire way.

      /whiny baby attitude

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        People who will barely do their job without you breathing down your neck are not people you should be putting energy into trying to inspire. You need better people, seriously.

        1. kbrew*

          I know! But they are really good with their main job functions, but once it comes to stepping out of those job functions, expanding to being cross-functional, or altering the job functions to make them more efficient, productive, and profitable, it’s like the world is ending.

          The last quarter, our goal was to map the job functions, down to training-level processes, and improve them at the same time. The functions were split between two teams. I broke down the entire process for this and trained them on it; everyone was required to have one team meeting a week with everyone. If there were any issues with scheduling, find a mutual agreeable time, and I will be there to facilitate – note, I am not leading the teams or anything like that, my role was to ensure that the discussions remained on topic and in a forward-moving direction. There were some personal crises that were unavoidable for some, but otherwise, everything was set up to where there was plenty of time to accomplish the task.

          We have a very easygoing culture that gives a lot of allowances for time off, making up hours, etc. I’ve worked to promote professional development and provide resources because their job isn’t well-paid at all, so I’d love to see them either move up in the company or move on to a better position in another company, but they require skills to do so, but things devolve to “I want to be promoted”, “Okay, here are some additional responsibilities that will give you a leg up on that”, “Okay, thanks” and then I end up doing it myself.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I think then you have to decide what you really need from the people in those jobs: Can people perform their jobs successfully if they stick to just their main functions? Or do you really need people in the role who can step outside of those things? If it’s the former, then it’s a matter of you recognizing that and adjusting your expectations, and telling them honestly that what they’re doing is fine for the role they’re in but it means they aren’t likely to get promoted (and you being okay with that*). If it’s the latter, then I do think you probably need different people.

            * If you’re not okay with that, then I’d revisit that question of what you really need from people in the role.

          2. Gaara*

            So you aren’t actually telling them “I don’t see you doing these things, and as a result, I wouldn’t recommend you for promotion”? I think you should. That’s not, like, really negative. It’s you being honest with them about where they need to improve.

            1. krysb*

              I am very forward about why they aren’t getting promoted within the department. Some have asked the executive team what they could do to get promoted to another department, and the answer was “what did the other people do to get promoted,” which, while a lot of people were promoted in a very short amount of time during a fast growth period, they were promoted for a reason; but my employees think that those promotions were arbitrary. I’ve tried to explain that is not the case, but some feel that time-in is a reason to be promoted (thank god we’re moving away from that idea). On one hand, some will do anything you ask of them, but on the other hand, I have to stand on top of them to ensure it gets done. I have so many tasks outside of supervisory tasks that makes this almost impossible to do. [On a side note: the first thing I tell people is that I’m not a kindergarten teacher and I don’t have kids for a reason. I’m not a micromanager. I’m task-oriented, but as a leader, I definitely fall in the democratic range.] The main 4 have been with the company for 5 – 9 years, I’ve been with the company for 6, and their manager for 4.

              This has become more of the issue within the past year, when my boss and I started making these changes to make us more efficient and attractive to customers outside our niche. This all kicked off when I wrote a report on why we needed to change the pay structure for these employees, and the president and DoO succinctly responded with “get more revenue, lower costs”. Our niche portion of the industry is declining, but we’ve been able to come up with new ideas as to how to get more revenue without laying people off in order to lower costs (which, if we attract more work to increase revenue, we would need the people to perform the work).

              No one’s job is really on the line, other departments are covering us and the bosses are keeping us, despite our low profits, out of loyalty to the employees and nostalgia – but in the future, if they decide we’re not worth it anymore, 15 people would be losing their jobs. My boss and I are pretty safe from this and I could easily go on to another company if it came down to that. But some days I just want to scream. I’m trying to save their jobs, not my own.

              Sorry for the ranting. This is just eating at me. I feel like this thread is turning into the “Validate krysb’s feelings” thread.

  3. Smiling*

    Thank you. This is exactly what we need for some people in the office who are doing too much hand holding or offering to help too much (i.e., doing other people’s jobs for them and making excuses as to why the people can’t do the tasks they were assigned).

  4. a big fish in a small pond*

    This round up is fantastic! I love this format for a collection. Thank you for all of the wonderful resources and advice!

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