11/1/2001 | 6 MINUTE READ

For Improved Teamwork, Keep Them Informed

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No single action of the manager can earn the loyalty and full support of his people.


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No single action of the manager can earn the loyalty and full support of his people. However, one practice is probably more effective than most in making employees feel included—taking them into your confidence.

This demands good judgment, of course. Sometimes managers feel uneasy about divulging certain information to their people. There is no harm in keeping quiet, they reason, but there may be some risk in letting things out. So they pursue a "better-safe-than-sorry" strategy and button their lips.

In reality, it isn't always safe to be silent. Just as sharing information can build esprit de corps, withholding it can severely depress morale. When employees sense that you always play your cards close to the vest, you risk creating the impression that you mistrust them. Concealment, then, carries a risk.

This doesn't mean that you should indiscriminately tell all. Some information must necessarily be restricted. However, when there is a choice about sharing news of the department or of the company, playing it safe may be unwise.

Consider, for instance, what happens to information that leaks out about management's plans and activities. As these stories get passed along, they give rise to various distortions and rumors, which almost always have a disquieting influence on work groups. Withholding knowledge that would scotch the rumors simply contributes to confusion. It is in the best interests of both the manager and the company to give employees the straight scoop whenever possible.

Besides preventing rumors, sharing information with employees helps build cohesiveness within their group. One mark of membership in an "inner circle" is the information that its members have that people outside the department do not have. Normally, a person gains access to such information through the performance of his or her job duties. People working together tend to develop a camaraderie that springs, in part, from give-and-take in communicating information.

There is always some information at one level that does not automatically filter through to the next. Whenever it is practical to do so, try sharing some of this information deliberately. It's a convincing sign to your people that they are trusted members of the team.

Managing Under Stress

If the environment in which managers work was always stable and predictable, life would be a lot simpler. There would also be little need for men and women with good judgment and decisiveness within management.

Unfortunately, the only certain thing about management is uncertainty. There are unexpected developments and crises; conditions change, often with little warning; surprise is virtually a working rule.

How well you operate under stress is one mark of your maturity as a manager. A few of the traits that "stress handlers" display:

They recognize emergency situations before they become critical and head them off with appropriate countermeasures. They develop these countermeasures through personal experience, from watching other managers operate successfully, and through the applications of good old-fashioned common sense.

They make effective decisions in emergency situations. They remain calm under pressure, thus allowing themselves to marshal all their resources—mental and physical—for the task at hand.

They maintain effective leadership under long-term adverse conditions. Primarily, they accomplish this by setting a good example for their people. Again, this means staying calm under fire, acting with resolve and decision, viewing adversity as an opportunity to succeed, not an excuse for surrender.

How To Break A Bad Habit

So many of us do things that we know are wrong or bad for us, it's a tribute to the human constitution that we survive as long as we do. We eat too much, exercise too little, smoke, drink, often rely on drugs to do what nature should.

Want to break a bad habit? Try the following:

Get a clear picture of the benefits. Your motives for breaking the habit need not be noble. Will you save money? Look better? Feel better? Make someone jealous? Keep this in mind as you begin your new way of life.

Commit yourself. For instance, if it's weight loss you're after, see a doctor and get a checkup. The investment you make in the doctor's fee will help you recognize the seriousness of your act . . . and help you stick to it.

Announce your goal. Sharing your aims and plans with someone whom you would hate to let down frequently provides the added incentive that can spell the difference between failure and success.

Reward yourself for success. As you reach various landmarks toward your goal (a month of non-smoking, a weight loss of 10 pounds, three months of regular exercise), treat yourself to some little gift—tickets to a show, a new hat, whatever. It may sound corny, but it helps to reinforce your commitment.

Plan to give up your habit while changing your life in bigger ways. Thus, a good time to give up smoking is during a trip to some strange place. Staying on a diet stands a better chance of succeeding if you start it at the same time as some other change in your routine—moving to a new house, beginning a new job, etc.

Don't Demand Unconditional Surrender

When we get into an argument, most of us try to prove that we are completely right, and the other person 100% wrong on all counts.

Skillful persuaders, however, always concede something and find some point of agreement.

If the other person has a point in his favor, acknowledge it. If you give in on minor, unimportant matters, he will be much more likely to give in when you come to the main point.

When You Have To Fire Someone

It's never pleasant, but occasionally, it has to be done: someone who works for you has to be let go due to economic necessity, a change in plans, or simple incompetence.

Whatever the reason, there you are, faced by the necessity of telling someone his or her services are no longer required. How do you do it? Some suggestions:

Be prepared. It's uncomfortable enough a situation without adding to it by hemming and hawing. Before talking to the employee, know what you will say—the indisputable reasons for dismissal.

Be considerate. Getting fired is an ego-shattering experience. If true, explain that it isn't the caliber of the employee's work that is at fault. If it is a matter of performance, there are ways to leave a minimum residue of ill feeling. "You're a good draftsman, but a bit weak in practical engineering experience for the position, Jack." Find something in his performance to commend before you point out failings.

Do it in private. Firing someone before witnesses is not only in poor taste; it will sour those who remain. They may wonder when the ax will fall on their necks.

Do it quickly. Depending on the rank and seniority of the person being fired, your interview will vary in length. But it is best for all concerned that it be kept brief—5 to 15 minutes.

Be helpful. If the employee is entitled to severance pay, accumulated vacation time pay or other benefits, let him know exactly what he may expect by way of final payoff. If you can, help him relocate, and offer letters of recommendation. If you can suggest ways in which he can improve (e.g., returning to school), tell him.

Remember, you are dealing with a human being, with the same general goals in life and sensitivities as you. A little empathy will go a long way toward making the ordeal of firing more palatable to both of you.


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