It's the little things, stupid

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Jul 26 2017 by Wayne Turmel Print This Article

This won't be news to regular readers, but I'm no genius. Recent world-wide events are getting crazier and crazier and they're way above my pay grade or security clearance and has me on sensory overload like an Irish setter in a tennis ball factory.

The big things, frankly, are out of my control and I haven't had this bad a case of whiplash since my 1970 Nova hit a pine tree at the end of our driveway.

All but the most microscopic things are out of my direct control but the ILLUSION of being able to do something is a comfort. So I'm going to turn off the news for a while and focus on the little things that make a manager's life at work so complicated. We might not have much success addressing these, but at least you can see the tops of the windmills as you tilt at them.

Software Fatigue

Forget S&Ls or FDIC, it's HRIS, CRM, SAP, and all the other "fabulous", "robust" software systems that have turned managers into either data entry clerks or galley-ship drummers demanding their folks get their numbers in by the end of the month. Take the amount of time we spend complying with these information requests and add 25% of those days to handle the groaning and complaining from our teams about how much they hate it. Make it 35-40% if you're a sales manager.

Breakroom Betrayals

Napoleon Bonaparte said, "If nations truly want peace, they should avoid the pin-pricks that precede the cannon shots". This is true also of keeping your team from each other's throats. Under the guise of "assuming they are adults", we often ignore the signs of team discord; gossip, missed deadlines and snippiness. I am convinced there's a direct statistical correlation between team dissatisfaction and theft of yogurt from the breakroom refrigerator.

The Workplace Diaspora

Almost 70% of middle managers have direct reports who don't work where they do. This means that all the normal problems of keeping people engaged, getting good information and tracking data are amplified by distance and time zones. It makes it even tougher when the first budget that gets slashed is travel to get people together even once a year. The challenge is that most managers receive little guidance and even less training on the tools and techniques to keep remote teams in contact with each other and build relationships over the ether.

Org Chart Misdirection

Unless you work in one of those crazy-big companies that have so many divisions you can't count them, most managers can probably draw a quick organizational chart. All those nice neat lines that show you who 's responsible for what and to whom would lead you to believe you know how things work around here.

The problem as most managers know, is that how things really get done in your organization bear very little resemblance to that list. We don't need org charts, we need power charts - and I don't see that template in Excel.

Mission Muddle

Most managers can dutifully tell you exactly what their metrics are and what is expected of their teams. If you put a gun to their heads ( while effective, it's frowned upon and a violation of HR policy in most countries) they couldn't tell you WHY that's their mission. Asking questions of your bosses is not treason or disrespect. They have reasons - and you might even help them remember what they are.

Banks and empires may fall, elections will come and go, but the madness will end eventually. Addressing, if not actually solving, these problems is a far better use of time than constantly hitting "refresh" on your news page and staring into the abyss.

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About The Author

Wayne Turmel
Wayne Turmel

For almost 30 years, Wayne Turmel has been obsessed with how people communicate - or don't - at work. He has spent the last 20 years focused on remote and virtual work, recognized as one of the top 40 Remote Work Experts in the world. Besides writing for Management Issues, he has authored or co-authored 15 books, including The Long-Distance Leader and The Long-Distance Teammate. He is the lead Remote and Hybrid Work subject matter expert for the The Kevin Eikenberry Group. Originally from Canada, he now makes his home in Las Vegas, US.

Older Comments

OK and..........................................? Where are the suggestions or links that can help us develop viable solutions to the problems outlined in the article?

Debbie Gonzalez