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Why interpersonal relations training is important for new managers

Why interpersonal relations training is important for new managers

The existing body of literature on organizational leadership often focuses on transformational leadership, that is, the leader who “acts in mutual ways with the followers, appeals to their higher needs, and inspires and motivates followers to move toward a particular purpose” (Bensimon, Neumann, & Birnbaum, 1989). Many studies have been conducted in order to identify the traits of good leadership and explore ways to train managers and supervisors to be better leaders in an effort to enhance workplace engagement, productivity and profitability.

In contradiction, casual conversations with working adults in a variety of work environments provide anecdotal evidence to suggest that toxic leaders and managers – those who are unpredictable, disrespectful and demonstrate little appreciation for staff; or who are short-sighted in goal planning, rigid, and discourage feedback and creativity (Kimura, 2003) – may actually be the norm in workplaces.

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There has not yet been much scholarly research done on this type of leadership, nor on the effect these leaders and managers have on their staff members. For example, a Google Scholar search for the key term transformational leadership returned approximately 103,000 results, whereas a search of toxic leadership returned only about 74,000, and a search for what affects employee morale returned about 59,000 results – little more than half the number of results for transformational leadership.

In contrast, popular management and leadership discourse appears to address the problem much more acutely. A popular media search on Google returned over 56 million hits on the phrase toxic leadership, and the same search on Yahoo returned just over 60 million hits including magazine articles, career advice columns, and blogs that span a range of industries and forums from management practice publications to popular psychology and opinion sites.

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Here’s what we know:

  • Low employee morale leads to higher turnover rates (Griffeth, Hom & Gaertner, 2000) which cost companies money.
  • The cost of employee turnover can be as high as 30% of annual salary for a lower-skilled worker and up to 250% of annual salary for highly specialized positions (Hester, 2013).
  • Managerial interventions can mitigate this phenomenon (Griffeth, et al., 2000).
  • Employee cynicism (a precursor to turnover) has been empirically attributed to management incompetence and ineffectiveness (Cartwright and Holmes, 2006).
  • Employee satisfaction on the job can be directly influenced by interactions with management (Mobley, Griffeth & Hand, 1979).

Considering these facts, it should be a no-brainer that we start looking at ways to train our first-time managers to be better at interacting with their direct reports.

In a 2014 Harvard Business Review article, Beck and Harter stated, “being a very successful programmer, salesperson, or engineer… is no guarantee that someone will be even remotely adept at managing others.”

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They discuss how many companies engage in the practice of promoting workers into management positions based on the merits of the current work they are doing rather than an aptitude for building the relationships that motivate and engage others to do their best work. This type of promotion criteria does not take into account the new manager’s adeptness (or lack of) at building meaningful relationships, communicating effectively, or the “human-oriented” activities that are inherent in the workplace and have been shown to motivate and engage employees and increase employee satisfaction (Luthans, 1988). This typical pathway into management is problematic in that it gives rise to managerial incompetence which, as shown earlier, can drive employee cynicism and turnover.

So what’s the point?

Over 30 years of research has supported the point that promoting individual contributors into management based solely on the merits of their current work while ignoring an absence of aptitude for interpersonal relations is ill-advised, to say the least. Yet companies continue to engage in this practice with seemingly very little thought to the impact on employee relations and engagement.

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If companies want to give their new managers the best shot at becoming effective leaders, it’s time to start looking at ways to train them to relate to their people and sustain engagement. Research shows that front-line managers and the perceived care and support they provide to their employees are especially strong influences on employee engagement and disengagement (Saks, 2006).

So, in order for individual contributors to become effective managers they must understand the relational aspects of their new roles. Interpersonal relations training for new managers can work to mitigate the ongoing problem of poor management that leads to employee dissatisfaction and turnover. Subsequently the likelihood of maintaining employee engagement may increase as a result, which may lead to a reduction in employee turnover and save your company’s bottom line.

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Last Updated on March 29, 2021

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

When I left university I took a job immediately, I had been lucky as I had spent a year earning almost nothing as an intern so I was offered a role. On my first day I found that I had not been allocated a desk, there was no one to greet me so I was left for some hours ignored. I happened to snipe about this to another employee at the coffee machine two things happened. The first was that the person I had complained to was my new manager’s wife, and the second was, in his own words, ‘that he would come down on me like a ton of bricks if I crossed him…’

What a great start to a job! I had moved to a new city, and had been at work for less than a morning when I had my first run in with the first style of bad manager. I didn’t stay long enough to find out what Mr Agressive would do next. Bad managers are a major issue. Research from Approved Index shows that more than four in ten employees (42%) state that they have previously quit a job because of a bad manager.

The Dream Type Of Manager

My best manager was a total opposite. A man who had been the head of the UK tax system and was working his retirement running a company I was a very junior and green employee for. I made a stupid mistake, one which cost a lot of time and money and I felt I was going to be sacked without doubt.

I was nervous, beating myself up about what I had done, what would happen. At the end of the day I was called to his office, he had made me wait and I had spent that day talking to other employees, trying to understand where I had gone wrong. It had been a simple mistyped line of code which sent a massive print job out totally wrong. I learn how I should have done it and I fretted.

My boss asked me to step into his office, he asked me to sit down. “Do you know what you did?” I babbled, yes, I had been stupid, I had not double-checked or asked for advice when I was doing something I had not really understood. It was totally my fault. He paused. “Will you do that again?” Of course I told him I would not, I would always double check, ask for help and not try to be so clever when I was not!

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“Okay…”

That was it. I paused and asked, should I clear my desk. He smiled. “You have learnt a valuable lesson, I can be sure that you will never make a mistake like that again. Why would I want to get rid of an employee who knows that?”

I stayed with that company for many years, the way I was treated was a real object lesson in good management. Sadly, far too many poor managers exist out there.

The Complete Catalogue of Bad Managers

The Bully

My first boss fitted into the classic bully class. This is so often the ‘old school’ management by power style. I encountered this style again in the retail sector where one manager felt the only way to get the best from staff was to bawl and yell.

However, like so many bullies you will often find that this can be someone who either knows no better or is under stress and they are themselves running scared of the situation they have found themselves in.

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The Invisible Boss

This can either present itself as management from afar (usually the golf course or ‘important meetings) or just a boss who is too busy being important to deal with their staff.

It can feel refreshing as you will often have almost total freedom with your manager taking little or no interest in your activities, however you will soon find that you also lack the support that a good manager will provide. Without direction you may feel you are doing well just to find that you are not delivering against expectations you were not told about and suddenly it is all your fault.

The Micro Manager

The frustration of having a manager who feels the need to be involved in everything you do. The polar opposite to the Invisible Boss you will feel that there is no trust in your work as they will want to meddle in everything you do.

Dealing with the micro-manager can be difficult. Often their management style comes from their own insecurity. You can try confronting them, tell them that you can do your job however in many cases this will not succeed and can in fact make things worse.

The Over Promoted Boss

The Over promoted boss categorises someone who has no idea. They have found themselves in a management position through service, family or some corporate mystery. They are people who are not only highly unqualified to be managers they will generally be unable to do even your job.

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You can find yourself persistently frustrated by the situation you are in, however it can seem impossible to get out without handing over your resignation.

The Credit Stealer

The credit stealer is the boss who will never publically acknowledge the work you do. You will put in the extra hours working on a project and you know that, in the ‘big meeting’ it will be your credit stealing boss who will take all of the credit!

Again it is demoralising, you see all of the credit for your labour being stolen and this can often lead to good employees looking for new careers.

3 Essential Ways to Work (Cope) with Bad Managers

Whatever type of bad boss you have there are certain things that you can do to ensure that you get the recognition and protection you require to not only remain sane but to also build your career.

1. Keep evidence

Whether it is incidents with the bully or examples of projects you have completed with the credit stealer you will always be well served to keep notes and supporting evidence for projects you are working on.

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Buy your own notebook and ensure that you are always making notes, it becomes a habit and a very useful one as you have a constant reminder as well as somewhere to explore ideas.

Importantly, if you do have to go to HR or stand-up for yourself you will have clear records! Also, don’t always trust that corporate servers or emails will always be available or not tampered with. Keep your own content.

2. Hold regular meetings

Ensure that you make time for regular meetings with your boss. This is especially useful for the over-promoted or the invisible boss to allow you to ‘manage upwards’. Take charge where you can to set your objectives and use these meetings to set clear objectives and document the status of your work.

3. Stand your ground, but be ready to jump…

Remember that you don’t have to put up with poor management. If you have issues you should face them with your boss, maybe they do not know that they are coming across in a bad way.

However, be ready to recognise if the situation is not going to change. If that is the case, keep your head down and get working on polishing your CV! If it isn’t working, there will be something better out there for you!

Good luck!

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