5 Questions Managers Should Ask Themselves

By Kaitlin Hurtado on August 26, 2019

Being a manager is no easy feat. Not only do you have to mind your own work and make sure you are meeting your own goals, but you have to make sure other employees are following through with their work. There are multiple issues you can run into on a daily basis – employees being unsatisfied with their daily tasks, coworkers, and maybe even you as their manager. It can be hard to think of where things can go wrong and when things can go wrong when there are so many factors to take into account, but there are a few questions you can ask yourself to help you reflect on how you are doing as a manager.

Just like you would expect your employees to challenge themselves actively and be willing to adapt to a changing workplace, make sure that you are putting effort into evaluating how you are doing as a manager. If you are wondering how you can help gauge on how you are contributing to the workplace as a manager, consider asking yourself these questions to see what you can do to be a more efficient and successful manager.

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1. Am I open to feedback from my employees? 

One of the questions managers should ask themselves should be focused on getting feedback from their employees. While you may be thinking that you are exceeding your expectations as a manager and doing a great job, you may still have a few shortcomings that go unnoticed by you, but noticed by the employees you encounter daily. Who better to ask for feedback than the people that you come into contact with daily and get to see your work up close and consistently?

It is a great idea to establish that you actually want feedback from your employees and are willing to work their feedback into your work as a manager. Do not think of every piece of feedback as a criticism of your abilities, but a chance to do better as a manager for the employees that supplied the feedback. Sometimes simply sending out an email to your team asking for feedback if they have any doesn’t do the job. They will be less likely to reach out if it is not anonymous or if the feedback is not specified.

Try doing something like a survey, or something that can collect feedback anonymously so that your employees feel more comfortable giving you feedback. This may be especially helpful if the current workplace environment does not promote giving and receiving feedback, starting out by doing anonymous feedback is a way for your employees to get comfortable giving feedback in a professional setting. Specify a certain time period or practice that you want feedback on. If you are more specific in directions, your employees will be more likely to be specific with the feedback they send to you.

Actively seeking out feedback will show your employees that you are willing to improve through their feedback and create a workplace that is better for them. You will not be seen as the manager dictating over everyone’s work without letting anyone contribute or suggest any change, but a manager that is willing to collaborate and be more open when it comes to change around the workplace.  Also, if you show that you are okay with getting and receiving feedback, they will be more comfortable doing the same from their coworkers and you.

2. Can I recognize when I’m in the wrong? 

It is no secret that a management position comes with plenty of responsibility, and one of the many responsibilities is keeping yourself in check. Yes, you are most likely going to be reporting to someone else, but it is important to constantly keep yourself accountable while on the job. Just because you are a manager, does not mean that you should comfortably go about your day without questioning that whatever you are doing is right or wrong, or if it can have negative consequences. You need to keep your power in mind. Meaning, you need to pay extra attention to how you address your employees, whether it is in passing or giving them direction on an assigned task.

As a manager, it is your responsibility to accept when you are wrong and seek out the right way to correct your wrongs. Do not brush off an employee when they bring up a mistake you have made or suggest how you could have gone about a procedure differently. Instead, reflect on their feedback and process it so that you can effectively apply it in the future. You may not necessarily agree with what they say. You may not think that you went about it aggressively, or you may think that the underlying message of what you said is still important. However, it is essential not to place the blame on your employee for feeling a certain way.

Accept when you are in the wrong or acknowledge when you the way that you acted was not the best. Address the employee and the situation rather than sweeping it under the rug and leaving it ignored. Not only does it show that your employees’ feedback is valued in the workplace, but it will show that you are willing to be the best manager for them.  If you were to ignore the employee and situation, they will get the impression that you do not care about your employees nor do you want to hear about anything that could be going wrong in the workplace. With apologies, you do not have to explicitly state you are wrong. Depending on the situation, the best thing to do is to acknowledge the way that your employee feels in the situation.

For example, if you have been speaking to a specific employee in a way that they felt was disrespectful or unnecessary in the workplace, try responding with something like: “It was not my intention to be disrespectful or harsh during our prior conversation. I could have gone through the conversation differently and communication is something I will continue to work on.” This way the employee in question will feel validated and whatever you said (such as feedback on a certain project) still stands. Take the experience as a learning experience, reflect on what you have said in the past and how you can avoid the situation in the future.

Infographic by Kaitlin Hurtado, via canva.com

3. What kind of environment have I cultivated? 

When it comes to being a manager, one of your larger responsibilities is monitoring the workplace. This can be something as small day-to-day expectations of dress code and workplace procedures to the type of environment your workplace is. Creating the right kind of work environment in your workplace is key when it comes to creating a workplace where both you and your employees can thrive.

Is the environment strict, where employees are too scared to ask questions or give feedback in fear of retaliation? Or is your environment one where employees actively seek out help or feedback in order to continuously work on improving the workplace?

The latter is what many managers should strive to create. You want your employees to feel comfortable when they come to work. An environment where employees are comfortable is one where they can meet your expectations but also be willing to ask questions when needed. Encourage collaboration, where people can respectfully agree or disagree in order to create the best end product. An open and honest work environment will only benefit you and your employees as problems can be addressed and resolved quickly, and energy can be spent on the right thing – efficient work.

4. Are you supplying direction or demanding a result? 

Building off of the idea of checking on the type of environment your workplace currently has is seeing how you are “running the ship,” so to speak. Spend some time thinking about how you are giving direction to your employees.

Consider the following two situations. In one situation, the manager is telling their team about a project. They detail the projected goal, give some direction on how to go about the project, and then rely on their workers to meet the end goal with trust in their own capabilities and skills. The manager will put effort into making sure that their employees know it’s okay to stop and ask them questions or for some guidance, and also know that there is room to get a little creative with the project. In another situation, the manager gives their employees a project, including a step-by-step guide on how to complete and is clearly strict about the guide being followed. The manager wants it done the exact way described, no exceptions. Which management situation did you connect to the most?

The first situation is something that you should strive for, ideally. It gives your employees room to grow and work more creatively. Rather than dictating how they work and not allowing them to suggest any changes, give them the platform to go at a project in a way that they can be efficient in their own way. It may not be the way that you would not have gone about it, but you may be surprised at the approach your employees end up taking and how it leads to an end product better than you could have imagined. Encourage your employees to think outside of the box and apply their own strengths to the tasks you give them. If they are told to adhere strictly to the guidelines you set for every task assigned, they will feel too discouraged to suggest improvements to procedures or to grow from their work experience.

You do not want your employees to feel “stuck” when they come into work. Whether it be feeling too routine from your expectations not to suggest improvements or provide0 feedback, or if they are not challenged enough by the tasks you are giving them. You want to encourage your employees to grow under your management. This does not mean that you have to make sure that they are actively learning something new every day, but it does mean that you have to be ready for them to be challenged with certain tasks and allow them room to play to their strengths when doing the tasks you assign to them.

workplace

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5. Am I putting my focus on the right thing? 

When you are a manager, there is a seemingly endless amount of things that you need to focus on. One small thing may seem like the greatest disaster you have encountered, only for your focus to shift onto the next big disaster. Before you know it, the workweek is over and half of your deadlines have not been met or an employee conflict has been left unresolved.

Take a deep breath and ask yourself if you are dividing your energy correctly. Are you trying too hard to micromanage every possible thing in the workplace? Think about consistent issues taking place in the workplace and how you have handled them. If they are continuing because you have not properly addressed them in favor of spending your energy on another thing because it’s “easier” or you think it should be addressed more, maybe you should shift your focus to the issues that are continuous and left unchecked.

Don’t get lost in the routine you have set for yourself, and be ready to shift your focus around in order to be a more efficient manager. Being “stuck” on the same issues just takes your attention away from issues that may need your attention even more, and negatively affect you and your employees. You may even find that the issue that you have been frustrated over not getting resolved is tied to another issue you have been leaving ignored.

These are just some of the questions managers should ask themselves and can be a starting point on how you can improve your performance as a manager. Don’t put the focus solely on the work that needs to get done, but try to set aside focus on how you can improve on your management abilities.

By Kaitlin Hurtado

Uloop Writer
UC Irvine
Hello! I'm Kaitlin, a fourth year Literary Journalism major at UC Irvine. I'm a writer on Uloop's national team and a campus editor for UCI.

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