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The human face of a manager

Last updated: 22 March, 2011
D B N Murthy 19:05 IST

Those who manage people have to understand human psychology. A stern face will put off people. The subordinates may not appreciate the fact that beneath that stern visage of the manager lies a soft heart.

A cheery “Good morning” can do wonders. It will immediately build that rapport so essential for smooth working. That people should leave all their worries and anxieties at home is easier said than done.

Every individual is a human being with problems both on the front as well as at the workplace. The manager who appreciates this fact will do everything to put the employee at ease though he may not be able to solve all that person’s problems.

Interpersonal skills

The interpersonal skills of the manager are called upon to assuage the feelings of the subordinates who want a shoulder to cry on when they are in difficulties. If an employee has a sick child on his hands, he expects the boss to be understanding and allow him to take leave while showing his deep concern.

Managing people is different from managing other resources like finance and technology. It is more of an art than science. People have memories for both good and bad things.

A few managers want to appear important. So they seldom come out of their offices. If someone wants to see him, that person has to take an appointment with his secretary.
Similarly, he sends words through his secretary to the person concerned to see him at a designated time. This is too formal and inhibits close and personal contacts between the manager and his people.

Contrast this with a manager who believes in managing by “walk-around”. He sits in his office for a short time to clear files, attend meetings and handle confidential matters. But most of his time he is seen at the workplace talking to the people or seeing for himself how things are being managed. He gets firsthand information of the problems faced by his people and offers solutions, if he knows. Otherwise, he promises help through others. There is an air of informality about him.

A manager who is informal has an edge over another who believes in managing by fiat. If a boss comes around to a place of work, the person behind the machine or equipment is open about his problems.

On the other hand, if a manager hardly visits the shop floor or workplace then he has to get information through his supervisors that are often biased. Often a simple problem gets out of hand if tackled late or through supervisors instead of by the manager himself.
A personal rapport between the employees and the manager through direct contacts will stand the organization in good stead.

In case of labour-management conflict, the manager who has established a personal rapport with his people is better off. People respect him, not as a manager, but as a warm person who can vibe with them. Consequently, they might appear lukewarm to any proposal from a union or anyone to harass the boss.

They might go about it heartedly, telling the manager that they are helpless but will not do anything out of the way to embarrass him.

A walk-around manager will not claim to be the fountainhead of all knowledge and expertise. In fact, he could respect any employee who tells him what to do in any ticklish situation. At best, he is a facilitator of work, skilled in interpersonal and intra-personal matters. He will not do anything that would lose trust of his people.

He could be a tough taskmaster but a warm-hearted person when it comes to dealing with the people working with him. He will never ask a person returning from his sick leave why he couldn’t have come back earlier. He sympathises with the personal problems of his people when he comes to know about these.

He might not solve all their personal problems but would lend a shoulder to cry for a disturbed person. There is everything to gain by being a personal-touch manager rather than a tough looking, tough acting boss.

(The writer is a consultant. Email: dbnvimi@gmail.com)

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