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Managers with conflicting styles

I’m the newly hired chief executive officer (CEO) of a small enterprise. I assigned two department heads to carry out a joint project to improve our labor productivity. When I followed up on their progress, I was given many alibis that had nothing to do with the project until I talked to another department head who clued me in that the two managers are at odds over their contrasting styles — one is dictatorial while the other is democratic. The dictatorial manager is unpopular with his workers. How do I resolve this issue? — Blue Star.

You don’t have to be personally involved. You must take the high road and do your job from the standpoint of a CEO and not be bothered by this issue. The best approach is to delegate the mediation process to your direct reports without the two realizing it. You can do this by creating a management committee composed of all department heads to work on the project.

Productivity is everyone’s concern and should not be limited to the two managers. The process of having all managers participate would allow them to resolve the dynamics between the two colleagues. This approach allows every manager to be co-owners of the productivity improvement plan.

These managers can perform the balancing act and possibly resolve their personal issues in the process. You can appoint the most senior manager in the committee to chair the project. If one of the two warring managers is the most senior, choose someone with the highest performance rating, bearing in mind that meritocracy trumps seniority in many cases.

Give the committee a firm timeline to come up with recommendations.

The work of a CEO is difficult. You don’t have to be personally involved in mediating their conflict, particularly when management styles differ. Your intervention could end up being a waste of time as both managers will surely defend their respective positions to the death. Therefore, let the committee resolve that issue. You’ll be surprised how positive the result might be.

ISSUES AND STYLESThere’s not much you can do to change the styles of your two managers. While having a dictatorial style has its advantages in emergency situations, a democratic style is equally important and is most needed every day when you try to establish, maintain and nurture proactive communication.

Who would want to be near or even talk to a fearsome and unfriendly boss? Almost no one, right? All the more when we’re trying to establish a corporate-wide productivity program that requires the active participation of employees and their managers.

While the management committee is doing its job, keep track of the performance of the two managers. Review their track records and find out whose is better. At the same time, compare the attendance records of the workers under their supervision. Whose turnover rate is better?

What were the results of the exit interviews of workers who resigned? That should give you a good idea on the impact of their management style on employee morale.

In addition, get the results of the latest employee satisfaction survey, which can give you a holistic understanding of the effects of the two styles, looking for clues as to how styles influence workers in their decision to leave their jobs. According to an article by Jessica Buono in Gallup (2019), “one in two employees have left a job to get away from a bad manager.”

So, between a dictator manager and a democratic manager, who do you think is a clear suspect in this case?

EXPENSIVELosing good people because they hate their boss is an expensive proposition.

John Hall, a senior contributor at Forbes (2019), says the cost of employee turnover can kill a business and “make things less fun,” primarily to the hiring manager who is pushed to the limits to search for replacements and for the requisitioning department manager who has to train them.

This is not to mention the management time, money and effort needed for onboarding and training before a new hire becomes effective. Quoting a report from Employee Benefits News (2017), Mr. Hall posits “that turnover can cost employers 33% of an employee’s annual salary.”

As such, you can easily understand how attrition should be avoided by reining in managers with unacceptable styles. If you can’t afford to pay big money to your people, the next best thing is to treat everyone with utmost kindness.

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