Article (April-2019)


Manager - Reportee relationship

Sanjeev Sharan

Designation : -   Director HR

Organization : -  ZTE, Gurgaon


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Manager is important character in an employee's life. (Here Manager is meant immediate supervisor and performance evaluator). It is directly related to one's motivation, emotion, dream, passion, zeal, enthusiasm etc. One can easily find its influence in several aspects of life. It not only influences our life directly but at times indirectly also!! In this VUCA environment both employee as well as economy is running at unusual pace, against time. It would not be wrong to state that the character known as Manager is often more in our thoughts than our near and dear ones!! It is practically not possible to compartmentalize our thoughts between Profession and Personal lives.

Its normal cycle for everybody, nothing unusual about it!! The complexity peeps in with next Step coupled with un-wanted pressure around our lives. Let's try to relive some of those moments to understand and relate it better.

Scene 1. Raman was out for dinner with his family. Beep Beep. He receives a message. "Tomorrow meeting at 9.15 am. Please be ready with all the points we discussed. Try to be there by 8.30 so that we can run through it. We can't afford to miss any points". It was a simple text message from his manager, but enough to kill his enthusiasm for the dinner. All through dinner he was partially lost contemplating strategy for next day presentation even while his 10 year old son was sharing stories of his friends at school and about new teacher. Raman was not able to participate fully. It was nothing new now for him as on many occasions he has been "dis-engaged" due to these incidents.

Scene 2. Maya is a bright campaign manager with a leading advertising agency. She has done well in her career and was handling one of most promising "women wear global brand". Her creative bent of mind along with strong sense of consumer understanding had helped clients immensely. She is always a preferred choice by clients as campaign manager. Today she was rushing home to attend success party of her niece who had topped in her class X'th examinations. Family had planned a get together inviting close friends and relatives to celebrate success. But somewhere she was not in her usual chirpy mood and was little low since yesterday something pinned her enthusiasm down. She recalled last discussion with her Manager Rohit, director of the accounts team. They both were working closely on the new product launch of "office wear for expecting moms". Both had different views on it. Rohit was insisting for the designs, which somehow was not appealing to her. She felt that the "zing" was missing in his proposal. She had tried persuading him but last comment by Rohit restrained her from any further discussions. "I think I know their need better and you should do some homework on it, you are at times too modern for audience Maya. Please ensure that the presentation is aligned to this idea. We need to get the deal before this month end. It is your baby now". It was not the issue of disagreement, as it is acceptable in professional world and she is matured enough to handle it. The issue was that she was convinced that the idea would be rejected and somewhere she was afraid that if this deal is delayed then Rohit will blame her as he feels that she is not convinced and hence had not put in her heart and soul into it. This might send a wrong message about her capability to management and client. Most of his ideas are instant hit, but this time Maya has her own apprehensions. All these thoughts were pulling down her enthusiasm. And it was visible that though physically she was present there but was mentally absent and not fully there.

Scene 3. Aman was a hard working IT Engineer who had recently joined an ecommerce arm of a reputed manufacturing organization. His manager Satyendra is an old timer who had grown as manager from frontline level. Satyendra was an in-secured person and non appreciative of his team. His management style is "control by finding mistakes". Aman was getting highly frustrated these days as he was always being demotivated & demoralized by Satyendra. He had lost his zeal to work and drags his feet to office. He could feel lately he has become irritant and started losing patience with friends and family very often. Above three incidents is nothing new and very common. Don't you think, these are very familiar incidents around us? somewhere we witness it very often? Why are these important to us? Though these are purely professional issues but have lasting impact on our daily lives. They might look frivolous but their impact can be felt around in several ways like;

It all revolves around common character known as "Manager" or reporting officer! In this rat race, the competitiveness is leading to disastrous overlapping of personal into professional life. Some where the difference is eroding and both are getting inter-tangled. While it is most talked about subject since ages to keep personal and professional issues separately, but how far have we been successful? As the reality remains that "THIS DOES EXIST and IMPACTs" our lives. Why this "manager" word impacts one's life beyond the four walls of work area? While the intent of reporting relationship is to be an enabler to success, but somewhere in this mad rush it is losing its essence and many a times takes the shape of fear i.e. fear of job loss, fear of failure and fear of demoralization. Fear rules our mind.

Digging deeper into it

Intent of this discussion is not to question merit or demerit of it, rather to touch upon the point - Are these managers - over managing? Is it not right time to draw a line some-where?

Challenge : If we try looking from the manager's perspective why there is so much of hype around it. Is it not right that the said managers are performing their duty? Is it wrong to push their teams for delivery? Is it unprofessional to expect quality and timely result?

Intervention : Here comes the role of HR!! And this is what HR has to address it. Both sides are justified with their reasons. Strongly feel that HR needs to play the role of an efficient doctor doing the right cause diagnosis of - why it happens? Though many can shrug off these three incidents as one odd cases and It can be termed and glamorized as cost of success.

Cause : I would like to define it as culture deficit, which needs to be cured not by hard core surgery but by preventive care for long term health of organization. It is more of mindset issue between manager and reportee. Few suggested preventive baby steps can bring long term smile back in life :

Dose of Balance : Need to create the culture of balance, wherein both need to learn balancing their work and expectations effectively. Both need to ask and agree amongst themselves as to where to draw a line. And the best tool to help is fair, honest and empathic communication with sensitivity.

Healthy goal setting : A clear goal setting is very helpful. With the right goal setting which is further drilled down to KRAs and action points along with the time lines can ease human life. Best examples are our factories. Sit across. Set it right. Lack of goal leads to clutter in organization. It is essential for manager to have crystal clarity of what is expected from team member.

Preventive check up : Doctor HR has to ensure the culture of systematic reviews @ work. It is often found in mad race organizations are either missing out on relevant periodic reviews or failing in aligning with timelines. An effective time based review system prevents un-expected surprises of life. It will help building right culture of 1) what is going right and what is going wrong? 2) Focusing on How to do- rather what to do!

Self discipline : It is important to be self disciplined for smooth personal and professional health. At times the over stepping is resultant of over enthusiastic professionalism. If both stake holders maintain disciplined process of discussion, follow up, review of the assignment, and then they will be able to balance their personal and professional life more effectively. Larger the organizations better the processes should be.

Culture building : Another critical step for HR is to help building culture of fairness and mutual respect. Amidst growing professional pressure around us which one has to live with it? And on other hand with younger generation taking up higher responsibilities, it is becoming more imperative for culture building along with focusing on the aptitude building of displaying maturity and capability to handle position and responsibility!

Don't push your dream on others : It becomes a serious concern of discontentment when manager starts searching for one's own clone in team member. They chase their personal dreams, pushing it on their teams too. It is time to relook and introspect. Let us not forget that others will support you only if they are able to relate themselves with your dream. Do not push it; rather Sell it to them by helping them to find their advantage in it. Make it common dream.

To sum it up - it is game of values of restraint + appreciate + share pain + own each other dream + collective achievement + prioritize = win - win for both. Both need to accept the universal truth that the relationship of manager & reportee is fact of life and it is never going to change till the civilization exists. Hence need to draw a path to work along and enjoy togetherness.