The Savvy Office Manager

Cal Butera is the editor of Business Management Daily’s Office Manager Today and Manager’s Legal Bulletin newsletters. He has been with Business Management Daily since 2007 and worked 22 years for midsize daily newspapers as sports writer, news reporter, layout and design editor, copy editor and city editor.

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As a manager, you usually have the answers to employees’ questions. But who will answer yours? Here are the answers to six questions that might be keeping you up at night.

“Vacation? Take all you need. We don’t count the days. Just make sure your work is done or someone else has it covered.” Here is the good, the bad and the ugly of an unlimited vacation policy

Advances in technology make your work easier, and your organization scrambles to stay current. You know the advantages: You can attract tech-savvy job candidates, retain top performers who rely on cutting-edge tools and you can get work done more efficiently. But have you taken a look around your office to see some of the stuff you need to update or get rid of? … Or maybe you shouldn’t ditch some things just yet.

Wouldn’t it be great if you had a crystal ball to see what each employee wants or doesn’t want? You’ll know just what to give to whom and when to get the most out of everyone. Unfortunately, no such clairvoyance device exists. But all is not lost.

Question: What stifles your employees’ ingenuity? Answer: Probably you. Look around. You got a decent staff. They’re getting their stuff done to your liking. In fact, you've got a few workers with enough entrepreneurial juice to keep the organization competitive.

I have an unpaid intern. He’s a student whom I order to do a little grounds maintenance and some cleanup tasks. The way I look at it, he’s learning, and I’m getting free labor. Before the U.S. Department of Labor knuckles my door in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act, the grounds maintenance is lawn mowing, the cleanup is trash removal from a bedroom, and the intern is my son. That sort of working relationship can only happen in the home.

I think I rate a big bear hug for alerting you to this: The next crop of grads you hire into your workforce are huggers, and you know what would follow if a hugger hugs someone who doesn’t want the hug? (Hint: It starts with an “L” and it ain’t “Love.”)

It’s a pretty easy call. You’re looking for a department supervisor and Dave’s got what it takes. He does his job well, he knows the people he’ll boss around and he’s got that certain way with words. And he’s pretty loud, too. So you promote him.

In case you haven’t been listening, your office is saying a lot about you to your employees, clients and customers. Yeah, it’s just a boss cave, you say—the place where you spend more time than any other—and you’ll doll it up or neglect it as you see fit. But with a glance, everyone can glean what you’re all about. Let’s take a look at some of the stuff that’s going on in your den, the tales they’re telling, and what you can do to fix it.

Since Christmas is quickly approaching and Santa Claus is busy running North Pole Inc., it would be a good time to take a look at the way he operates. There are lessons to be learned from the big guy. Truth is, like most managers, his heart is in the right place. But as you can see, as a leader, there’s room for improvement.

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