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Support staff blues

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in Leaders & Managers,Management Training

Brad, a manager at a large insurance company in Connecticut, discusses his difficulties in supervising entry-level workers.

Much of our business isn’t exactly thrilling. We check insurance coverages, process claims and prepare regulatory filings to submit to our state agency.

I’m not complaining. We’re in a very stable industry and we don’t expect to lay anyone off in this recession. That’s the good news.

The bad news is my success depends on the hard work of dozens of support staff. I won’t mince words: Their jobs are boring. They do data entry, maintain claim files and spend hours looking up coverages in big reference manuals that are five inches thick.

My job is to excite them about their work. Really.

There’s nothing about their work that I envy. In fact, I actually feel pity for them.

They look like zombies going through the motions. The only things they seem to care about are their breaks, the office temperature and what the cafeteria is serving for lunch.

How can I motivate these people? My boss wants to see my unit’s productivity increase even more. But I think it’s amazing we crank out as much as we do, given the repetitive nature of the work.

My employees rarely complain about their jobs. They may come to me with personal problems, like requesting an emergency loan from our company or seeking time off to care for a parent with Alzheimer’s.

I’m at a loss as to how to get them to work harder. I’ve tried contests where I gave out prizes to the best performers. But I can’t do that every week. Frankly, I’m delighted they’re doing such a good job as is.

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