Q. The nature of our business is up and down. All the volatility makes it fun for me, but some members of our team aren’t very good at handling the uncertainty. They get frazzled and don’t deal well with sudden lulls and surges in activity. Are there ways to help people take volatility in stride?
Q. One of my employees is paranoid. He talks about how the company spies on everyone, uses hidden cameras in the restroom, eavesdrops on us, monitors our online usage, etc. I keep assuring him he’s full of it, but he replies, “You’re just a supervisor. This is above your pay grade.” How can I convince him to stop all the nonsense?
Q: Our CEO is always telling us to be more open about our failures. He wants us to innovate, and he knows that means some botched experiments. But the few of us who have taken high-profile risks have not been lauded; in fact, he’s privately (and publicly) shamed and embarrassed us. Is there a polite way to call someone a hypocrite?
Q: I’m 56 and I recently hired a 28-year-old. He was about to send out a press release, but I happened to see it first and fixed a sloppy mistake. All he said was, “Good catch.” No apology, no acknowledgement of his error. Overall, he’s a good worker. But if he’s unwilling to take responsibility for his work, how can I supervise him effectively?
Q. I volunteered to serve on a committee to boost my visibility here. But I keep getting assigned time-consuming projects on top of my normal job. The projects aren’t very interesting, and it feels like the committee chair is just dumping chores on my lap. Should I quit this stupid committee?
Q. For years, I reported to the CEO. But the company brought in someone just below the CEO level, so now I report to this new manager who’s terrible. I rely on my new boss to get a sense of the CEO’s priorities, but after he comes out of meetings with the CEO, he’s vague about what’s next. Plus, he takes credit for my ideas. How would you handle this?
Q: When we’re up against a crunch deadline, our CEO tries to bolster our confidence by giving us a T-shirt with “YGT” on it. It stands for “You Got This.” I don’t need to be told I can tackle a tough challenge. I do need better support—more resources, more time, more cooperation from the CEO. Can I rip up my shirt?
Q. I work closely with the owner of a consulting firm. He’ll only let people ask a question, not explain what’s going on. He says that’s just his personality (he says he’s a “D” and an “I”) and his style is normal for his personality type. It’s driving me crazy. What good is it to have me here if I can’t provide information on the status of projects or situations?
Q: My boss says, “Be more transparent in your communication.” But I don’t talk about people behind their back. I don’t speak in code—I use plain English. I’m a straight shooter, and I’m not afraid to tell people the truth. Isn’t that transparent?
Q. I manage people much older than me (I’m 29). They really do know more than me, and they have much deeper industry experience than me. I’ve told them that—and that I don’t have all the answers. But when I say that, they laugh derisively. How can I defer to them without coming across as a softie?
Q. I’m amazed by the demands my employees make. It never stops. They want to work from home. They want more time off (one guy requested a three-month sabbatical!). I never expected being a supervisor would require fending off constant outlandish requests. What can I do?
Q. I’ve been a midmanager here for 10 years. Recently, I got a new boss who’s decades younger than me, and I’m suddenly an outcast. I’ve been treated terribly by this person, even though I’ve been supportive and made his job easier. When I asked what gives, he said, “You have to prove your relevance to me.” Outrageous!
Q: I keep getting grief from my board for not developing my managers, but there are only so many priorities that I can address at once. How can I satisfy the board without dropping the ball on some other top priority?
Q. My boss told me I’m a weak manager—that I’m too humble, that I defer to others, dither rather than make quick, decisive decisions and I’m too eager to apologize. To me, that’s the kind of humility great leaders embody. Am I right?
Q. For years, we’ve motivated our sales and service folks with incentives. Our culture is built around contests, fun competitions for bonuses or other prizes and recognition. But the last few contests have produced acrimony. Those who don’t win gripe about the rules and resent the winners. Are we motivating the wrong way?
Q. During our staff meetings, it’s rare that employees look up at me. Instead of paying attention, they’re glancing at their phones or typing away on their laptops. I’ve set ground rules, but they ignore them. Any ideas?
Q. One of my supervisors rubs people the wrong way. Some colleagues complain that her comments bother them—and that she subtly cuts them down. What can I do to address the situation? I’m not even sure how to explain the problem to her, much less propose a solution.
Q. There’s a big gap between the desired performance that I’d like from people—and their actual output. Apparently, I demand too much (at least that’s what I hear from employee engagement surveys). What am I supposed to do? Lower my standards?
Q. I assigned a person on my team to serve as “change agent.” I told him to review our policies and propose solutions to improve our operation. Now he refuses to accept anything the way it is and wants to overhaul everything (even what works). Help!
Q. I’ve got a group of employees who are so distracted by the political goings-on on a national level that they just can’t seem to focus on work. How can I get them to concentrate better?