10 Kickass Tips on How to Be a Great People Manager

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Image by Ricarda Mölck from Pixabay

Contrary to popular belief, being a great people manager is not easy. It takes strategy and a certain pigheadedness to make a mark as a people manager.

There is a lot of advice out there that may actually work in a counterintuitive manner. This post will set right a few of these myths. Follow some or all of these and you can rest assured that employees will be talking about you for a long time!

In fact, they will likely spend most of their working day talking about you.

Consistently Provide Negative Feedback

Don’t sugar coat performance reviews. Don’t call feedback as ‘improvement area’ or any such polite nonsense. Say it for what it is — negative feedback. Feedback has to hit home. If you sugar coat feedback, employees may get confused and take it as a compliment. They may start doing more of the same. Don’t take such chances. Give feedback directly and without mincing words.
Do this and employees will always know where they stand.

You will not have to deal with uncomfortable questions around promotions or raises for which you don’t have answers in any case.

Do not ask the Team for Feedback

Why on earth would you ask for feedback? You are the boss. You got there because you know everything. Asking for feedback not only hurts your reputation, but also the reputation of your boss. After all, if he promoted you to this level, he thought you were good. Here you go meekly asking underlings for feedback. And what if the feedback is that you are no good? How will that make your boss look?

Spare a thought for upper management when you come up with such schemes. They have an image to keep up too!

Promote Individuality

Team spirit is a load of undigested matter. Performance reviews are done for individuals, not for teams. Growth is for individuals, not for teams. So what is the need for team spirit? Don’t waste organizational time and money on this. Better still, ensure that there is not much team spirit. Pit employees against each other. After all, nature also believes in survival of the fittest.

If the team gets together and starts helping each other out, what role will you play? What are you being paid for?

Ask Uncomfortable Questions Loudly During Meetings

As a Manager, you are entitled to questions things that your employees and others report in meetings. Make sure to use this entitlement. Ask tough questions in meetings. For example, if someone presents a plan, ask “why do you think this will work?”, or throw in other similar questions without answers. Specifically, address such questions to your own teams. That should tell them who the boss is!

If you do this, your team will always be wary of you. Others will also begin to see the tough manager that you are.

Reprimand Employees in Public

Don’t go through any charade of being polite and supportive in public and pull up employees in private. It is useless at multiple levels. Employees do not take such feedback seriously since no one else knows that they were reprimanded. They can get away each time. Other employees will assume you are always supportive and that they can do as they please.

Reprimanding employees in public ensures that your hard-earned kingdom stays as a kingdom and doesn’t degenerate into a democracy.

Always Disagree With Employees

Contrary to what people say, there is only one way that agreeing with an employee can go. Downhill. Once you agree with an employee’s point of view, the employee will make sure everyone hears about it. You will be branded as less knowledgeable. That your juniors know more than you will become your reputation in the public domain. This will do nothing positive for your carefully cultivated reputation.

If you disagree with employees, you will be seen as a tough nut to crack. News will spread and employees and peers will think twice before getting into any argument with you.

Share Information Only With Select Employees

Information is power. One of the biggest fears employees have is of being left out of the information circle. It doesn’t matter whether the information is relevant to them or not. What matters is who got to know first. If you receive any update from top management, stop and think about the best way to disseminate it, and also who will hear it from you. Don’t call the team together and tell them. This is key.

The moment you choose specific employees to give this information to, you convert them into allies. Information is power. If only a few people know key bits of information, it will be easy to ensure that others automatically depend on you and your key allies.

Building a coterie of allies ensures that these allies always execute your orders. After all, they know they will be ‘early information receivers’. Your success as a Manager depends on this coterie.

Stop Using the Word Empowerment

Empower is a synonym for being a lazy manager. Everyone knows that. There is no need to allow people to have the freedom to do their jobs without your input. What use are you if they all did their jobs themselves. A Manager’s job is to manage the people that report to them.

If you use words like empower, employees will see through it all. Behind your back, they will say that you know nothing, and empower is your word for ‘I don’t know how the heck to do any of this. So do it yourself.

You are being paid to manage. Don’t try to squirm out of it using empowerment. If employees have to do all the thinking and managing themselves, top management will begin to question the value you bring to the table.

Stop Being Friendly With Employees

Friendly with the employees — are you nuts?! You worked so hard to get to this position. Don’t throw it away by pretending to be one of the employees. Keep a distance. Be aloof. Employees must always know that you are the boss. Do not do anything that will confuse them and make them think otherwise. They will not be able to tell if you are talking to them as a friend or as the boss.

You have a team to run and output to deliver. Don’t let bonding and friendliness get in the way of your core business goals.

Quote Top Management Often

This one is a clincher. You are the boss and the team needs to recognize this at all times. However, you should also use every opportunity to flaunt the fact that you are close to the big guys in Top Management. Never miss a chance to quote a piece of conversation with top executives. Sprinkle top management names in conversation strategically.

This has two benefits. The team sees you in a new light because of your powerful connections. Respect is high.

They also understand that you are in full alignment with top management and therefore they will do whatever you ask them to, unquestioningly.


Try these techniques. Employees and peers will start behaving very differently with you. In fact, you will notice that they avoid you. That will prove that you are on your way to building a fine reputation as a Manager.

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