Management 101: Avoiding Mistakes and Making the Right Decisions

Many retail and office managers will spend inordinate amounts of time agonizing over important decisions and then ruin their efforts by making a snap decision over a seemingly innocent issue. Here are five actions that managers take that are counterproductive when it comes to effectively managing their staff while avoiding the problem in the first place.

Taking Unwarranted Credit for a Subordinate’s Efforts

Hollywood movies may make interoffice politics seem like a constant battle of wills with backbiting and jockeying for position as the main goals of the staff. Reality is considerably different. The vast majority of employees take pride in their work and will not gladly suffer another coworker or a manager taking credit for their efforts.

Managers who engage in or condone this activity will not build a loyal and trusting staff. Instead, they risk breeding a culture that will undercut them at every turn. Similarly, managers who do not accept responsibility for their own poor decisions and shunt the burden onto their subordinates will demoralize their staff in a relatively short period.

In short, a manager’s job is to use his people to their best advantage. This process entails eliciting ideas, implementing the best ones, giving credit where it is due and accepting responsibility for failures. Whether he realizes it or not, this process is what he is being evaluated on by his superiors.

Making Rules for a Few Bad Apples

Any office or retail location that hires substantial numbers of employees will occasionally let a bad one slip through in the hiring process. Good managers understand this and have developed skills and procedures to deal with these “bad apples” directly and individually. More cowardly managers prefer to avoid confrontation and attempt to enact policies that will stop the unwanted behavior at the cost of alienating the other good employees. It is a recipe for disaster as every employee, including the bad ones, will feel unjustly targeted. Also, the poorly performing ones rarely recognize that it is their failings that are causing the problem.

Avoiding Decisiveness

While making a particular choice when it comes to customer service or implementing a project are second nature to location managers, the ability seems to leave them when personnel decisions must be made. One of the most glaring examples of this behavior is keeping poorly performing coworkers on staff for far longer than is necessary.

This fact does not mean that the managers fail to recognize the inability of the coworker to perform well nor that they do not follow company policy in ridding themselves of the subpar performers. Instead, the failing is in not acting soon enough.

Most people, including managers, would sooner “forgive and forget” a transgression than deal with the problem in a head-on manner. Unfortunately, most office and location managers do not have the luxury to take this approach as a problem coworker saps morale, creates a more stressful working environment with their non-productivity and generally diverts resources from more critical tasks.

Failure to Follow Through

Employees are generally forced to take a manager at his word. If a manager fails in this regard, the relationship will be strained at best and utterly unworkable at worst. Managers must not make promises that they will not or cannot honor to resolve an immediate situation. If confronted with an unusual situation that doesn’t lend itself to the usual remedies, a manager must fall back to the standard fail-safe position, that he doesn’t know but will have an answer shortly.

This behavior is particularly destructive if a manager promises something that he can’t deliver to gain unreasonable productivity from his staff. For example, promising that the staff can go home after a particular goal is met is one way to achieve more significant effort in a shorter time frame. It is unethical and demoralizing to use that unnaturally productive period to set further goals then. In the purest form, the answer to this problem is the same as it is in customer service: under promise and over deliver.

Not Building an Environment of Trust

The entire concept of delegation implies a certain level of trust in the employee by the manager. While it may seem counterintuitive to those who have managed entry-level new hires, allowing employees a certain degree of freedom of action and certain latitude to make mistakes is quite good for their morale and productivity in the long run.

Building a sense of trust is a two-way street according to any Executive Coach. Empowering employees while not smothering them in management “techniques” will also engender a sense of trust by the coworkers in their managers.

The PEO Solution

Having a resource like a Professional Employer Organization to help with human capital management is also incredibly valuable to location managers. PEOs provide reliable answers to managers in those unusual situations that sometimes occur. They also offer a sturdy framework upon which managers can make informed decisions and avoid the mistakes mentioned above.


Just like any other business activity, managing employees takes experience and practice. While mistakes are bound to happen, a good manager can preempt many of them by monitoring, but not over managing his new hires carefully.