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Nearly 70% of managers are uncomfortable communicating with their employees. That number comes from a Harris Poll conducted on behalf of Interact and indicates managers sometimes shy away from doing basic management duties.

If uncomfortable managers avoid giving feedback, offering praise, showing vulnerability, providing direction, or communicating in general, they are not helping the bottom line. Poor employee performance will go unaddressed. Star performers will not feel recognized. Employees may distrust their managers and not admit mistakes. Efficiency and productivity will not be a good as they could be. While some managers might do better in non-management positions, others need only a little training, practice, and experience to overcome their discomfort. Here are a few ways you can develop new managers and improve the performance of existing ones:

Best Practices Before Promoting Someone to Management

  • Identify potential managers based not just on individual performance, but the likelihood of success when they are put in charge of a team. Management requires a specific skill set — the ability to lead, to take decisive action, to facilitate compromise, to defuse escalation, to assess performance with clarity and kindness. When considering whom to promote to management, look especially for those employees who exhibit these skills or show signs that they have the potential to develop them.
  • If you see employees with the potential for leadership, give them informal leadership duties and see how well or poorly they do. Some discomfort on their part is expected, so do not rule out someone just because they are not fully comfortable the moment they are asked to lead something. If their feelings of discomfort persist as they are given more informal leadership responsibilities, they are likely not well suited to a formal leadership position—at least not yet.
  • Provide relevant skills training. If you identify an employee with strong potential for leadership in the organization, prepare them to take the role by teaching them the skills they will need to be successful. Consider paying for them to attend workshops or conferences. A mentorship program could also be helpful if you have good managers to help with new managers.

Best Practices with Current Managers

  • Provide skills training in needed areas. It is possible that a manager may be uncomfortable communicating with employees because they have never really been taught how to do it. If that is the case for any of your managers, teach them the communication skills they are lacking. Coach your managers and give them time to practice their managerial skills. When they become more competent, they will feel more confident.
  • Manage your managers. Like any employee, managers need direction, guidance, and someone to hold them accountable. Do for them what they do for their subordinates.
  • If a manager’s performance is having negative impacts on the company and guidance and training do not help, you may need to look at putting them on a performance improvement plan with clear, attainable goals and a set timeframe for completion. If they do not improve, then it may be time for the next step.
  • If the performance improvement plan does not result in improved performance, it may be time to move the employee out of management. Employees who excelled as individual contributors may not do well in management, and that is okay. They may be happier going back to what they were doing before if that is an option.

Management is not easy, and some of its duties will be uncomfortable no matter what. The best managers do not try to avoid unpleasant conversations when those conversations are needed.

This post is provided by the HR Pros at the HR Support Center. When you need essential information on human resources issues, from benefits, hiring, and management, to culture, technology and regulations, HR Support Center is a resource on which you can rely. To learn more, visit or contact us at 770-446-7289 x2102.