Project Practitioners > Managing the Administrivia

Managing the Administrivia

By Ed Reynolds

Sometimes the paperwork and administrative tasks required by an organization are daunting, especially at review time. And as managers, there are so many more important things to do than all that paperwork, right? Wrong! One of the key things you do as a manager is keep ahead of company processes, do what you can to ensure they make sense, and, sensible or not, keep your team in the know and their paperwork up-to-date.

I had a manager that was on the road a lot and didn't prioritize the administrative functions of his job. The bulk of our commission check came from making our quota but there was a portion that depended on MBOs. Reporting achievement against MBOs was a manual process and had to be completed on a rigid schedule to ensure payments were made in the month they were expected. In a particularly bad year, where no one was making quota and people were depending on the MBO payout, Mike didn’t report the data on time. So, that month we got neither a commission check nor the MBO payout. We just had to eat a 30% pay cut that month.

Another guy I worked for didn’t like writing reviews. He felt like he had coached and advised people continuously throughout the year and the review was just a formality. (In principle, I agree with him in but you still need to document the essence of those regular conversations in the review.) There was a big problem in this situation: Rob didn’t like confrontation. Whenever some healthy confrontation may have been needed in those frequent coaching sessions, it didn’t occur. My review that year was 2 sentences. No commentary on achievement of assigned objectives. No discussion of areas for improvement. No specifics at all. Just two sentences that said, "we had talked about things I needed to do to be successful." My rating: average. Two months later he fired me.

To be an effective manager, you need to have [earned] the trust and respect of the people that work for you. That trust is violated when your peoples’ livelihoods are significantly impacted unexpectedly. Expectations about pay, position/responsibilities, and perceived performance problems are the most important aspects of your peoples’ jobs and all well within the manager’s control. When people aren’t paid on time or experience an unexpected change in status, any trust or respect you may have earned goes out the window. Sometimes the unexpected is unavoidable – reductions in force, for example. But in all other areas it is the manager’s most solemn duty to set their employees' expectations about things impacting their livelihood. There is no excuse for surprises in these areas.

Not all comments are posted. Posted comments are subject to editing for clarity and length.

>>Just two sentences that said, "we had talked about things I needed to do to be successful." My rating: average. Two months later he fired me.<<

Ouch. That's harsh. I bet you didn't get an explanation for the pink slip, either.

Couldn't agree more about expectation management. I'm always going on about that. Expectations matter in any and every context. If you don't record them, how can you possibly be sure of a common understanding?

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