Overheard on Fishbowl: Am I the as-... bad manager? - Glassdoor for Employers

Overheard on Fishbowl: Am I the as-... bad manager?

There comes a time when we have to face some hard truths and ask ourselves if we are the problem.  Just take a look at the most popular subreddit of 2022 - with more than 2.5 billion users chiming in on the thread. 

Fishbowl, a platform for workplace conversations, is another place where you can check yourself - and a lot of new and seasoned managers are doing just that. If you've been wondering if you're doing the right thing, asking yourself "Was I unfair?", you may want to jump in and get some advice. 

We came across a few scenarios from bowls on Fishbowl that made us raise an eyebrow. Our own Kim-Elisha Proctor, Glassdoor's senior director for the People team, lent her expertise on how to thoughtfully approach each situation. Read on for her suggestions and tips. 

Delegation and redefining "done"

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The manager sounds exhausted by the endless cycle of delegation and damage control, but Proctor says it doesn't have to be that way. "I think that the biggest thing around delegation is being clear on the standards and what 'done' is," she said. She recommends setting project standards for teams using an analogous software development standard: The definition of done (DoD). 

In software, DoD refers to the moment when all conditions that a product must satisfy are met and ready to be accepted by a user or system. In the workplace, it might be a checklist of all the people who need to approve a document, and where it needs to be published. 

Proctor shared an example of how she sets her DoDs within her team.

"When I say 'Update this document,' yes, you update it, but then who do you communicate it to? Where do you post it? Do you complete your Asana task? Do you link the document? There are all these things that really mean 'Update the document,'" she explained. 

So, managers set those standards around any type of work to give their employees a clear checklist of what needs to be done. While you have to spend more time up front - especially when onboarding a new employee - the practice can reduce stress and create a more efficient workflow in the future.

Proctor added that, even when a manager provides an example of what they want, they should never assume their teams will know what was "good" about the example. "Say, 'Here's what you did, and here's what someone else did,' or, 'This is what I liked about this and this is why,'" she recommended.

Performance improvement without the guilt  

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This manager is questioning whether they're a good manager because, despite their guidance, they still need to put their direct report on a performance improvement plan (PIP). PIPs are tough for everyone involved. To make the most of the plan and  help an underperforming employee rise, Proctor recommends at least six weeks of coaching, which should include:

  • A list of tasks that the employee has been missing
  • Where applicable, the employee's original job description, the internal career architecture, or a competency matrix detailing the expectations for the employee's role
  • A list of skill sets and areas that the employee needs to improve 

Perhaps most importantly, keep the conversation flowing by speaking with the employee about their progress. 

"Success plans have regular touch points," Proctor said. "We have the managers meet with their employees every week to go over the process." During those check-ins, Proctor suggests that managers grade each task as a win or loss and then explain why they graded it accordingly. "What is the behavior that you judge is good or bad? Be able to really highlight that for employees," she said.

Interview testing ethically and fairly 

Many of us have had to complete a test or assignment as part of the interview process whether it be a writing sample, code, presentation, or something else. These assignments can take a lot of a job seeker's time and some worry that the company could take the applicants' ideas without hiring them.

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Case in point, this post.

Fortunately, the Fishbowl community spoke out, commenting that asking for unpaid work from applicants you don't intend to hire is unethical, to say the least. This behavior can also damage your employer brand. (Job seekers can and do talk about those tactics, both on Fishbowl and the "Interviews" tab on Glassdoor's company rating pages.)

According to Proctor, it's okay for companies to take different approaches to interview assignments. Most companies will give a simple homework assignment with a one or two-hour time limit. If the project calls for more time, consider paying the applicant for their work.

"I have seen companies who will go out and actually give [applicants] a mini consulting project, but pay them for that work," she said.

Another option is to offset the interview time with the at-home assignment. For example, if the  interview process is typically 10 hours, offer a task that will take five hours. This way, the extra work is still within the scope of the process. 

Keep learning

Every good manager has moments of self-doubt. Being a leader sometimes means making hard decisions: It's normal to question whether you made the right one or to think about the ways different responses could have played out. 

Join Fishbowl for a sounding board of professionals to help weigh in on those tough calls.