Malhar Lakshman
Malhar Lakshman

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Articles
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Fri 27 January 2023
The word “layoff” is a word that sparks unease in any workplace. After all, it’s associated with a loss of income for the worker, as well as a sign that doesn’t bode well for a company. While a layoff is primarily a defensive management move, it is important for a manager to understand how to properly lay a set of workers or an individual worker off. 

Layoffs Vs. Other Forms of Termination

 A layoff is not the same as termination of an employee. It is an involuntary separation from work initiated by an employer or manager. It is through no fault of the employee, and keeps them eligible for unemployment insurance, but losing other benefits. Most of the time, laid-off workers also still get to keep their investments in a company retirement plan such as their 401k. 

  A layoff differs from a furlough as well, in the sense that it is generally permanent. A furlough is when workers are idled for a time as a result of repairs, or another event requiring a temporary work halt, while also continuing to receive their benefits with the expectation that they will eventually return to work. Layoffs are genuinely utilized to remove groups of people at a time, ranging from several individuals, or even thousands. They are generally prompted by bankruptcy, financial hardships, or even being bought out by a larger company. 

 Layoffs often correspond with significant economic events. In the U.S, employers laid off employees en masse due to the drastic downturn in demand during the COVID-19 Pandemic, as many areas closed down travel, dining, and service. According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, over 20 million jobs were cut in April 2020 alone.

 Understanding what makes a layoff is critical to being able to conduct one. But there are a few steps to take before signing the final papers to let go of a series of workers, including a meeting, as well as several other steps.

What to do before the Meeting

Before the meeting, a gameplan needs to be established. To start this gameplan, what positions are slated to be cut? Is there any alternative besides completely laying off these positions? In addition to this, finances of a layoff need to be considered. 

Removing workers with a layoff requires a severance payment, and sometimes also advance notice. It is extremely important to consult human resources or any form of legal department to determine if legal advance notice is required. Violating this can result in serious fines.

Determining if some employees will be needed for a transitional period can be critical for the business. Not every layoff conversation will be identical, since some employees may have information that would be valuable towards the rest of the company. For example, if you are removing about a quarter of an operations team, the remaining three-quarters might not necessarily have had the removed’s responsibilities.  Therefore, keeping that quarter temporarily  to train the remainder of the team, with compensation of course, would be very valuable.   

As stated before, meetings need to be scheduled with any staff members potentially being laid off. The amount of members in a business could qualify it for the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, which legally mandates that employees laid off receive at least two months’ notice. Therefore, the date of this meeting may be flexible depending on when the business is obligated to give notice.  

When scheduling the meeting, consider days before a weekend or a holiday to give the employee time to cope afterward. Being laid off is a painful experience, and understanding how to alleviate some of the pain associated with this can be valuable. Remember the following- for the manager, this is just less people to pay, but for the individuals being cut, this means the end of a regular income, no 401k, and no other perks, such as health insurance. All in all, this is a very stressful time. 

During the Actual Meeting

When actually meeting with the employee, there are a few things to consider. Pick a time and place that is both private and neutral, such as a conference room. This time should also allow for an employee to leave the building privately. Layoff meetings might also need to include other people, such as an HR representative, or potentially security as well. 

 Have any paperwork or materials needed for this meeting before the employee gets to the meeting. This allows it to be as concise as possible. This often includes termination letters, COBRA papers, a final paycheck, severance paperwork, and other items related to the severance packet. 

 Remember what the objectives to this meeting are. For the manager, as well as the company, the goals are the following:

  • Have a concise, but compassionate meeting to inform the employee that their position is to be eliminated
  • Protect the employer brand, especially regarding their reputation for future recruitment
  • To be as courteous to the employee as possible
  • Deliver the message to the employee for them to hear clearly while retaining dignity

While keeping these goals in mind, deliver the message as quickly as possible, while still being kind. Have a box of tissues on hand as well. Praising previous accomplishments can help the employee’s ego. If the company has the ability to do so, provide outplacement services and job counseling. Outplacement services can help with job-searching and resume writing, as well as consulting. This shows that the company can truly care about the employee.  

At no point should there be anger or disappointment displayed towards the employee. This is a painful time already for the employee, and it doesn’t need to be further compounded by adding more negative sentiment into the meeting. Be ready to address questions and objections to your statement. Always provide some form of support for the employee. After all, you may be able to hire them in the future, so avoid burning a bridge with them. Finally, don’t hesitate to offer to write a letter of recommendation for their next job, or act as a reference. Being laid off can put someone into a stupor. Understanding how to care for them can really make a difference. 



Fri 27 January 2023
For many teams and managers, one of the greatest hurdles that they face is what happens in the absence of their current manager. After all, a manager is often able to unify the team, set common goals, and manage morale. However, another responsibility that managers should have is to develop leaders. Managers are often the first reference a direct report has towards promotion, especially if the report is interested in leadership. But how does a manager know who could be a good leader?

Why isn’t the MVP the best leader?

Not every worker is cut out to be a manager. A common fallacy within the professional world is to promote high-performing employees to positions of leadership. This oftentimes has resulted in poorly-performing managers, since they generally lack the skills associated with leadership. What brought them success might not necessarily be able to have the same result for other coworkers. In fact, Google conducted internal research and found that this was the number one overall pitfall with managers.

 Once a member of a team turns into a leader of a team, their selling point- which was the ability to complete their tasks- becomes somewhat irrelevant. They still may be asked to perform previously held duties, but their most important task is now leading and empowering their teams.

What skills does a good manager have?

 The best leaders often have a skillset specializing in soft skills, such as communication, empathy, people skills, and being a team leader. While some individuals happen to have these qualities, there is a difference between utilizing these from a peer-to-peer perspective versus that of a leader to subordinate perspective.  

 In addition to this, good managerial candidates are those who often try to improve circumstances for their peers and clients at the same time. This means that they strive for overall quality, as opposed to just making sure that their own component is satisfactory. A good leader should be able to also adapt with change. Throughout the past ten years, there have been many different phenomena such as COVID, The Great Recession, and a complete overhaul of how mental health is viewed in the workplace.  Managers have been forced to adapt how they handle both their work as well as personnel as a result of this.

 Emotional intelligence is also a quintessential part of a good manager. Professor John D. Mayer of the Harvard Business Review defined it as follows.

“From a scientific (rather than a popular) standpoint, emotional intelligence is the ability to accurately perceive your own and others’ emotions; to understand the signals that emotions send about relationships; and to manage your own and others’ emotions. It doesn’t necessarily include the qualities (like optimism, initiative, and self-confidence) that some popular definitions ascribe to it.”

 Managers are in a position of power over other workers, and often hold a significant amount of sway in how they will affect their direct reports. Managers are often the unifying cog within a team as well, and if they are insecure, their team often follows suit. Therefore, they also must be able to recognize how their actions and emotions may affect others, and how they can influence their teammates.

So how does a manager recognize potential managerial candidates?

 The first thing to take note of is how hard a direct report works to ensure that their work is satisfactory. While it is indeed true as mentioned above that the best workers don’t always make the best manager, someone who is personally sloppy or constantly turning in unsatisfactory work may not necessarily be the best manager. Utilize tools such as AIM Insights to determine how their work is in terms of satisfaction and punctuality.

 AIM Insights can also tell you about the results of Direct Report 1:1s. A good manager should be holding regular 1:1s with their staff in addition to performance reviews. During these, you can find out how direct reports feel about each other. Is there a specific individual who all of their peers appear to look up to? Do they serve as a point of contact before the manager is contacted? Is there a sense of mutual respect? If so, consider looking at this person for managerial potential. Their individual 1:1s should also lend a lot of information. Someone who is willing to take credit for their work, but also split credit shows promise. Humility is a good value, since hubris can result in a negative impression with other coworkers.

 Ambition is also a good quality for a manager. Managers are often planning for the future, especially for organization-wide success. However, without the sense of delegation, they may face burnout, so prioritize that as well. 

 In order to help candidates achieve their potential, there are a few things to consider:

  • Educate these candidates- No entry level manager will be able to have every positive trait listed above, especially without prior managerial experience. Work with them and be a positive mentor for them. 
  • Give them gradual increases in responsibilities or temporary promotions- Temporary promotions can expose a direct report to a manager’s chair without anywhere near as much stress. This type of exposure can help pique their interests without overwhelming them. 
  • Regularly communicate with them about what they need to improve their likelihood of promotion- This can be critical in making a good manager. While they might feel that they are doing everything well to be a managerial candidate, only managers are truly aware of what  upper leadership is looking for in a manager. Therefore, take that extra step to help polish off rough edges to create a better manager.

Creating a manager doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a long and tedious process and starts with identifying a good candidate. After that, with some empathy and education, a team can be much better equipped for the future, with both an in-house managerial candidate, and one that knows them very well. 



Tue 17 January 2023
Sometimes, one of the most difficult actions for a manager to take is to understand when to take a leave of absence. 66% of managers suffer from burnout, and according to Gallup, this number is only increasing. After all, managers often are in a unique position between direct reports and executives. Not only are they assisting their team below, but simultaneously assisting a team above. In addition to that, they have their own problems to face as well, including hiring, training, and retaining employees. This quote from Harry Levinson from the Harvard Business Review sums up the quandary faced by managers:

“In my role, I’m the guy who catches it all. I don’t know how much longer I can last in this job.”

While we have explained how to manage burnout as a manager, there comes a point that it is important to throw in the towel, even temporarily. However, there are a few steps to take for the sake of professionalism and to help both your team as well as your senior leadership team. After all, a manager’s absence is a phenomenon that will have a drastic impact on the rest of the team. Therefore, planning for before, during, and after the leave will be the manager’s responsibility. 

Before the Leave

Before your actual leave, one of the most important things to do is properly notify all of your coworkers, whether they be your direct reports, your peers, or your superiors. This is extremely important. Plan on assigning a point of contact as a substitute for you in order to make the most out of this break as well. Separation from work can be extremely valuable.

Notifying an executive team or any superior of a leave of absence can be daunting at times. The key here is to provide written documentation in conjunction with the human resources department explaining the following

·       What- Is this a leave of absence? Is this a step down and a break at the same time? Be sure to clarify exactly what steps are being taken during this break.
·       Why- Explain any reasoning as to why this action is being taken. No answer is an incorrect one but explaining the rationale behind mental health reasoning can add credibility to this report.
·       When- Clarify the dates as to when any breaks are being taken, as well as a timeline approximating a return to duties. While it is okay to have an indefinite duration, adding statements such as “no less than” or “no more than” can help senior managers in finding coverage.

Leave transition paperwork behind. While your leave may not necessarily be a permanent one, it is a leave, and staff contacting you should be unnecessary. This break is meant to refresh you and help with your mental health, as opposed to being on-call support. This paperwork should include team goals, some dossiers, and current tasks. A tool like AIM Insights can be a great way to document all of this information in real time. Hopefully, someone within your team is temporarily elevated to a managerial position. However, if senior leadership promotes someone unfamiliar with the team, they need to be well equipped to hit the ground running. Therefore, thorough paperwork will be extremely helpful. In addition to that, it will assist the team chemistry by allowing the substitute manager to understand individual personalities as well as specialties.

During the Leave

Many managers will struggle with the actual leave component of their planned leave. After all, their role is such an active part of the workplace that it ends up being very time consuming. Having this much free time can be somewhat daunting. So, what should a manager do with their time off?

1)      Log out of any work accounts- This break is meant for rehabilitation, as stated before. It is not meant to transfer you to remote work. Express that employees are not to contact you, unless there is an emergency, and only if there is an emergency.
2)     Get help- Taking a leave of absence is a drastic step. Simply taking a break for mental health and not taking further action is unproductive. Reach out to doctors, therapists, and mentors to look at further action.
3)     Take some time for yourself-  During this time, explore interests, and look at activities outside of the scope of the job. The goal of this is to reduce high levels of anxiety and stress. Use this time accordingly.       
4)     Contact superiors- If you are making any changes to your original planned break, let your superiors know, so they can then pass on further instructions to your substitute. In addition to that, keep them appraised on your projected return. This will assist them in reintroducing you to the workplace. In addition to that, let them know if you plan to reduce your duties in any capacity. It is okay to say that a job entails a little too much. Smart delegation can help with this as well.
5)     Prepare yourself to return- This seems a little straightforward, but it is a fairly important aspect of the leave. Work can be stressful, especially coming back off of a break. Imagine missing a few days of school. When you came back, it was a completely different unit being covered in math, a brand new animal to dissect in science, and somehow the school lunches got even worse. Returning to work after a mental health break can be extremely similar to this. Acknowledge that there may be changes, and that you may have a bit of work ahead of you in reacclimatizing to the work environment.

At the end of the day, being a manager is yet another job which will take up time and effort.  While this position is one of support and mentorship, sometimes it is in fact a manager who needs the aforementioned things. It is okay to ask for help, and more than okay to take time off to focus on returning stronger. 

Thu 5 January 2023
A post-COVID effect in the workplace has been an increased prioritization on individual mental health, which has often led to a phenomenon known as the Great Resignation. The Great Resignation is generally agreed to have started in early 2021, and as of January 2023 is still ongoing. The prioritization of mental health and consequent behaviors have also left managers in unique quandaries. Employees are more likely to resign, take more time off, schedule for more flexibility, or look for a new job.

 However, what most people don’t truly realize is how managers are affected by mental health issues, and how they can combat it. As of October 2022, a whopping 76% of executives and managers have reported feeling burnt out or overwhelmed as a result of their work. Now, given the higher compensation, one might argue that the pressure is a part of their job. However, there are a few ways that a manager can not only manage effectively, but also have a better grip of their mental health. These methods are often changes to how a manager chooses to work, as well as some mentality changes. 

Preventing your own Burnout

1)     Plan for different phases of the day. Not every hour of the day should be treated equally. Now you might wonder why every hour of the day doesn’t deserve equal treatment. The answer to this is quite simple, and can be answered with a question- how do you feel after your lunch break? Some might say drowsy, or a little heavy. Just as worker efficiency can ebb and flow throughout the year, your attention and energy can change depending on the time of day. Schedule yourself accordingly. You know your body best, and if you have the power to choose times to schedule meetings, utilize that privilege. Some people use mornings for the most attention requiring work, which makes sense for them. The caffeine might have kicked in, or they might just be morning people. However, not every individual is that way. Some people feel too impatient after waking up, and something with fine details might not be the best possible thing for them.
2)     You can afford to be less reactive, and more passive. Not every issue needs to be dealt with urgently, especially by you as a manager. Sometimes, issues can be passed off to direct reports who are able to handle it with less stress. Consultant David Allen penned a book called Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity. This book proposes a mindset similar to an email inbox. Think about how you organize that inbox. Some messages might be of a priority, while others simply sit in your inbox. You don’t mandate yourself to respond to every email immediately, do you? It’s a very similar concept. 
3)     Preserve your work hours, and even more importantly, your off hours. You will not be as efficient if you are always working. A brain is like a muscle- if it is taxed or worked, it needs to have time to recover. While emergencies happen, for the most part of the normal work cycle, you do not always need to be on call. Stick to the nature of the off-hours. Don’t check emails, don’t draft any, and don’t worry about getting work done. Relax, and get yourself into a mindset for the next day.
4)     Set firm boundaries with when you are accessible and when you are busy. If you keep an open-door policy, you will become overwhelmed by the amount of requests that come your way. Create a specific set of hours in which you can deal with issues brought to you, and do not keep the metaphorical door open any longer than this. While this boundary may seem harsh, you cannot help others if you have problems of your own to address. Therefore, setting this boundary will benefit you in the long run.
5)     Prioritize what you do per day. If you’ve ever meal-planned before, it’s a very similar psychology. You can’t achieve everything you want to in one day, so you have to plan the tasks you have to do per week across the entire week.
6)     Avoid micromanaging things. Your staff was picked either by you or your predecessors for a reason. Having this faith in your staff will be much more rewarding and efficient than doing it all yourself. Your primary role as a leader is to help enable your staff. 
7)     Find your anchor points. In the case that you need to take a break, or a leave of absence, you need to make sure that your team will not be left high and dry. Have a second point of communication, and don’t be afraid to make subleaders. 
8)     Finally, don’t be afraid to recognize if you need help. Plenty of managers, as well as plenty of people take extended breaks to work on their mental health. It is always more than okay to do something to work on yourself. A manager functioning at 50% is much worse than someone who is healthy and capable of making difficult decisions. Be communicative with your team and your peers, as well as senior leadership to allow for a smooth transition due to your leave.

Mental health as a manager can always be scary at first. After all, you’ve been conditioned to always put your direct reports first. And that’s completely okay, as long as you remember that you need help occasionally as well. 

 

Thu 5 January 2023
A manager is a key part of the workplace in almost every company. These individuals help delegate tasks, deal with interpersonal issues, and often determine the goals of the team. However, a manager can often serve as more than just a taskmaster. Managers often boast a wealth of experience which can be passed on to their direct reports. 

               The Oxford Review referred to mentorship as “knowledge management.” Such a description couldn’t be more apt. Sharing information between both manager and direct reports can be a challenge, which can be rectified with a few different actions. 

How to be a Mentoring Manager

1)               Learn to ask good questions- good teachers and mentors don’t necessarily always give the answers to their students. Asking effective questions can lead a mentee to a solution without being spoon-fed the answer. It will allow them to become more solution oriented rather than dependent on you.
2)               Limit how much time you have available to your direct reports- This might seem counterintuitive, but an open-door policy will never be beneficial in an operations aspect for your company. This will not only leave you overwhelmed, but not allow your direct reports to be self-sufficient. However, scheduling time to meet with your direct reports can be very beneficial as well, since it can give them a feeling of loyalty and being noticed.
3)               Be smart with delegation- a good manager should recognize what tasks to give their direct reports, and what tasks they should take responsibility for by themselves. In addition to this, great managers understand to never give a direct report a task that they would avoid themselves. 
4)               Understand growth- at the end of the day, while a manager will no doubt want to retain as many members of their team as they can, they need to realize that not every direct report will want to remain a direct report for perpetuity. Foster their growth whenever possible, and they will reward you with better quality work, as well as more loyalty. And if they so choose to leave, that’s okay. More individuals will come later down the line. 
5)               Assume responsibility for your direct reports- If they do something well, acknowledge them. If they don’t necessarily do something well, help them see how they did something incorrectly, and then don’t leave them out to dry. Take responsibility as well.
6)               Grow personally as a worker as well- Every bit of knowledge you have as a manager can and should be passed down to your direct reports. 

How does a manager appeal to all age groups?

Great managers will often prove to be the best facilitators and mentors within their organization. Different age groups can all have vastly different interests and methods, but with the right helmsman, they can come together and work with high degrees of success. Here are some ideas on how to properly manage this workplace

1)     Hold regular 1:1s and foster the prioritization of communication within your workplace. For the first time ever, four generations are in the workforce at the same time. Each of these generations have different expectations and methods to use. This can easily lead to conflict when colleagues are unaware of these differences and try to work by themselves or cooperatively. Employees need to be able to communicate these differences in a healthy manner and choose how to approach a task. 
2)     Recognizing different peoples work orientations is a vital skill to be an effective manager. Just because someone has more experience doesn’t mean that they want to be a project lead, nor does it mean that they have the necessary skills and personality. Put individuals in positions that they want to be in and will succeed in, rather than positions that they have potential to be in. While learning is a part of a direct report’s job, it should be at their own pace, rather than being thrown into the metaphorical deep end of a pool and being told to swim.  
3)     Identify that different generations perceive respect differently. Regardless of who they are, no member of a team deserves to feel obsolete or disrespected within the workplace. Fostering a workforce with a wide sense of understanding and mutual respect is critical. The Platinum Rule can be enforced throughout the workplace as well. The more common Golden Rule explains to treat others as (you) would want to be treated, but this is deficient. A generation Z worker may not like to be treated in the same way that a Boomer would. The Platinum Rule says to treat others as they would like to be treated. This creates a better team dynamic and a respectful environment. 

While the workforce may be expanding to a scale unimagined before, this can be a good thing for your team. Proper communication and management can allow a team, regardless of age barriers, or any other times of barriers, to be a much more successful team.  

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