As a manager, you’re busy. You need to get your individual work done. You must coach and develop others. You have to manage both internal and external stakeholders. In addition, more often than not, you’re dealing with unforeseen problems that come up in all three of these buckets.
When you’re swamped, it’s easy to be blind to how others may interpret your actions. In the spirit of better self-awareness, it’s important to work hard to avoid these three common unproductive behaviors.
Sending emails during off hours
Are you using your off hours to clean out your inbox? Maybe you are trying to get to inbox zero? However, when your people see these emails hit their inbox, they’ll feel compelled to look at them. After all, you determine their compensation. When they realize your email is not urgent, they become frustrated, especially since they’ve used up their personal time. It can also be stress-inducing for your people to wake up and see a flood of emails from you. They will think there is an emergency. The danger is that when you do need to communicate something urgent during off-hours, people may stop paying attention.
The fix: Send your emails on delay delivery, or keep them as drafts and send them in the morning. You can leverage Outlook’s delay delivery function or Boomerang. Or just don’t work during off-hours. The one exception to delaying your response is when your team requests information from you. Since they are likely waiting to hear from you, responding as soon as possible will show that they are your priority.
Following up excessively
From your perspective, you’re just being proactive to prevent things from falling through the cracks. That’s why you “nonchalantly” stop by your team member’s workspace or “randomly” send them an email to understand the status of a project. Sometimes the follow-up is necessary but most times, it’s just annoying. This is especially true if your team members are supporting other people’s projects as well.
The fix: This situation typically occurs when expectations are unclear or unrealistic. State your deadline upfront and check on the capacity of the other person. Be open to negotiating the deadline if you can be flexible. For non-urgent items, ask the other person to suggest a deadline based on their workload and trust that they will get it to you until they prove otherwise. If you’re not sure about their reliability, set an earlier deadline but get a clear commitment from the other person that they will get the work done. If you’ve clearly communicated your expectations, and they’ve missed the deadline anyway, then your follow up is warranted.
It’s easy to repeat yourself when you don’t feel like you’re getting the response you want. This is a cousin to following up excessively. You think: If the person is not doing what you expect, they must have forgotten. That’s often not the case.
The fix: It’s important to acknowledge that what you’re asking might be tough to do. Instead of repeating yourself, inquire by asking questions. At the same time, be clear on the consequences if the person consistently fails to meet expectations. This clarity places the responsibility back on your team to reach out to you if they need more support. The next time you find yourself being repetitive, think “nagging parent” and consider stopping and asking, “What’s most helpful to you to complete this deliverable?”
We often fall into these less productive behaviors because we see them through our own lens. If they don’t bother me, they won’t bother you. Be mindful of how others might view your behaviors or perhaps how you felt about them when you were on the receiving end. That mindfulness may help you avoid irritating those with whom you work, and over time, build more trusting and pleasant work relationships.
Robert Chen coaches high-performing leaders at Fortune 100 firms and teaches managerial communication, advanced persuasion, and storytelling at Wharton business school. He’s a partner at Exec|Comm, a global communication skills consultancy.