The best managers balance compassion with assertiveness

When employees were asked what makes a good manager they said compassion, fairness and trustworthiness. When organisations seek to appoint managers they look for commitment, loyalty and assertiveness. Can HR bridge the gap?

There is what employees think makes a good manager and there is what those appointing them think makes an effective manager. Which explains why some people who are not considered good managers get promoted and why some people who are considered good managers don’t get promoted.

A recent employee survey reported in HRD (4/9/23) revealed the top 20 characteristics of a good manager. Most would not appear on a person specification for a management post. Yet if you asked HR professionals what skills and attributes managers most frequently lack the employees top 20 would all be there.
Organisations want managers who deliver which is why in the recruitment process they put so much emphases on experience and commitment. During the interview process they look for people who are confident and knowledgeable. When asked what makes a good manager employees don’t mention knowledge or experience in their top 20 characteristics instead they identify compassion, honesty and fairness as the most important qualities.
It is perhaps no great surprise that employees want a boss who is fair, consistent and supportive whereas the organisation typically wants managers who are assertive, committed and loyal.
HR professions would probably agree that management is about getting the best out of individual employees. They would testify to the fact that they are most often called upon when there are issues of fairness and constancy. In their enthusiasm for getting things done managers sometimes come across to employees as unreasonable, inconsistent and maybe even bullying. They are also accused of a lack of compassion in failing to take appropriate account of people’s circumstances such as when a previously conscious and capable employee’s performance markedly deteriorates, or time keeping never before an issue becomes a problem.

From an HR point of view an effective manager is also a good manager because to lead a team and get the best out of individuals you need compassion as well assertiveness. Increasingly organisations are appreciating this but as yet compassion is not a standard essential requirement on the managers Person Specification so HR continue to bridge the gap.

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    6 December 2023


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