Performance Management: Employees Don’t Actually Like Being Managed, Do They?

management skillsThere’s an interesting assumption I’ve heard voiced again and again by business owners and managers, which is that people don’t actually like being managed, and, more specifically, that people don’t want to work with a manager who actively manages their performance.

Here’s how some of the business owners and managers I’ve worked with have put it:

“I feel embarrassed about managing performance, some of my employees are more experienced than I am and some are my friends. They won’t like it if start acting “all managerial.”

‘Won’t my employees feel patronised if I manage their performance – won’t they think I don’t trust them?”

Well of course it depends on what “being managed” looks like. Generally people don’t like being told what to do, being constantly watched, being constantly criticised (so that’s something you didn’t know then!). But then again, that’s not effective performance management

So What Do People Want?

In my work with managers I often ask the question “What do you, as an employee, want from your manager?” Here are some typical answers:

Clarity / feedback /recognition / communication / learning / praise / assistance / advice / support / responsibility / challenge /clear direction / incentives

I’m guessing you can see that many of these wants are directly related to effective performance management. In fact, the comments quite neatly describe performance management. A few examples:

√ Clarity of expectations, both the managers and employees, is the basis of effective performance management

√ Feedback, the ability to make objective comments based on observed performance against agreed objectives, is what drives effective performance management

√ Recognition, praise, reward, incentives – all part and parcel of effective performance management

I’m sure you get the picture.

And The Research Says?

Here’s some research from the savvy people which basically illustrates the same point: In a Gallup study of performance, covering more than 200,000 employees across a dozen or more industries, teams that rated managers highly on four factors were more productive and more profitable. They also had lower staff turnover and higher customer satisfaction ratings. The four factors:

  • knowing what is expected of them
  • receiving positive feedback and recognition regularly for work well done
  • having a manager who shows care, interest and concern for each of them
  • having a role that fits their abilities

In a further Gallup study 80% of British workers said they lack any real commitment to their jobs and most blame poor management for their low level of motivation. Workers said they don’t know what’s expected of them, their managers don’t care about them as people, their jobs aren’t good fit for their talents and their view counted for little.

The Conclusion?

What people seem to want, and want quite badly, is to be well managed. No surprise there then. What maybe is more of a surprise is that much of what “well managed” means is effective performance management. And that is a surprise to many managers.

And The Practical Application?

Ask yourself the following questions:

1. How do you think the employees in your business would rate you (and your managers) against the four Gallup factors?

2. Do you need to do something differently?


11 Responses to Performance Management: Employees Don’t Actually Like Being Managed, Do They?

  1. Joan- This is the best blogpost I have reaf all week!
    Really excellent pulling togerher of research with practical application.
    Thank you.

  2. joanhenshaw says:

    Thank you Rachel – really appreciate your comments
    Best wishes

  3. […] of how to use this type of research to improve the way you manage your employees see my blog posts ‘Employees don’t actually like being managed, do they?’ and ‘Four ways to delight your employees’)  […]

  4. […]   • Employees Don’t Like Being Managed    (read more at ‘Performance Management: Employees Don’t Actually Like Being Managed, Do They?’)   • Managers Have to Be Perfect (No Mistakes Allowed)    (read more at […]

  5. I had a very bad morning ‘being managed’. My manager does not trust me, there is constant watch over what I am doing, she pokes her nose in every small and big decision/action of mine. I simply don’t like her.

  6. joanhenshaw says:

    Hi Sankalp. I’m sorry to hear that – I guess it goes to prove (once again) that there’s a big difference between being ‘well managed’ and badly managed. Is your manager monitoring your work more closely thank your colleagues?

    If the answer is ‘yes’ a) have you any idea why? (e.g. are you new to the role?) b) Can you talk to your manager about why they monitor your work so closely? (You could say something like ‘I have noticed that you seem to monitor my work more closely than the other members of the team. Can you tell me why you do that?’ )

    If the answer is ‘no’ then I guess it’s simply their management style (they may feel the need to have a high degree of control over their teams work). You can still try and talk to them about it. You could try saying ‘I find it difficult that you monitor my work so closely. For example yesterday (give some examples). I would like tyou to monitor my work less closely. Can we discuss what needs to happen for you to be happy doing that?’ (or something like that!!)

    Warning: I would advise you not to assume your manager does not trust you. There may be many reasons why they are monitoring your performance so closely. Making assumptions about why other people behave as they do (in the workplace anyway) rarely, in my experience, helps matters

    Best wishes


  7. Hi Joan

    Thanks for replying.

    Actually I have stopped caring for that. I am very good at what I do, I just finish everything as and when she wants. Just that it takes out all the innovator out of me.

    I always used to go to office at 11.30 am for most of the last 2 years. I take ownership of my task and never have missed a single deadline. Then came this new manager, about an year back, earlier I was not directly reporting to her, she knew me but we were part of different teams.

    She is my direct supervisor for about 4 months now and the very first thing she wanted to change was my office timings. Mails, verbal duels followed. She was just hell bent on carving out an ’employee’ out of me.

    Now I reach office everyday at 10.30 am sharp and am out of office at 8.00 pm sharp. Only my nearest colleagues know that I have always done my best work between 8.00 pm to 1.00 am, when I am really in my best working mood, this is kinda personal to everyone, you might be knowing.

    There’s lot more I can share, will help experts like you to maybe pass on the experience to other ‘managers’ around.



  8. To add to that,

    The answer to the question you asked is ‘No’, she manages all employees closely.

    About the trust part, yes, you are right. I do not know whether she really trusts me or not, but I am pretty sure she doesn’t. (Funny sentence wasn’t it?).

    She is just trying to do her job right and some earlier projects she handled have been pretty bad, so there is this insecurity of failure and then may be the extra effort to push things. After all, she’ll also be having her own goals.

    And me being a not-so-employee type of personality doesn’t help either.

  9. joanhenshaw says:

    Hi Sankalp

    Well I feel for you, I really do. It must be very frustrating – or I guess it would be if you hadn’t stopped caring (such a shame). I’m guessing you have already tried talking to your senior manager (I mean the manager who manages your manager)? It may be worth a shot? If you do you decide to do this you need to take some hard ‘evidence’ of the issue i.e.examples of the ‘micro management’ we are talking about. You could then talk about the impact this management style is having on your job satisfaction. My guess is you will say, again, you’ve ‘stopped caring’ but it sounds to me (based on the fact that you have posted here) that you haven’t quite given up just yet?

    Re your comment above – I think this is very insightful of you. It may be that as her ‘insecurity of failure’ diminishes she will feel she can ‘pull back’ and let go of monitoring everyone so closely. Here’s an idea that might help a little: why don’t you suggest that you monitor your own performance and report back to her? Take a quick look at this blog and skim down to ‘2. Report Back’ So, here you would have a conversation with your manager along the lines of ‘I notice that you appear to spend a lot of time monitoring my performance (give examples). I wonder if there is a way that I help save you some time by monitoring some aspects of my own performance and then reporting back to you – maybe weekly?’

    Now of course this idea might not work with your job and, even if it did, your manager might be appalled by the idea but at least it might give you some way of opening up the conversation with her about this issue of monitoring you so closely?

    I hope some of this is helpful

    Best wishes


  10. Lynette says:

    Hi There. I find this article very interesting and am actually including this type of study into a bigger study for my dissertation. I was wondering if you could guide me to where I could find surveys which will give an outcome as to what type of manager should be managing a particular individual. So, I am looking for a survey that employees can take which will tell me what type of manager they should have.

    I find 100 000’s of articles and questionnaires for managers to say how they should manage people, but my argument is that no every person wants to be managed the same. Some want an active manager, others want to be left on their own. I am looking for something that I can say, this individual wants to be managed like this, and relate that back to a management style.

    Any guidance to studies, research would be greatly appreciated.

  11. joanhenshaw says:

    Hi Lynette
    Your dissertations sounds very interesting. I’m no expert on surveys but some years ago I used The Hay Groups ‘Management Styles Questionnaire’ to collect feedback from a range of employees which was then used to give feedback to the managers I was working with on their management styles. Frustratingly I cannot find on the Hay Group website any detailed description of the questionnaire. It may be worth contacting them? (it would seem that the questionnaire would answer your question very well). I totally agree with you that not everyone wants to be managed the same!

    Good luck with your research


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