Help Wanted: Non-Technical Skills

Between 2003 and 2013, we asked 37,419 managers (from 891 different organizations), “What is the hardest thing for you about managing people?” The vast majority of responses fell into 10 categories.

When it comes to leadership/management training, we often focus on the points of pain for the business, such as diminished performance, low morale, or higher turnover. But what about the points of pain for the leaders/managers themselves?

Between 2003 and 2013, we asked 37,419 managers (from 891 different organizations), “What is the hardest thing for you about managing people?” We collected narrative verbatim responses to this open-ended question. The vast majority of responses fell into 10 categories:

  1. Not enough time or too many people to manage (span of control); insufficient time to attend to managing direct reports due to other non-management tasks and responsibilities (24%)
  2. Giving negative feedback to employees regarding their performance (19%)
  3. Different personalities of the various employees—figuring out what works for each person depending on communication style, motivations, and preferences (6%)
  4. Interpersonal conflict on the team (6%)
  5. Balancing being the boss with being a friend or just being “friendly” (6%)
  6. Employees with bad attitudes or other issues such as attendance, tardiness, conflict with coworkers (5%)
  7. Dealing with pressure and shifting priorities from my own boss and other higher ups; communicating changes to the team and helping employees adapt (5%)
  8. Cumbersome, lengthy process to fire low performers and/or to impose other negative consequences short of firing (5%)
  9. Insufficient authority and discretion to reward high performers (4%)
  10. Managing people in remote locations (4%)
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