The role of managers in the workplace is indisputably important – they enable efficient operations, lead teams to achieve organisational goals and help foster a strong employee culture. However, the role is accompanied by a number of management challenges that are often overlooked due to the rarely sympathetic depiction of the ‘boss’ figure in media. These obstacles are particularly difficult to navigate for individuals who have been handed the responsibility of leading a team due to their competence in an unrelated field and haven’t actually partaken in any formal management-related training.

Managers often face management challenges tied to an employee’s or team’s productivity, communication and collaboration. Knowing how to recognise these challenges and address them helps grow a manager’s skillset, confidence and capacity for effective leadership.

Most common challenges in the workplace

1. Addressing performance issues

Issues tied to performance management are a common stumbling block for many managers. Ensuring that your team consistently performs to organisational expectations and market standards is vital for resource efficiency, customer loyalty and long-term business success. However, if you notice that a team or employee is underperforming, it’s important not to make premature assumptions- instead, look towards the root cause of the issue and approach the situation with care.

As a manager, whilst you have to make sure that the team’s results are of a certain calibre, you also have to maintain a relationship of mutual respect and trust. Being hasty, overly harsh or failing to understand the issue in its entirety will not only prevent you from getting the results you want but risk damaging your professional relationships.

To prevent this, make sure that all performance expectations are fleshed out and explained well. When employees have a clear understanding of the team’s goals and targets, it becomes a lot easier to keep sight of them as the project evolves and progresses. Also, make sure to regularly reach out to your employees one-on-one so you are able to better understand their individual challenges, offer personalised feedback and build a stronger relationship.

2. Strong team communication

Managers not only need to have strong communication skills personally but be able to foster them within their team. The position of authority can create an understandable sense of distance between an employee and their manager – bridging this gap is important when it comes to ensuring that overall collaboration is effective and that the team is resilient in the face of unexpected hurdles. 

Managers who aren’t able to listen well to the team or foster an efficient flow of information can cause misunderstandings between the team about tasks, creating a stressful work environment – in fact, a ‘lack of interdepartmental communications’ was found to be one of the biggest causes of stress for employees in 2020. As time progresses, this can stunt the progress towards team goals, damage the relationship between employees and incur unnecessary business losses. 

3. Maintaining calm in periods of uncertainty

Most business face periods of time when the future of the organisation can seem uncertain. In some scenarios, the business may have to make tough decisions in order to ensure its long-term survival and this may include budget cuts, redundancies and lay-offs. Such turbulent periods can impact the ability of employees to go about their daily roles as normal and foster confusion, fear and frustration.

Managers may not have all the answers to employee concerns, but they must still work towards maintaining an environment where business operations can continue as needed. To do so, it is best to remain as open as possible with employees by answering queries as best you can and passing on all information that you are authorised to do so. Clear communication helps make sure that employees retain a certain level of trust and aren’t kept in the dark about what to expect.

4. Conflict management

Conflict management is a near-inevitable aspect of a manager’s role and understanding how to navigate disputes effectively is vital towards making sure your team is resilient and strong in the face of challenges. To prevent conflicts from turning into potentially bigger concerns, managers should ensure that they clearly address them and give people an opportunity to speak about their perspectives.

When doing so, being sure to avoid any bias no matter what your individual relationship is like with each involved party is crucial – if you display unfair or blatant favouritism, your employees will not trust you with sharing potential conflicts in the future and any sense of team comradery will be jeopardised. Managers should also take into consideration the nature of the issue at hand – is it work-related or personal? Work-related disputes are not inherently bad and can actually foster creativity and stronger solutions- however, all personal conflicts should be addressed immediately as they can be increasingly damaging the longer they are left to fester.

5. Preventing burnout

In a recent survey by Gallup, 67% of employees reported experiencing symptoms of burnout – for managers, this risk is even greater due to the additional responsibilities they handle. Making sure that you strike the right balance between meeting work obligations and your mental and physical health is crucial towards long-term, overall well-being.

An employee culture that doesn’t stress the importance of balance can not only set unrealistic expectations for workplace productivity but also undermine the health of employees. Innovation and creativity cannot thrive in environments where employees are struggling with excessive workloads. Managers must actively make sure that they not only give themselves time to refuel but also encourage their employees to do the same.


6. Recruitment decisions

Management roles also involve making important hiring decisions that have the power to both elevate a team or cause it to fall apart. Managers have to make sure they recruit the right people for each role and part of this is recognising that candidates with the “right” educational background and experience will not necessarily be the best fit. A strong selection process will enable management to learn as much relevant information about the candidate before any final recruitment decisions are made. To help managers make sure they make good hiring choices, it’s helpful to have a team of people involved in the process rather than one or two parties so that any potential bias is prevented.

Managers supervise aspects of the company that most employees rarely engage with and their role is accompanied by many unique challenges. Understanding what these are is necessary for every manager to be able to examine the issues in the context of their own workplaces and steadily improve the company’s systems and processes to better handle them.

Polonious offers an investigation management tool that can help managers regulate their most difficult management situation – workplace conflict – with its support, employers and managers will be better equipped to handle these challenges successfully.