keyboardManagerial snooping is a tell-tale sign of a dysfunctional office environment. Supervisors’ constant need to keep tabs on their employees’ activities is not exactly the benchmark of an existing and competent management style.

These chronic supervisory practices may come in various guises such as website activity tracking, e-mail monitoring, and other modes of employee scrutiny.

Although these particular actions are not unlawful, and not entirely unusual in corporate or organisational hierarchies, it is, nonetheless, a testament to an ineffective administrative system that is anchored to both the exploit of intimidation and the unnecessary yielding to fear.

There are three main reasons why managers snoop and these include the lack of a better performance control system, poor communication between different levels of the office hierarchy, and imprecise direction. There are alternatives which managers could and should perform to address these concerns.

Design an effective performance quality control system
Reading employees’ e-mail threads or poking around their favourite websites does not qualify as performance control or assurance. In fact, there are employees who competently meet their working targets despite spending ample time browsing the internet.

For those who are not meeting their required competencies, it is the manager’s task to pinpoint the cause. Perhaps these individuals are either not suited to the job or not passionate enough about it? These are problems that can be dealt with through a performance evaluator that focuses on job descriptions in relation to employees’ competencies.

Maintain an open line of communication
Trust is an important element in maintaining healthy office dynamics. A manager’s urge to snoop around their subordinates’ office routines adequately reveals that trust has been jeopardized. This scenario can still be salvaged through the initiation of an open line communication which requires specific skills on the part of the supervisor. Such communication skills are an essential component in the leadership and management toolbox of any professional running a team.

Set practical expectations and clear goals
Underperforming employees cannot always be blamed or attributed to office distractions like the internet. In fact these distractions may often be a workers’ way of dealing with personal or professional issues which may be getting in the way of their productivity. For some, these intermittent diversions serve as their breather in between an accomplished task and a newly assigned project.

One way to ensure that these ‘breathers’ don’t interfere with official functions and duties is to set goals that are precise and expectations that are reasonable; these will allow superiors and subordinates to be on the same page- work wise – regardless of non-duty-bound concerns.

Viewing this matter from the other end of the spectrum, it is rational to say that employees who no doubt require chronic micromanagement and probing are also reprehensible. But this, alongside the other issues already mentioned could be addressed through improved leadership practices.

These management systems, just like the three aforementioned alternatives, can be learned through good leadership training courses. Effective leadership and management training courses will enable individuals who hold the challenging task of people management, to gain a better insight toward the basics of skilful administration, and hone specific skills in motivation, communication, and team goal development.

copyright© Nicholas C. Hill, 2013

The Hill Consultancy Ltd

The Hill Consultancy runs UK wide public training courses in leadership and management development. Training centres are located in London, Exeter, Birmingham, Manchester, Newcastle and Glasgow. Courses include High Performance Leadership, Self-Management, Conflict Management, Advanced Communication, Emotional Intelligence, Leadership Styles, Performance Management, Change Management, Presentation Skills, Time Management, Senior Management and Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP).
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