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Managing a Team is an Individual Process

"They aren't treating us the same. It isn't fair."


Have you heard someone say that in your office about their boss? I have. I am sure you can imagine people saying it, if you haven't explicitly heard it. It presents a couple of interesting ideas -- that each individual a manager manages should be treated the same, and that fairness is one of the goals of managing. I would argue that neither thing is true.



Managing people isn't about fairness -- managing is the art of balancing the needs, goals, and interests of an organization with the talents, abilities, and goals of the workers. It is about finding ways to accomplish at high levels while elevating and challenging the people who you oversee. Yes, there are elements of fairness that need to be considered, primarily in the HR side of things and when thinking about seniority and equity, but in the active day-to-day managing of individuals, particularly salaried individuals, it is a different game.


In fact, it isn't about sameness at all -- it is about individuals. Managing, when done well, keeps in mind the individual growth and career goals of each worker. It challenges each person in unique ways, giving them measured steps forward and upward, supports them when they feel overwhelmed and provides and helps to locate resources to assist, and listens ferociously to the things the individual worker both says and doesn't say. It gives them personal opportunities, different levels of trust, and allows people to say "no" while others say an emphatic "yes." Managing is a hands-on and engaged process, even when the worker is the one who decides on pace and oversees their own details.


If you think your manager isn't hearing your needs, though, don't wait for things to resolve themselves. Be proactive and discuss with them what you need to best succeed. Not all managers are good managers, but if they are, they will find ways to give you additional, individualized, support.



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