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Practical advice for federal leaders on managing people, processes and projects.

The 13 Questions Google Asks About Its Managers When It Gathers Employee Feedback

If you internalize any management advice, may it be this: Ask for and give regular feedback.

Countless studies have proven that frequent, specific feedback (be it critique or constructive praise) increases employee satisfaction, engagement, and performance, while fostering a culture of psychological safety organization-wide.

However, more often than not, workplace feedback only comes from the top-down. This can breed resentment and frustration among underlings, while handicapping leaders from learning invaluable development lessons themselves.

To ensure managers are learning from their teams, Google asks employees to fill out a 13-question manager feedback survey (on a Google form, naturally) on a semi-annual basis. The responses are recorded confidentially, and managers receive a report of anonymized, aggregated feedback, plus verbatim answers to two open-ended questions at the end of the form.

“The feedback a manager gets through this survey is purely developmental,” Google says. “It isn’t directly considered in performance or compensation reviews, in the hope that Googlers will be honest and constructive with their feedback.”

The first 11 questions ask employees to rate whether they agree or disagree with statements about their manager using a five-point Likert scale (from “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree”). Google says that each statement is based...

Trump and Obama Have One Surprising Thing in Common – The Words They Use

Six months have passed since Donald Trump entered the Oval Office.

His administration remains deeply understaffed. His legislative agenda is stymied. He has been active in issuing executive orders, but many are toothless, others are only in the early stages of undoing Obama policies and some are tied up in the courts. So far, Trump’s leadership has mostly been defined by his rhetoric.

And his rhetoric, the conventional wisdom holds, could not be more different from his predecessor’s.

Barack Obama was, as president, eloquent. His language was sophisticated. He spoke in measured tones and advanced informed, reasoned dialogue.

Donald Trump is inarticulate and brusque. His language is simplistic. He dishes out invective. He shows so little regard for the facts that some say he’s the exemplar of a “bullshit artist.” And he promotes a dialogue of the deaf.

The differences between Trump’s and Obama’s rhetorical styles seem stark. Yet, when we set aside the presidents’ speaking styles and looked more carefully at the specific words Trump employed in his first months in office, we were surprised to discover that, in certain ways, these two presidents are remarkably like each other and unlike their predecessors. Here...

Why Do Women Bully Each Other at Work?

The bitches, as Shannon saw it, came in three varieties. She categorized them on her personal blog, in a post titled “Beware the Female BigLaw Partner.”

First was the “aggressive bitch”—a certain kind of high-ranking woman at the firm where she worked who didn’t think twice about “verbally assaulting anyone.” When one such partner’s name appeared on caller ID, Shannon told me, “we would just freak out.”

Next was the two-faced “passive-aggressive bitch,” whose “subtle, semi-rude emails” hinted that “you really shouldn’t leave before 6:30.” She was arguably worse than the aggressive bitch, because you might never know where you stand.

Last but not least, the “tuned-out, indifferent bitch,” Shannon wrote, “is so busy, both with work and family, that they don’t have time for anything … This partner is not trying to be mean, but hey, they got assignments at midnight when they were associates. So you will too.

“There obviously are exceptions,” she added. “But there aren’t many.”

You would expect someone like Shannon, who asked that I use only her first name, to thrive in an elite law firm. When she graduated in the mid-2000s from the University of Pennsylvania Law...

A Bad Boss Can Make the Whole Team Mean

Bosses who are abusive to one employee can actually cause conflict among the whole team, which hurts productivity, according to new research.

The study is one of the first attempts to examine the effect of bad bosses in employee teams. Teams are increasingly popular in the business world.

Lead investigator Crystal Farh says supervisors who belittle and ridicule workers not only negatively affect those workers’ attitudes and behaviors, but also cause team members to act in a similar hostile manner toward one another.

“That’s the most disturbing finding,” Farh says, “because it’s not just about individual victims now, it’s about creating a context where everybody suffers, regardless of whether you were individually abused or not.”

Farh, assistant professor of management in Michigan State University’s Broad College of Business, says the findings could likely be explained by social learning theory, in which people learn and then model behavior based on observing others, in this case the boss.

Previous research has shown that workers emulate supervisors’ positive behaviors, she says, so it only makes sense they would follow negative behaviors as well.

For the study, Farh and Zhijun Chen from the University of Western Australia studied 51 teams...

Completing This 30-Minute Exercise Makes Teams Less Anxious And More Productive

Here’s a funny thing about work: We spend more time with our colleagues than with our friends and family. Yet more often than not, we don’t really understand our co-workers—because being honest with one another is scary.

When a teammate’s lack of organization annoys us, we vent to others. When a boss says “this is fine” (not “this is great”), we wallow in anxiety. Many of us figure out our colleagues’ personalities, preferences, and dislikes through trial and error, not through explicit conversation.

This strikes me as a colossal waste of time, productivity, and happiness. Ignoring these issues just leads to confusion and frustration, and, in time, can wind up threatening your job performance (and your paycheck).

Thankfully, there’s a tool that every team can use to bypass workplace miscommunications and angst, helping to amp up every employee’s potential and morale from day one. It’s called a user manual.

Meet the “user manual”

In 2013, Ivar Kroghrud, co-founder, former CEO, and lead strategist at the software company QuestBackspoke with Adam Bryant at the New York Times about his leadership style. Kroghrud revealed that he had developed a one-page “user manual” so people...