Survey highlights most common mistakes managers make with employees

Say something.

And say something nice.

Putting those two, simple concepts into action can help managers avoid the two mistakes that, according to CFOs, are most commonly made by companies in managing their employees.

Forty-one per cent of CFOs say that the mistake companies make most in managing their employees is a lack of communication between staff and management, according to a survey by Accountemps, an accounting and finance staffing service.

Lack of recognition and praise – cited by 28% of the more than 1,400 CFOs from US companies with 20 or more employees – was the second-most common mistake mentioned in the survey.

“It’s pretty much the same across the board at all companies,” said Ryan Sutton, senior vice president for the New England district for professional staffing and consulting services company Robert Half. “Something you hear is that management is so focused on the tasks at hand and finishing their projects and meeting their deadlines that sometimes they just don’t find the time for acknowledging the support of their subordinates.”

Eleven per cent of CFOs said companies’ most common mistake is lack of training, development or educational opportunities. Lack of flexibility in work schedules was cited by 8% of CFOs, and lack of authority given to employees was cited by 6%.

The findings on the importance of recognition and praise mirror the results of a recent survey by administrative staffing service OfficeTeam. Forty-nine per cent of office workers in that survey said they would be somewhat or very likely to leave their current position if they didn’t feel appreciated by their manager. But just 16% of workers surveyed for that report found recognition lacking in their current position.

Sutton said surveys of workers leaving companies consistently cite their relationship with their supervisor as the top reason they decide to look elsewhere. He said that if managers get to know their staff members, they will find that different employees want positive feedback in different ways.

“Some employees like handwritten notes,” Sutton said. “Other employees love recognition during meetings and conference calls. And others like to go out for a bite to eat or lunch. So the more we really build the personal relationship with the staff and get to know their likes and dislikes, the more effective we’re going to be with our praise of them.”

With regard to communication, Sutton offered the following tips for managers:

  • Get face to face. According to Sutton, employees say they get too much email communication and not enough face-to-face interaction with managers. He said conference calls are effective for employees who aren’t in the same office. When employees are in the same location, he said, meeting regularly can make a world of difference for the staff. “They just feel a lot more connected to the company and to the manager when they interact face to face.”

  • Use email for confirmation, not discussion. “Too many times you get sucked into having a discussion via text, or a discussion via email,” Sutton said. “I always correct myself. If it’s going to take me too long to write the email, I just pick up the phone and make the phone call.”

  • Keep your door open. Sutton said it’s important for managers to let employees know that their feedback is welcome. “Even if you do have a monthly meeting or your conference calls, you still do need to instill the confidence and the culture where it’s OK for the employee to come to you if they need you,” Sutton said.

Ken Tysiac ( is a CGMA Magazine senior editor.