Acas uses cookies to ensure we give you the best experience and to make the site simpler. Find out more about cookies.

Website URL : The Control Id 'trail' could not be resolved to an actual control., Type=iCMRender.Controls.Value, ID=MainBlock (~/subsite/acas/masterpages/MainPageWide.master)

Abigail Hirshman: Supreme Leader or David Brent?

Wednesday 29 June 2016

Abigail Hirshman, Senior Adviser at Acas discusses her top tips for new managers.

Abigail Hirshman Abigail Hirshman

Abigail is an Acas Senior Adviser based in Birmingham.




You don't have to be Inspector Poirot to figure out what is wrong with some organisations. It is often the little things that alert you: stern, unfriendly signs in the car park, receptionists who make a point of ignoring you or managers who seem to be playing the 'status' game.

The clues are all there, so what prevents employers addressing the problem?

Before joining Acas, I worked as a workplace psychotherapist. My job was to listen to people talk and help them find a way through their personal issues. This meant listening to both the words (the content) and also paying attention to what was going on beneath the words (the process). It strikes me that organisations are not so different to people: it's easy enough to see the symptoms, but much harder to identify the underlying causes.

As a therapist, I looked out for body language, eye contact (or lack of), punctuality and general appearance to give me clues. In my current role as a Senior Acas Adviser, I apply a similar approach. I observe how a business operates and what makes it tick.

Take one recent example. I was at a small manufacturing company delivering an in-depth session on essential skills for supervisors. This was for a group of staff who had just recently been given supervisory responsibility for the first time.

They were a fantastic group. At the end of the session the Director came in, unannounced. He asked the delegates how the session had gone and what they had learned. Fortunately they were able to give a variety of responses (I breathed a sigh of relief ....) and seemed to really appreciate the fact that he wanted to hear about their learning and how they could apply it.

A good place to start tackling workplace problems is to look at key management skills, particularly the art of communication. So here are my top three tips for new managers.

  1. Be authentic - sometimes we see new supervisors take two extreme positions - either turning into Supreme Leader mode and running a dictatorship; or graduating from the David Brent school of management and wanting to be everyone's best friend. Be yourself, but just with appropriate boundaries, think friendly manager, rather than just friend or just manager.
  2. Be flexible - whilst you need to be authentic, you also need to flex to the different needs of your team. This will mean, for example, taking a more hands on approach for new starters or offering some extra 1:1 sessions if a staff member is having some personal difficulties.
  3. Be specific - research has shown that employees who do not receive any feedback are twice as likely to be disengaged as those who receive negative feedback. Make sure you highlight both strengths and areas for improvement, but just be specific. One tip is to ask employees to repeat back to you what you think you have asked them to do. It's amazing how even when you think you are being clear, misunderstandings can still arise.

Add a Comment

iCM Form
  1. Add Comment