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Mar 28, 2016  |  Roadblocks are a major component of the manager/employee relationship. As a manager, learn what you can do to mitigate these obstacles and strengthen your relationships with the team.

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Roadblocks at work can quite literally stop you in your tracks, but responding to challenge is a significant component of the manager’s day-to-day. There are company roadblocks like managing churn and turnover, but they are a result of individual employees and teams not being able to do their job each day. Whatever the roadblock is, managers are the closest to be able to identify them and it is their role to do something about it.

Gallup reports that only 30% of US employees are engaged at work, and a staggeringly low 13% worldwide are engaged – figures that have stayed static over the past 12 years. Employees will become disengaged at work for many reasons: lack of alignment to corporate goals, no transparency, little room for progression. But, as the old adage goes, people leave managers, not companies. These roadblocks are all examples of challenges that can be worked through in the manager/employee relationship.

When it comes to identifying, resolving and even preventing roadblocks, bear in mind this philosophy, “Bad managers tell employees what to do, good managers explain why they need to do it, but great managers involve people in decision making and improvement.” Learn more about how you as a manager can improve your relationships with team members by reflecting on how you handle roadblocks.

Identifying Roadblocks

You can’t remove roadblocks if you’re unable to identify them. Veteran managers should take time to reflect on past experiences and note trending roadblocks apparent amongst their teams. As a manager, how did you handle these challenges? What would you do differently today?

For new managers, it’s important to research and uncover the common obstacles that irk nearly every team at work. In a survey that polled over 37,000 managers to determine which roadblocks challenged their teams the most, managers flagged having difficult conversations, resolving interpersonal conflict on the team and balancing priorities as a few of the biggest obstacles.

Once you’re aware of popular manager/employee roadblocks, you can put proactive measures in place to prevent, curb or better resolve conflict. But what about the roadblocks you can’t prepare for? Not every challenge that comes your way as a manager is one that you can expect. And, some of the worst types of roadblocks are the ones that you don’t discover until it’s too late.

Putting measures and processes in place to uncover roadblocks is essential to a successful manager/employee relationship. Regular 1:1 meetings that include an open feedback dialogue is a great way to conduct temperature checks. But perhaps a team member doesn’t feel comfortable voicing an issue. Some managers practice “brutal facts” to solicit anonymous feedback, and share and resolve concerns with the team.

Think about your team as a whole and its individuals. Consider what practices would be best received amongst the group and implement them to help identify roadblocks in good time.

Resolving Roadblocks

With the roadblock identified, how do managers resolve the issue? Like every relationship, great communication is essential. Gallup found that, “consistent communication – whether it occurs in person, over the phone or electronically – is connected to higher engagement. For example, employees whose managers hold regular meetings with them are almost three times as likely to be engaged.” Making the time to speak about the roadblock is the first step in its resolution.

From here, candid feedback and transparency are essential. Resolution conversations can be difficult, especially if it calls for critical feedback from the manager to their employee. Though challenging, employees who receive negative feedback are over 20 times more likely to be engaged than those receiving no feedback at all.

Lastly, don’t forget about follow up. How did your team feel about the resolution you decided on? Is this a challenge that will come up again? Is there are a better way to resolve this in the future? How can you prevent this roadblock, or fall back on processes to identify the challenge earlier?

Preventing Roadblocks

By understanding common challenges, putting processes in place to identify conflict and having regular communication, you are already on your way to preventing roadblocks. One practice you can incorporate during resolution conversations is asking your team what would have prevented this roadblock. Is there something that you or your team member could have done differently?

With that said, it’s also important to recognize that not all roadblocks are avoidable. While there are ways to prevent some challenges, handling roadblocks is an ongoing part of the manager’s role. Try not to be conflict averse, and handle roadblocks head on. Doing so will help you improve your coaching skills, while making work a better place for your employee, increasing their engagement levels.

As a manager, what types of roadblocks do you encounter in your relationships with your team? Are the easy to identify and resolve? Can they be prevented? Tell us in the comments.