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Managing the Relationship

Business media talk a lot about empowered workers, flat organizations, and new networked ways of doing business, but the primary organizational relationship is still manager to direct report. New managers, riding a wave of success in having achieved results on their own merits, often find it difficult to make the shift from a top-performing individual contributor to a role in which they direct others to get results. Balancing the technical skills that brought them to a management position with the interpersonal skills that such a position demands can take some time to master.

The relationship between manager and direct report is one of the few relationships in which clear position power is still at play in organizations, and you should always consider the dynamics of that relationship during a conflict situation. As you work to see both sides of a conflict, ask yourself if you want or need your direct reports to demonstrate a certain degree of compliance (to meet the basic requirements of the task), or whether you need their commitment (to show a willingness to go beyond the basics) to achieve the results the organization expects. In organizations that rely on a hierarchical order, a direct report’s compliance is often all that a manager expects and needs. More contemporary, networked organizations often require commitment beyond compliance because carrying out any more than the most basic, short-term tasks is otherwise nearly impossible to sustain.


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