A responsible manager is one who acts responsibly in managing and taking care of those employees and team members that s/he manages.

In addition to being attentive and a good leader, a responsible manager is also one who is able to manage her/his employees in terms of their mental health, career development, and who is sensitive and aware of cultural and emotional needs.

What is a responsible manager

The Issue of How We Become Managers

Most of us want to be good managers and most of us are caring and do our best.

The issue often though is that many of us are incidental managers, meaning that we become a manager without having gone through formal training.

We might have risen through the ranks at work and we find ourselves thrust into a position as a first-time manager, without real training in areas such as conflict management, inclusive leadership, and employee engagement.

Indeed, statistics show, for example, that over as many as 82% of managers lack formal training as a new manager.

Furthermore, research by Gartner found that, as managers, we now tend to have “51% more responsibilities” than we can realistically handle.

So the challenge is how to be a good and effective manager whilst still being a responsible manager, and it’s not easy!

So how can we become a more responsible manager whilst still managing our workload? Let’s take a look!

1. Creating a Work Environment Where Staff Feel Able to Be Involved and Speak Freely

As a responsible manager, it is important that you enable and create an atmosphere such that staff feel comfortable to give input and to feel valued when they speak up in meetings and in front of colleagues.

A team member who is afraid to speak up for fear of being laughed at by colleagues for raising some new ideas is, of course, not what you want as a manager.

This ability to feel comfortable speaking up in the workplace is also called psychological safety.

To create a work environment that is conducive to psychological safety, emotional intelligence is a key skill to have.

So, as a responsible manager, you want to ensure that Emotional Intelligence is strong within the team you manage.

Likewise, as a manager, you should also seek to be emotionally intelligent in how you yourself work and manage.

In essence, emotional intelligence is:

Emotional intelligence is the ability to be aware of your own feelings and those of others, manage your feelings, and use your understanding of emotions to create better relationships with other people.

As a result, people with high emotional intelligence enjoy better mental wellbeing and are easier to deal with compared to those who have low emotional intelligence. 

Dr Valeria Lo Iacono
Improving emotional; intelligence in an organization for managers
>> How to Improve Emotional Intelligence post

2. Caring and Managing the Wellness of Staff Under Your Control

In terms of best practices at work in answering the question of what is a responsible manager, you will perhaps not be surprised to see that staff wellness is included.

Much greater awareness of employee and staff wellness and well-being exists these days in the workplace, and, as a responsible manager, this is an important issue to address.

I recommend making sure you include consideration for the following:

3. Being Culturally Aware as a Manager

Workplace cultural diversity

As a responsible manager, it is also vital to ensure that your team (and you as the manager) have a good understanding of topics such as:

  • Intercultural communication – our workplaces are becoming more diverse culturally these days and providing training to your staff on a topic such as intercultural communication can be invaluable for team harmony and productivity.
  • Unconscious bias – we all have biases as a result of our influences from growing up but we can use techniques to be aware of how these influences can affect our decision-making.
  • Workplace culture extends also to generational diversity. Our workplaces are now becoming more diverse in terms of generations because employees are working to older age and this can mean that we have 4 or 5 different generations in the same workforce.

4. Being a Good and Effective Leader for Your Employees

Being a good leader is a key element in being a responsible manager and whether leadership comes naturally or not to you, leadership skills can be learned.

As a great manager, you will also be a great leader and be able to inspire those employees that you lead.

Leading by example is a great way to lead and attributes such as being hard-working, well-organized, emotionally intelligent, and firm by fair, are some skills worth seeking to perfect.

If you are a Human Resources (HR) manager or department looking to train your managers, supervisors, and team leaders in being better and more responsible managers then you might want to consider:

  • Dealing with difficult people training – to be a great leader as a manager you need to understand how to and how not to deal with people and this can certainly be challenging with some staff. There are techniques and methods for dealing with difficult people though.
  • Without good Presentation Skills, managers will sometimes struggle to communicate effectively and poor communication can lead to someone being seen as a weak and ineffective manager.
  • Inclusive leadership skills are also vital and training in this area for managers is worthwhile both from a business point of view and from an ethical standpoint. Inclusive Leadership is concerned with ensuring that managers and leaders in a company make all staff feel included, regardless of that employee’s gender, age, ethnicity, cultural and socio-economic background, sexual orientation, nationality, and level of ability.

5. Making Decisions That Are for the Benefit of the Company Long-Term

Decision making in business as a responsible manager

Importantly, a Responsible Manager is one who also places the sustainability of the company above his/her own needs.

A responsible manager, in other words, needs to do what is in the best interest of the company and for its sustainability, rather than for personal gain.

Factors that come under these best interests include:

  • Being financially smart and working within the budgets as required by the company.
  • Ensuring that all financial matters and ways of working are done legally, correctly, and documented as required.
  • Working to be fair to stakeholders within the business, other staff, suppliers, and everyone involved with the business, to the best of your ability.

6. Learn How to Manage Conflict

As a manager, there will inevitably be times when we need to manage disagreements and differences between colleagues.

The wider issue also is that small problems that are not nipped in the bud at the start can be the very issues that lead to:

  • Bigger conflict
  • Loss of trust between colleagues
  • A drop in productivity
  • Higher levels of staff turnover

The good news is that there are ways to learn about conflict management and to become much better at managing any issues and differences that arise between colleagues.

With quite simple and subtle management techniques, you CAN create a balanced and fair workplace for your team.

7. Embracing EDI (Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion)

These days many of us work in a very diverse workplace with colleagues from different age groups, cultural backgrounds, and ethnic backgrounds.

As the diagram shows below, there are so many potential biases and differences, that can potentially divide us.

For this reason, it is useful to understand how to bring together a team of people to work together and to feel united, where colleagues enjoy working together and in a positive workplace.

Unconscious bias example types
Created by Dr Valeria Lo Iacono (2020)

As a manager, it is worth learning and, if necessary, getting training on topics such as:

If needed, seek out your line manager or ask your HR (Human Resources) departments for training in these topic areas.

It is essential that you, as a manager, always progress both for your own career path and your skills as a more responsible manager.

8. The Greater Good and Social Responsibility

This is a point that you may or may not agree with but there is a case to be made that a responsible manager is additionally a manager who seeks (but within the company guidelines and goals) to consider the greater good.

Many companies are now beginning to value the need to consider, for example, the greater good in terms of a global society.

We see efforts by many businesses, for example, to be more environmentally friendly as a business and to recycle, to avoid wasting power.

Likewise, considering offering staff flexibility to save on commuting time and pollution, is another example. Being a responsible manager extends to this greater good.

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Dr Valeria Lo Iacono