The Manager’s Paradox: Differential Treatment without Favoritism

  •  Robert Routhieaux    


Managers and supervisors at all levels of organizations face an ongoing interpersonal paradox. Due to individual differences and role identities, managers must adapt communication and motivation techniques according to differential employee needs and goals. But as soon as managers start to communicate and interact with employees in different ways, they run the risk that their actions will be perceived as inconsistent or unfair. This complex set of interdependent challenges, where managers have seemingly contradictory expectations regarding employee communication, treatment, and perceptions, can be referred to as the manager’s paradox. This paper will outline the contextual factors that foster the manager’s paradox, discuss a specific set of challenges related to the manager’s paradox, and provide key strategies for navigating and balancing the manager’s paradox. The goals are to shed new light on the challenges of managing people, outline suggestions for improving management effectiveness, and provide ideas for reducing the stress associated with managing people.

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