Resources for Managers

Jul 1, 2013
Workers in matrix organizations have multiple bosses, competing goals, teammates scattered geographically, customers and clients all over the map, and accountability to offices and teams outside their own. Often, these workers also have a high level of frustration.

In Making the Matrix Work (Nicholas Brealey Publishing, 2013), author Kevan Hall aims to reduce that frustration. The book advises managers within matrix organizations on how to make both roles and goals clearer, improve communication and cooperation, and keep a balance in complex, distributed operations.

Managers in matrix organizations must learn to give control away more freely than in a hierarchical organization. And they need to develop a “matrix mindset” in which people are comfortable with ambiguity, are adaptable, see the big picture across silos and take responsibility for managing themselves rather than waiting to be told what to do.

Hall breaks down matrix management into tools and step-by-step processes for working and managing better in matrix organizations, including:

  • Three questions to ask yourself to assess whether your goals conflict.
  • A tool to help teams set priorities together, find gaps and overlaps in individuals’ roles, and assess resources.
  • A “five choices framework” that helps the user work through choices systematically and organize potential positives, negatives, constraints and trade-offs.
  • A “conflict sequence” structure to manage conflict as a process at work—recognizing problems, understanding differences between players, creating shared purpose and building agreements.
  • An examination of five models of conflict that reflect the different ways people can behave in conflict situations.
  • Ways to manage both vertical and horizontal accountabilities. A matrix organization creates both types as employees must handle their vertical responsibilities (their own functional work) as well as horizontal ones (collaborating across functions).

SHRM members can purchase this book online at a discount from the SHRMStore.


The right amount of stress can be beneficial, spurring us to better performance. But too much stress quickly degrades performance and brings on a host of other problems, from physical illness to lack of engagement. Chronic stress leads directly to absenteeism, lower productivity, health and safety issues, and behavior problems that make teamwork difficult.

In Is Work Killing You? (House of Anansi Press, 2013), physician David Posen digs into why work-related stress is increasing. He shows readers how to get today’s stresses under control—which benefits both themselves and their workplaces.

Posen identifies three main contributors to workplace stress: Volume of work contributes to overload; “velocity” of work means employees are expected to do more, faster; and abuse at work is the stress created by toxic co-workers.

Posen’s advice for managers includes these steps:

  • Learn the signs and stages of burnout, which often starts with positives (high ideals and high expectations) that can drain energy.
  • Find each individual worker’s optimal performance zone—the number of work hours each week that produce the best outcomes.
  • Help employees set priorities.
  • Review whether job cuts have left employees doing too much to make up for the lower head count, and consider whether you need to do more hiring.
  • Reconsider unrealistically high expectations.
  • Root out overuse and misuse of technology when employees are not at work.
  • Take some responsibility for your employees’ work/life balance by focusing on results rather than on hours worked is one way to start.
  • Identify and deal with abusive people.

SHRM members can purchase this book online at a discount from the SHRMStore.


Author Cy Wakeman urges readers to take control of their work lives and “choose to be happy” by embracing real accountability. Wakeman’s prescription for better productivity and greater satisfaction includes evaluating your own real worth in the workplace, ditching drama (including the drama you create yourself), realizing that your opinion matters far less than your actions and seeing change as an opportunity rather than a threat.

The Reality-Based Rules of the Workplace (Jossey-Bass, 2013) guides readers through a three-step assessment to evaluate their current performance, future potential and “emotional expensiveness”—the tendencies toward venting, negativity, complaining, oversharing or other dramatic behaviors that make an employee a drain on others and himself.

She follows up with rules for thriving at work:

Personal accountability. Readers learn how commitment, resilience, ownership and continuous learning all contribute to accountability.

No drama. Wakeman offers strategies to curtail workplace dramatics of your own making: Deal only in facts and not in emotions. Stop assigning motives to other people’s actions. Eliminate “should,” and stop judging how others ought to do things; accept things as they are. Learn to distance yourself from co-workers’ gossip, fear-mongering, venting and general dramatics. With examples and ideas, Wakeman advises readers on handling all these situations.

Change is an opportunity. Wakeman provides steps for embracing change, from staying prepared for change at all times to reframing negatives as positives (what can you gain from the change, rather than what will you lose). Learning to move on after mistakes is a critical skill for handling change.

SHRM members can purchase this book online at a discount from the SHRMStore.


Author James Robbins wants just nine minutes of your workweek—and in those nine minutes, he says, you can do your most vital work.

Robbins’ Nine Minutes on Monday (McGraw-Hill, 2013) is a simple prescription for managers, team leaders and executives to shift from focusing on day-to-day details of management to focusing on real leadership. He proposes a nine-minute, nine-point assessment every Monday, when a manager looks at how he or she will meet employees’ key needs that week.

Robbins lays out those needs and then offers managers ways to make simple changes to their own weekly schedules so they can focus on those priorities and not get lost in the minutiae of management. Those needs, and ways to fill them, include the following:

Employees want to know the organization cares about them. Managers need to ask themselves each Monday “How will I take a genuine interest in my employees this week?”

Employees want to develop mastery—to struggle with and overcome challenges. The Monday question: “Whom will I give feedback to this week?”

Employees need regular recognition. Managers need to ask “Whom will I reward or recognize this week?”

Employees need to connect with each other. Robbins calls it being “sticky.” Monday’s question: “What can I do to make my team ‘stickier’ this week?”

Employees need to see their managers modeling desired behaviors. Monday’s question: “What model do my people need from me this week?”

A key chapter walks readers through how to structure a weekly, nine-minute planning session to cover the nine needs and set priorities for the week.

SHRM members can purchase this book online at a discount from the SHRMStore.


The Dow Chemical Co. has unveiled a beta version of the Dow Lab Safety Academy, a digital learning environment that shares Dow’s best practices in industrial safety in a quick and accessible format. The Dow Lab Safety Academy includes dozens of videos featuring lab safety guidelines, grouped into four comprehensive categories, for a variety of real-life scenarios.

(800) 258-2436 ||


College students and young professionals can get help with their career paths by visiting The social media website provides users the opportunity to connect with employers by recording video introductions, uploading work samples and entering skills-based job competitions.|


Corporate Education Group has unveiled a suite of corporate coaching solutions to help business professionals exceed performance improvement objectives and stimulate personal career growth. The five tools are designed to be flexible and can be tailored to meet individual and organizational needs.

(800) 288-7246 | |


PDI Ninth House has unveiled a leadership development tool. TalentSync Road Map for High-Potential Leaders combines best practices and is designed to help business leaders identify and develop high-potential leadership candidates, accelerate their readiness and ease their transition.

(800) 633-4410 ||

Book briefs compiled by Leigh Rivenbark, a freelance writer and editor in Vienna, Va.


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