I don’t like picking on one particular group of people and it feels like I have been picking strictly on employees and candidates. That is unfair because, as everyone knows, management is to be blamed as the root cause of most problems. When I say “most,” I mean closer to 75–85% of the problems in the workplace could be fixed by better management. The great management thinkers of the 20th century agree with me and thinkers in the 21st century are on the bandwagon too.
So what’s the problem with management? It is usually a question of numbers. Either there are too many or too few. I worked for a company that had a ratio of one manager for every one and a half reports. That is silly and luckily, that company was forced to restructure their business and stop the insanity. In many startups, I see the complete opposite problem where you have one manager for every 20 reports. Any cost savings met by having that few managers is lost significantly through productivity losses.
The point being: supervising one person is about as stupid as supervising 20 and both of those situations will sink your business. So what is your optimal number you should be aiming for?
Studies show managers should have three to eight employees directly reporting to them. The more complicated their tasks, the less amount of employees that should be reporting directly. So if you are managing managers, you should be closer to three than eight and if you are managing entry level sales associates or retail clerks, that number should be closer to eight than three. This formula allows for the efficiency of being able to manage multiple people but the ability to micro-manage when necessary.