Q. I am new to management and thought I was doing quite well in the role. My team are all happy and enjoy my laid-back, hands-off attitude. But now I have got into a stupid situation that is giving me grief. I've never been an avid clock-watcher, but a colleague has pointed out that my team are currently taking up to two hours for lunch. To my horror I've now realised that they're also settling down to eat their sandwiches at their desks when they come back. How can I approach this without appearing heavy-handed?

Q. I am new to management and thought I was doing quite well in the role. My team are all happy and enjoy my laid-back, hands-off attitude. But now I have got into a stupid situation that is giving me grief. I've never been an avid clock-watcher, but a colleague has pointed out that my team are currently taking up to two hours for lunch. To my horror I've now realised that they're also settling down to eat their sandwiches at their desks when they come back. How can I approach this without appearing heavy-handed?

A. Confiscating their lunch-boxes and giving out detentions would be a good start, because this little bunch are behaving like kids, and you have no one to blame but yourself.

Managers aren't paid to be laid-back. A calm approach is fine, but you're borderline comatose. Your job is to be task-, team- and people-focused. Your eye has been off the ball so long that your people are taking the mickey. There should be no need for a draconian culture, but you veer much too far to the Santa Claus end of the scale.

You need to tell your team what you expect of them in terms of standards and be specific when you do. Don't choose to drop hints, such as looking at your watch when they return or asking sarcastically if they are taking a half day. Say that time-keeping has lapsed but that you expect an hour to be taken for lunch and food to be eaten during that period. Make sure that you set an example yourself.

Q. My company has always set great store by annual mission statements that are created at our HQ in Houston. It is my job to brief these and I have trouble keeping a straight face as both the sentiments and the wording are so dire. I feel like a hypocrite. Should I take a stand?

Only if you want to be impaled on your own sword. Companies take these mission statements very seriously indeed. Individually, the crap-rating perception is healthily high, but group collectives can be scary in their acceptance of meaningless tripe. Daring to differ will be like failing to salute the flag. Think of these statements as some sort of football chant: neither clever nor funny, but quaintly tribal nevertheless. Ask if someone else can have a turn at briefing the things as you get too choked with emotion to speak.

A. I have been asked by my manager to keep a time log. Should I be honest when filling it in?

Well now, this all depends. If it is a log based on client fees, then of course you should be scrupulously honest. If the log is for your eyes only and part of some self-propagating scheme of self-assessment then, yes, you should also be truthful. If it's just your company trying to see if you are spending too much time in the loo, then a little creative accountancy could be called for.

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