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March 26, 2008

How Many Employees Should a Manager Supervise?

Filed under: Performance Management2:36 pm

There’s certainly no right answer to the question. It definitely depends on the nature of an organization, types of positions involved, role of the manager, and a number of other things. But the subject comes up periodically in HR literature, often driven by consultants and professors who observe business trends but may never manage staff. Managers, naturally, have their own ideas about the number of employees they can successfully oversee. A recent (3/24/08) Wall Street Journal article “Overseeing More Employees with Fewer Managers” revisits the issue. It notes that for some time the optimal number of people to manage was thought to be somewhere from 7-10. But the advent of flatter organizations, electronic communication (e.g., email, voicemail) and increased use of technology may permit oversight of a much larger number. At least some people think so as they suggest that as many as 30 employees can be effectively managed. Those who advocate such an increase note that such a shift also requires a change in business practices and management style. It may require such things as greater use of pay for performance, training, cascading of corporate goals, team goals and accountabilities, and more communication. This issue can clearly be controversial and raises a number of significant questions and concerns.


HR Fact Friday: Pot Prescription, Even in California, No Match for Employer Drug Test

Filed under: Drugs2:34 pm

As a child of the 70’s myself, and having been born and raised in California, I just couldn’t resist sharing the following employment law ruling in a case involving a California employee whose doctor recommended his use of marijuana to treat chronic pain. The employee filed a disability discrimination claim against his employer for firing him after testing positive for drug consumption. I have to admit I have mixed feelings on the case. I feel for the employee, and his painful condition, but I support the employer for enforcing a legitimate zero tolerance drug policy.



Your Parents Were Right – Stay in School

Filed under: Salaries & Pay2:23 pm

Most Moms harp at their kids to do their homework, get good grades, and stay in school. Well Mom was definitely right, at least when it comes to the correlation between education and income levels.  According to numbers recently released by the U.S. Census Bureau, 86% of Americans over 25 are high school graduates.  Twenty-nine percent of us hold at least a bachelor’s degree.  Those with that college degree make, on average 55% more than high school graduates, earning $56,788 vs. $31,071.   Those with associates’ degree or some college earned slightly more than high grads ($34,650).   Advanced degree holders fared the best, averaging $82,320 annually.  Individuals who didn’t graduate from high school averaged $20,873.


Continued gaps remain between men and women at various education levels.  Male advanced degree holders averaged $101,441 vs. $59,636 for women.  Male high school grads earned $37,356 vs. $23,236 for women.  More information is available at