Sometimes it seems that managers do nothing while their employees do all the work. So why should managers make more money to sit in air-conditioned offices and do paperwork while everyone else works hard?

There is a difference between managing and doing, and in many cases (but certainly not all cases), managing is harder than doing. Sure, a manager’s work might be physically less demanding, but don’t underestimate the difficulty or importance of that work.

Responsibility No. 1: Hiring

Hiring any person off the street is easy. Hiring the right person for the job is hard. Candidates lie on resumes, and they lie during interviews, so it’s not easy to determine who is truly qualified for the job. What’s more, many positions require on-the-job training, and a manager needs to assess if a candidate can learn the necessary skills—not just whether he or she possesses them.

Technical skills are important, of course, but what about soft skills? Field service technicians go into people’s homes and businesses. Will they be polite? Will they help build good relationships? Will they represent the company well? All of these factors go into managers’ hiring decisions.

Responsiblity No. 2: Firing

Firing is absolutely the hardest thing a manager has to do. Most managers do everything they can to avoid getting to this point—sometimes to the detriment of the business. But if an employee is not doing the job properly and no amount of coaching (see below) has helped, or if the employee has broken rules, it’s time to let that person go. It can be gut wrenching.

But there’s a scenario even worse than firing someone because of what the employee did: firing someone because the company failed. These are called layoffs, and technically the employee is being “laid off” rather than fired. It’s an important distinction, but it is even more difficult. How do you select someone and tell her she no longer has job?

Responsibility No. 3: Coaching and Training

Not every skill is covered in a training class, and even those that are need refreshing over time. Managers need to give feedback, positive and negative, in ways that employees understand and can apply.

When an employee struggles with her job, a manager needs to step in and help the employee, whether that’s through one-on-one meetings, riding along on service calls or putting the employee on a formal performance improvement plan. Whatever the course of action, it’s the manager’s job to fix the problem.

Responsibility No. 4: Resolving Complaints

If you’ve ever complained about a co-worker, a client or a boss, you’ll understand that nothing changes unless someone acts. Most likely, that someone should be the manager. Managers have to help two feuding co-workers get along. Managers have to take calls from upset and even irrational customers. None of this is easy.

Responsibility No. 5: Understanding and Applying the Rules

Very few managers have any sort of legal background, but the law holds managers accountable for understanding what to do. If you have 15 or more employees, laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Civil Right Act apply. Managers need to make sure they don’t discriminate against anyone by race, gender or disability, and they need to provide a reasonable accommodation for disabilities. What exactly that means varies by position.

Other things, such as the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), safety regulations and accurate overtime accounting also fall on managers’ heads. Hopefully there is an HR department to help the manager out, but if there’s not, the law doesn’t care. The company must still comply.

Still think managing is easy? Add to these responsibilities the reality that managers are the ones who employees complain about when they go home—or go to happy hour together. No matter how careful a manager treads, someone is bound to feel that an assignment is unfair, or a workload is uneven. It’s impossible to make everything perfect.

And those added responsibilities are why managers make more money when they do their jobs well.

ABOUT Suzanne Lucas

Avatar photoSuzanne Lucas spent 10 years in corporate human resources, where she hired, fired, managed the numbers, and double-checked with the lawyers. She now writes about Human Resources and Business for a number of different publications.