HR Mavericks

Eddy’s HR Mavericks Encyclopedia

Direct Reports
Growth in your company is exciting! Nevertheless, with growth comes the question of organizing your talent effectively, including who will get direct reports. Read on to learn more about direct reports, who will have direct reports and best methods to manage direct reports.

What Are Direct Reports?

A direct report is an employee who reports directly to a manager or leader in an organization. An example of what this would look like the following:

Direct Report Versus Indirect Report

A direct report is an employee who reports to a manager. An indirect report reports to the manager’s direct report. Having a direct report allows the manager to better monitor and improve the performance of the employee and the business process the employee is executing. An indirect report results in a manager having less control over the performance of the business process.

Why Are Direct Reports Important?

Direct reports provide the clarity needed in three aspects of business success.
  • Task Delegation. As your company continues to grow, it will become more difficult for small teams or individuals to operate efficiently. Having direct reports allows you to better allocate roles and responsibilities to help the team operate effectively.
  • Monitor Performance. When direct reports are delegated certain roles and responsibilities, the manager of those direct reports can better monitor their performance and make improvements via coaching and mentorship.
  • Business Success. Processes operate better when free from waste and hindrance. Direct reports provide an effective structure to organize talent in an organization that will contribute to business success.

Who Has A Direct Report?

These individuals do more than manage a process or oversee an operational component of the business. They are responsible for certain people within the organization as well.

Executive Positions

Individuals in executive positions handle the strategy for the company as well as provide guidance to a few direct reports on implementation of the strategy. Large businesses may not require executives to have direct reports but they may be a direct report to a board of directors. Small businesses executives may have multiple direct reports, being the owner of the business, and being a direct report to no one.

Senior Managers

Senior managers individually oversee one part of the company (i.e. operations, finance, HR). Their direct reports will provide tactical support in completing tasks and projects related to their specific department and team. These leaders are experts in their field and can provide the coaching and mentorship to their respective teams, ensuring those teams are meeting their performance goals.

Managers or Team Leads

Managers and team leaders will oversee one specific process within the organization. In small businesses they may not have direct reports until the organization grows to a size where a team is needed to operate effectively with this leader overseeing the team.

Entry-Level Employees or Individual Contributor

Entry-level employees and individual contributors have no direct reports because they carry out specific tasks and processes that have direct impact on the customer and business success.

Best Methods For Managing Direct Reports

The key to managing direct reports is to avoid the dictator trap. Falling for the dictator trap is not sustainable for anyone in the organization. It appears exciting to be the one in charge and telling your direct reports what to do. However, if you do this, it will burn any respect direct reports have for you and create resentment against the company until your direct reports leave the organization. The organization will then have to absorb the costs related to lower productivity and recruiting to backfill those positions.

Earn Their Trust

When a direct report begins employment, they are looking for the confirmation they made the right choice joining that team. The best way to give them that confirmation is for managers to be active in supporting them to ensure smooth onboarding. Positive affirmations are a powerful tool for this. A few examples include:
  • “We are excited to have you on the team!”
  • “I have your laptop ready to go and you have access to all the systems you will need.”
  • “I have your training schedule set.”
  • “I am committed to helping you succeed.”
  • “How do you prefer to receive feedback and communication?”


Active listening includes closing the laptop, putting your phone away, turning your body toward them and smiling. The influence of a manager on direct reports cannot be overstated. If a direct report wants to speak to their manager, it is part of the roles and responsibilities of the manager to make time to listen to them. The satisfaction of being heard can lead to better job satisfaction and better productivity.

Radical Candor

When a direct report needs to receive feedback, it’s best that managers deliver feedback utilizing radical candor. Originally coined by Kim Scott, radical candor is a balanced approach to delivering feedback by challenging directly and caring personally for the well-being of that person. Regardless of the feedback that needs to be delivered, it can be delivered utilizing radical candor. Let’s look at two examples of delivering performance feedback: “John, you have been performing worse every day for the past two weeks! Get your act together and do better,” VS. “John, I wanted to check in with you. I have been noticing your performance has been declining for the past two weeks, is there something influencing your work? Also, what can I do to help? I am here to ensure you are equipped with what you need to be successful here. Notice how the second example balances addressing the issue and respecting the well-being of the direct report. To learn more about radical candor and using it in the relationship between manager and direct report, check out Kim’s book.

Let Them Own What They Can

Decisions are made every day and a good manager knows that employees cannot be involved in every decision. However, decisions that impact the well-being or responsibilities of direct reports are a great opportunity for managers to gain feedback from their direct reports on what they would prefer.

How Many Direct Reports Should a Manager Have?

To determine the ideal number of direct reports for your organization, consider the following factors:
  • Organization size. Larger organizations result in managers having less control of organizational operations. Because of this, they will need fewer direct reports. Small organizations require leaders to oversee several processes and will have more direct reports.
  • Skill level of workforce. Simple tasks will not require oversight by managers, allowing them to oversee several operational processes and more direct reports. Meanwhile, complex tasks may require managers to oversee more details of the operational processes and fewer direct reports.
  • Company culture. Flexible workspaces allow employees more autonomy resulting in managers being asked to oversee several direct reports.
  • Manager’s responsibilities. As an HR representative for your company, before you give a manager a direct report ask, “Can a manager be effective in leading each direct report and still complete the responsibilities that are asked of their position?” Senior or executive positions in an organization typically have fewer direct reports due to increased responsibilities of their individual position.
Ryan Archibald

Ryan Archibald

Ryan is an HR Director with four years of experience and three masters degrees. One accomplishment he is proud of is the design and launch of a learning and development program for 800+ employees.
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Frequently asked questions
Other Related Terms
Company Reporting Structure
Employee Directory
Employee Newsletter
Employee Relations
HR-to-Employee Ratio
Internal Communication
Management Styles
People Management
Relational Leadership
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