Seven Deadly Sins For Facilities Managers

Ericka Westgard, Senior Director of Workforce Strategy for C&W Services, and her team share seven pitfalls facilities managers can fall into while performing their day-to-day responsibilities.

By Ericka Westgard

No matter how successful a facilities manager is, everyone needs advice. Here are seven pitfalls facilities managers can fall into while performing their day-to-day responsibilities.

Facilities Managers
(Credit: Douglas Levy/

1. Not ensuring compliance. This includes things like neglecting to get required signatures for building permits and safety compliance or not getting the proper sign-offs for a project. While something like this doesn’t happen often, it can and does occur when facilities managers and employees head up a project and get signatures after the fact. This can be a problem in a number of areas; an FM might forget some of the details or the project will ultimately be cut or not approved after it’s already started or, worse yet, after it’s already complete.

People usually have the best intentions and just want to get the job done, but if you reverse order the steps, something is bound to fall through the cracks.

2. Not documenting meetings. Facilities managers may go into a meeting or have a discussion with an employee about next steps or expectations, but won’t take any notes. This is a challenge because people don’t always listen or fully understand the full picture, and if they don’t remember what was discussed, chances are no action will be taken, which means the problem will persist.

A quick email afterward with bullet points will suffice because all you’re looking for is a document that details your expectations and action items so everyone is on the same page going forward. You can even note a follow-up date to hold your employee responsible.

3. Doing the work yourself. Your team is there for a reason—they’re meant to lighten the load and ensure the best work is produced with less stress both on you and the rest of your staff. Appropriating and delegating duties, then, is key. You need to hold your team accountable, even though it seems like taking on the work yourself is sometimes a quicker option. But throwing your hands in the air and doing it yourself robs your staff of time to grow, learn, and develop.

4. Ignoring repeated complaints. These can include temperature issues, missed refuse, incomplete work orders, and other things that may happen in the FM world. Take the case of a building occupant who calls often about being too hot. The team visits the work area and has a dialogue about the temperature after the first few calls, but no action is taken to fix the problem. After a while, the tendency is to ignore the issue or shrug it off. Obviously, this is to be avoided. The one time you ignore it will be the time something more serious occurs; if people are complaining consistently about a problem, then fix it, and be done with it.

It also helps to think outside the box. If you’ve addressed the situation but you still have someone complaining about being too hot, face his or her desk in a different direction or provide a fan. Unsolved complaints hurt your credibility, and that’s absolutely something you need to avoid.

5. Remaining unaware of the market and not performing strategic analysis. We need to understand how these two ideas are affecting our clients, employees and ourselves. We should always try to be aware of local markets and nationwide business, because failure to take notice could negatively affect our clients. Employee retention can also be impacted. Facilities managers need to be aware of the competition and offer employees an above-average work environment by making time for critical strategy work.

Stepping out of the day-to-day minutiae is difficult, but essential. Even if you’re successfully managing in the short-term, failure to adapt and think about the future with clients will hurt you on a long-term basis.

Along that same line, you need to plan time to fully analyze and keep abreast of what’s going on in the industry around you.

You have to schedule the time to get away from the day-to-day operations and force yourself to be strategic. Then, you need to figure out what to do with what you come up with. What are you going to do to turn those thoughts and discoveries into action plans?”

6. Lack of an organizational system. It may seem old hat, but organization is key, yet some people struggle with it. For facilities managers, it’s especially important with myriad projects surrounding them on a day-to-day basis.

Facilities managers have so many balls in the air at once because they have such a broad scope of work. You have to figure out a way to stay organized and how to communicate.

Create a documentation plan that best fits your organizational style. A schedule that keeps track of what you’re doing and communicates to the current, future and ongoing projects of you and your team is important. This keeps everyone on the same page. My style includes taking notes throughout the day and then going back either at the end of the day or the next morning and pulling out action items that need to be communicated or completed.

7. Not recognizing your staff’s work. Praise shouldn’t be given for every little thing, but it shouldn’t be withheld either. It’s difficult for staff to be motivated when they don’t have a clear understanding of whether they’re heading in the right direction and living up to the facility manager’s standards. There’s that old saying “You’ll get 10 complaints before you get even one thank you.” Recognition, then, is important for morale and productivity.

When an employee or employees receive compliments from either the client or anyone besides the facility manager, they should be recognized in front of the team. Our Spot Awards are an example of how we show appreciation for employees, recognizing them with gift cards and a note from Chief Executive Paul Bedborough on rising above their regular duties and solving a critical issue.

On a more basic level, simply forwarding an email from a client to call out their special effort is important. When you receive an email or comment like that, it’s important to thank the client, let the employee know and consider letting the team know. This motivates both that specific employee and the entire team.

My team believes in training, teaching, developing and working toward constant improvement. Our managers share tips like these at our regional meetings and via our internal company knowledge base. We continue to operationalize management training across our organization. Check out more tips on C&W Services Facilities Insights blog.

Facilities Managers

Ericka Westgard is the Senior Director of Workforce Strategy for C&W Services.


  1. Nice list! I’ll add a 8th deadly sin, which is relying on paper documents. FMs spend an average of 1.5 hours searching for information every day. Consider the big picture inefficiency, plus what that means for consequences when faced with an emergency, like a pipe burst or a fire. Mobile and technology solutions give FMs immediate access to all critical facilities and building information. It’s time FMs make the move to technology!

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