A direct report is an employee who reports directly to someone above them within a company. Anyone who works directly under someone else is considered a direct report. 

A direct report takes and receives assignments and is responsible for carrying out those specific tasks and projects within their area of expertise. 

A direct report is accountable to someone in a leadership role, such as a manager, supervisor, or team leader, who typically assigns work and monitors performance. The direct report is responsible for meeting expectations set by the manager. A direct report also goes to their manager for feedback, questions, coaching needs, and other issues. 

The person in charge of a direct report is also called a direct reportee. A direct reportee may also be a direct report. For example, a senior manager oversees a team of associates but reports to the director of their department.

Direct reporting allows employees, their managers, and the organization to define roles and responsibilities, determine expertise, delegate tasks and deliverables, deliver feedback, and improve communication.

Direct report vs. supervisor

While a direct report reports to someone above them with a leadership role, a supervisor is a person who manages the direct report. A supervisor may have several direct reports. 

Direct report vs. indirect report

An indirect report is a manager’s direct report’s direct report.

For example, let’s say you are a manager with a direct report named Diane. Diane also has a direct report named Brian. Brian is your indirect report because he reports to your direct report Diane. Even though you do not directly supervise Brian, you are still indirectly responsible for his performance, and the instructions you give Diane ultimately impact him as well.

Example of direct reports in a business hierarchy

Direct reporting is typically used in businesses to structure and improve communication between tiers of the company.

To illustrate, visualize a pyramid, with the C-Suite at the top, followed by department heads below who report to the C-Suite, followed by managers below who report to the department heads, followed by individual contributors and associates who report to the managers.

How many direct reports should a manager have?

The number of direct reports a manager should have depends on various factors, including: 

  • The workload
  • How difficult or complex the overseen work is
  • Direct reports’ experience and skills 
  • Manager’s experience and skills 
  • Structure and size of the business

Tips for managing direct reports effectively

One of the many leadership goals a supervisor may set for themselves is to improve how they manage their direct reports. Consider the following tips:

Schedule time with your team

Managing direct reports is about coaching, mentoring, and collaboration, and devoting time to developing your team strengthens your relationship with each member.

Arrange regular one-on-one meetings with your direct reports to delegate tasks, provide constructive feedback, and provide space for questions. If you manage a remote team, establish clear communication expectations and set regular time to check in with each other.

Lead with positivity and inclusivity

Inclusive leadership ensures that your direct reports feel valued and supported. Welcome new perspectives, offer positive reinforcement, foster a psychologically safe workplace, and listen to your direct reports without judgment.

Get to know your direct report

Taking an interest in your direct report both professionally and personally allows you insight into their interests and goals. Learning about your direct report builds trust and communication and makes it easier to coach them.

Understanding your direct report better also allows you to delegate tasks more effectively because you know what motivates them, the projects best suited for them, their goals, and how they respond to feedback. 

Establish open communication

Invite your direct reports to come to you with questions, concerns, and ideas about their work. Seek their feedback on work processes and provide them the opportunity to help influence their career paths and company decisions. 

Offer regular performance evaluations

Performance evaluations are critical to understanding how your direct report can meet their goals individually and within the organization. They also help you see where employees need coaching or training to improve and how they can better contribute to the company’s growth and success.

Provide a space for feedback to set goals, solve performance issues together, and develop their career.

Clearly outline goals, responsibilities, and career path

Make it simple for your direct report to understand what they need to do and when. Offer your direct report the opportunity to grow professionally by reviewing their long-term goals and developing a plan for achieving them.

Track your direct report’s progress and open up opportunities for them to share how a project is going and whether it’s taking more or less time than expected. This keeps your direct reports accountable and productive and creates active and dedicated employees in the long run. 


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