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Monday, October 10, 2011

When a supervisor is not a supervisor

The author is an Organizational Development Practitioner

Are all supervisors, supervisors? Could it be that many people are supervisors by title and not by function? Maybe not. In case you bear the title supervisor at work, I suggest you read through to tell whether you truly are a supervisor or whether you are just one by title. If you have a supervisor, read on to decipher whether yours is a supervisor or just a boss who happens to bear the title supervisor.

Supervision is one of the most critical skills at the workplace yet the most over looked. Many employers have designated certain staff as supervisors yet are not able to tell the extent to which supervision is facilitated. Could it be that many people are regarded as supervisors just because they have staff working under them? In most cases, this seems to be the case.

A supervisor is primarily expected to play the role of a mentor at the workplace. It is hoped that the supervisor will help the members of his or her team to better appreciate the expectations of their roles. To this end, the supervisor should find time and space to clearly explain the job description to the staff and walk with them in appreciating the nitty gritties of the job. However, in certain cases, the ‘supervisors’ expect the staff to read, understand and perform. In several cases, the ‘supervisors’ have been totally unaware of the job descriptions of the staff under them. They get surprised when they learn of what the staff are doing out of office.

As a coach or mentor, the supervisor is expected to walk the path of performance with the staff they supervise. He should be involved in supporting the staff go through the work related challenges and provide advice. In these instances, the supervisor should provide guidance on the way forward and not sit and expect the staff to falter so that they can use the case as the basis for poor performance appraisal. The supervisor should ideally seek to grow the staff under them and not necessarily look for weak points to blow up during the regular appraisals.

It is expected of a supervisor to enhance team work at the workplace. The supervisor hence seeks to support the team in the development of team plans and their execution. Building a team should be at the core of the supervisor’s performance appraisal. It is then given that the supervisor should remain impartial while working with the team. He should not be seen to be favoring certain staff while reprimanding others with no good reason.

Bearing in mind all the expectations of the supervisor, you would then realize how many of ‘supervisors’ are really supervisors. Many people bask in the glory of being referred to as supervisors even when they barely scratch the surface with regard to playing out their roles effectively. The challenge however is not with the persons as it were but with the systems within which they operate. Many employers rarely induct and orient supervisors on their expected roles and only expect them to do all that appertains to supervision with little or no preparation. This highly contributes to the lackluster performance by many of our supervisors.

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