Tip #396: Not Everyone Can Effectively Supervise Others

“What you have to do and the way you have to do it is incredibly simple. Whether you are willing to do it, that’s another matter.”  Peter Drucker

Supervisors typically have the responsibility to plan, guide, assign, train, evaluate, hire, discipline and fire. These skills can be taught and learned. What ultimately cannot be taught is an individual’s willingness to perform the more challenging tasks of supervision: conducting performance evaluations and initiating discipline that may end in the possible termination of the employee.

Individuals can learn the skill sets, methods and procedures involved in every aspect of supervision. The question comes down to whether or not the individual will use what has been learned. This is particularly true when it comes down to having to deal with poor employee performance. Despite the existence of effective personnel management policies and strategies in the organization, here are the two supervisory responsibilities that are most difficult for some supervisors to perform- and why.

1.  Performance Evaluation. Conducting a performance evaluation can be uncomfortable. Even assuming that there are measurable performance standards, performance has been monitored, and documentation is available, having to sit down across from an employee and discuss performance issues is rarely pleasant. There are many reasons for this. Some supervisors:

  1. Do not like being placed in the position of having to judge others.
  2. Worry that they will lose the friendship and regard of the employee.
  3. Want to be seen as a “good guy.”
  4. Cannot stomach making an employee upset.

2.   Discipline. If conducting a performance evaluation is hard, imagine how distressing it can be to discipline an employee. Even if the employee’s poor performance is egregious and affects the performance of the entire team or unit, the idea of wielding this type of power over another individual can be very nerve-wracking. Some supervisors:

  1. Resist the idea of being not only the judge but also the jury.
  2. Are afraid of making the wrong decision.
  3. Worry that the employee’s poor performance reflects badly on them.
  4. Are uncomfortable initiating a process that can end in termination.

Some individuals are simply not cut out to be supervisors. They cannot see themselves making decisions that can impact the very livelihood of their employees, many of whom may be personal friends of the supervisor. When faced with that eventuality, they may spend sleepless nights and literally become ill.

In order to avoid placing individuals in supervisory positions where they are destined to fail, it is extremely important that organizations offer pre-supervisory training to employees who are considering promotion into a supervisory position.

This training should place the trainees into simulated supervisory situations so that they can learn: (1) what is involved in handling the situation and (2) whether or not they would be comfortable performing those performance evaluation and disciplinary responsibilities.

May your learning be sweet.


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