It is often joked that management is the position of getting things done through others. As a supervisor, one takes on many managerial aspects of a business and being a good supervisor can make all the difference in how smoothly an operation runs and successful employees feel about their work. The supervisor is looked to for direction, instruction and support by all the employees under their care. From planning, organizing resources, leading others and controlling the organization’s systems, there are many things to keep in mind in being a supervisor that is efficient, respected and admired. Here are some practices to bear in mind when taking on a position as a supervisor.
1. Demonstrating Communication Skills
Being able to communicate in efficient and coherent manners is crucial to keeping the connection between supervisor and employees open. Without effective means of communication, many mishaps can happen, activities gone unmanaged and finances in chaos. Communication takes two parts: being a good speaker and being an even better listener.
Communicating your message to an employee can be difficult. When training or demonstrating, avoid using inferior and mocking tones. Don’t use passive aggressive dialogue and avoid sarcasm when pertaining to serious matters. Also pay attention to what you are not saying: by telling an employee you thought highly of another you are also implying that he or she is inferior. Chose calm moments to speak to your employees and not when they, or yourself, are already under various stresses.
Sometimes it can be difficult to take the time to listen to your employees, but never underestimate the importance of listening to their concerns, their needs and their aspirations for themselves. While a peer-to-peer relationship is not necessary, knowing that you are open and comfortable with talking to them when operations are running smoothly is useful in keeping lines of communication open when things start to get tough around the work place. If they do not openly approach you to talk, take the initiative and ask them how they are, whether they feel things are going well at work or what they think could be improved. Ask about their home life and if things are going well. This way, when they need an emergency leave, they will feel more comfortable coming up to you with their concerns, knowing you are someone who is open to communication and willing to listen.
2. Determining Effective Orientation and Training Methods
Training is a crucial aspect in laying down the foundation for the habits you want your employee to utilize at work. Similarly orientation will be their first insight into the job and the tasks it entails and what is expected of them so making certain orientation and training meet their needs is important. Effective orientation should cover all the basic aspects of the job from paperwork that needs to be filed for employment to guidelines for work and performance expectations. If there happens to be a lot of material that needs to be made known, taking the time to organize a pamphlet or booklet with all the necessary information can be useful for both you and the person you are orienting. Clearly outline circumstances that might need to be dealt with and how the person should respond to conflict in the workplace.
In training, it is also helpful to match them with another employee who knows the job well and can provide them with the foundation for the work as well as useful tips they might have picked up along the way. This will also create for them a colleague with whom they will be able to ask for instructions and give the other employee a chance to shine and take a small leadership position. This will also alleviate some work for you, leaving time to manage other aspects that might need attention.
Avoid seeming hasty in orientating and training the employee. Taking the time needed for them to become completely acquainted with the position not only will make them better equipped to deal with the issues at hand but will offer a valuable time for you to create a connection with them and lay the basis for open communication lines.
3. Improving Productivity for Teams
When assigning work for teams it is important to recognize the different strengths each member can offer responsibilities that will enable each person to shine. Promptly deal with any conflicts that may arise and remind them to talk to one another to settle concerns before coming to you. This will avoid you having to play the role of the judge and will strengthen their abilities to cooperate as a team. Encouraging them to help one another when they finish their own task will also improve productivity and avoid thinking that they are doing individual tasks instead of working towards a common goal.
Increasing work efficiency can also be done by instating team meetings at the beginning and at the end of each work day. Use a meeting at the start of the workday to set goals for each person and goals for the group as well as to remind the team of work from the day before and concerns each may have. This small talk can help them keep in mind that they are working as a group and that they are held responsible to the group for a particular project. At the end of the day, use a group meeting to go over problems that may have arose during the day and to assess whether goals were met. This meeting can also be used to go over tasks for the following day. Try to end each meeting on a positive note which will help motivate good feelings towards others on the team and keep malign criticisms at bay.
As a supervisor, take active participation in team projects when suitable. Do not be caught simply relaxing and ordering commands which will breed resentment and is an irresponsible practice for a supervisor. Continually ask if there are any concerns or problems team members may have and address them swiftly and judicially. Also, trust in your employees to do well and do not underestimate their abilities and skills. Allow them to perform their job so long as they maintain goals and take responsibility for mistakes they might make.
4. Conducting Performance Appraisals
Organizing methods to assess employee performance is an opportunity to pinpoint weaknesses and to praise good work where deserved. Appraisals of employee work should be done in regular intervals and in fair rubrics every time. Setting timetables for assessments then subsequently failing to keep them will decrease the authority of the appraisals and result in employees not believing in their importance. Conduct the appraisals on weeks of low traffic when employees will not be additionally stressed and when you can take the time needed to fully assess the needs and performances of each individual. If there are too many employees to run assessments in one period, set aside a “performance appraisal month” where they can sign up at small intervals to have a grading done and where they can talk to you about concerns they may have.
Provide employees with the assessment rubrics in advance so they know what is expected of them and what consequences for failing to meet standards are and use the assessments as benchmarks that are fair and objective. If an employee fails to meet a standard, proposed action should be taken and not ignored to encourage success over the next interval. Likewise, if an employee does well, do not wait to congratulate them and do not delay proposed awards for meeting standards. Having a set rubric with standardized consequences will avoid subjective decisions on your part and will limit the potential conflicts that may arise.
Aside from formalized appraisals, do not hesitate to point out exceptionally good work performance when noticed or bring attention to unacceptable habits that need to be changed or improved. Not allowing bad habits to stew will avoid later confrontations with the employee that can be avoided by recognizing unacceptable behaviors promptly.
5. Resolving Conflict
Resolving conflict in the workplace can be difficult and as a supervisor, it is sometimes tempting to use the “because I’m your boss” argument to settle scores. However true this is, it will only leave feelings of resentment with the employee and subsequent conflicts will undoubtedly follow. To avoid these escalating to this degree, it is good to be able to recognize practices for solving conflicts swiftly.
Learn to differentiate between personal differences and work-related conflict. Each person is entitled to have their own opinions and it is important that you can recognize differences in opinion and clashes relating to work. Do not make the conflict personal and avoid bringing up past offences against the employee. Dealing only with the situation at hand and knowing where you stand on the issue regardless of who the employee is can be helpful in resolving conflicts. Keep this in mind: if the same disagreement arose but it was with another employee, how would your reaction be different? Although it is easier said than done, as a supervisor your reaction to conflict should be equal regardless of employee and if you find that it is not, think about what personal matters you are taking into consideration that perhaps you should not be.
If the conflict is personal, ask to speak to the person just before or after work hours. Point out that differences can exist but civility should be maintained in the workplace. If things can not be resolved and tension continues to make work difficult, consider changing the employee to another department. If this is not a possibility, learning to separate work responsibilities from personal issues will need to be the primary focus in order for work to proceed.
6. Improving Employee Relations
Improve employee relations by propagating friendship among employees and open lines of communication. Work events such as Christmas parties and out-of-work activities can be very helpful in creating bonds between employees out of the work environment and in a more relaxed atmosphere. As a supervisor, take the time to remember employee birthdays and remind other employees of upcoming birthdays to instill friendship and companionship among them. Also be tactful about religious holidays and personal celebrations that may happen in an employee’s life such as the birth of a child or an anniversary.
Another way to improve employee relations is to make small competitions at work for them. From rewarding the best employee of the month or the employee who achieved the highest projects to simple contests such as guessing jellybeans in a jar or betting on sports teams, creating a relaxed atmosphere and small competition can help improve relations and ensure success in communication with employees and overall success in the workplace.
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Broadwell, M. (1995). The Supervisor and On-The-Job Training. New York: Basic Books.
Byars, L., & Rue, L. (2006). Supervision: Key Link to Productivity. New York: McGraw-Hill/Irwin.
Goad, T. (1997). The First-Time Trainer: A Step-By-Step Quick Guide for Managers, Supervisors, and New Training Professionals. New York: Amacom/American Management Association.
Werner, S. (2002). Recent Developments in International Management Research: A Review of 20 Top Management Journals. Journal of Management, 28(3), 277-305.
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