Supervisors: It’s Time to Get Your Head Out of the Sand!

This month, we begin a series about “inspiring your staff to greatness.”  Here’s a question: why are many managers satisfied with mediocrity when it comes to supervision? You can view my response to this question by watching this brief YouTube clip.

One of the items I mention is that it’s easier to accept mediocrity than to challenge staff. Managers often do not know what exemplary supervision is. Keep in mind that many managers are in a leadership position, but it was because of their technical skills not because of their ability to manage others.

Below is a brief Q&A about this topic.

Are there any resources you can recommend for someone who will be managing people for the first time (such as a website, a book, or a course?)

If you are a first time supervisor, I highly recommend that you get yourself a copy of two books:  1) Managing for Dummies, by Bob Nelson and Peter Economy; 2) Coping with Supervisory Nightmares, by Michael and Deborah Singer Dobson.  The content of both of these resources will be invaluable to you.  Further, I, myself, am seriously thinking of developing a 6 week course for persons new to supervision–putting my own spin on the subject.

How can one gauge an employee’s satisfaction level? Are there signs that indicate the level of employee satisfaction? 

When you are supervising people, observe them carefully on a regular basis.  Don’t put your head in the sand and pretend that all is well when, in fact, it may not be.  Indicators of growing dissatisfaction include:  lack of passion, excuses to leave work or to be absent from work more frequently, problem behavior, constantly giving in to distractions, doing the bare minimum, unusual attention seeking, outbursts of anger, isolating from others, avoidance, missed deadlines, a “cold shoulder”, and strong resistance to meaningful criticism or guidance.

There are people who have a “clocking in and clocking out” approach to their jobs as opposed to really being invested in their work.   What can you recommend for those folks who are simply clocking in and out? 

Actually, I have recommendations for both these employees AND their supervisors.  First, the employees need to take a close look at why they feel this way about their jobs.  Perhaps they are not well matched to the positions they currently hold.  Maybe they have a work ethic problem.  Maybe they don’t feel as if they are truly making a difference in their workplace.  Perhaps they dislike their coworkers and/or their bosses.  Second, the supervisors of these employees need to conduct a check-in with them to uncover what is going on.  Supervisors can ask open ended questions like:  “I’ve noticed that you arrive right on time and leave the moment your formal work day is over, even when there are occasions when we could benefit from you sticking around for an extra half hour to complete a project.  I’m curious about this and would like you tell me about it.”  Another question may be:  “What can I do to motivate you more than you are currently?  I feel a responsibility to work with you to increase your level of engagement here.”  These are a few examples of how to begin the dialogue.

Do you have a business question? Send your questions via email at or by mail to 4902 Carlisle Pike, PMB 297, Mechanicsburg, PA 17050.  Click here to preview a short clip about this column.


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