When my company promoted me to supervisor, I was thrilled and determined to be the kind of supervisor I’d always wanted to work under – honest, fair, understanding and inspiring.
Here’s what happened instead.
Two weeks after I was promoted, our company initiated three new initiatives. I knew the employees wouldn’t like them, I didn’t either. I was told I had to educate my employees concerning each of these initiatives.
I did exactly that, but wanted to be honest. I let my employees know I wasn’t one hundred percent comfortable with two of the initiatives. What I said got back to the senior management committee and my manager hauled me in on the carpet. He told me I’d undercut the initiatives. I tried to explain that I’d told the employees what the initiatives meant and that we had to go along with them, but thought it important to be honest. He told me I had to decide if I wanted to be on the management team or not.
One of the reasons I was promoted was that I have a work ethic and get along with most people. That’s not true of my former peers who now work for me. One regularly arrives late to work. Two others don’t like each other and openly quarrel. I of course talked to each of the three. With the first, I explained that I understood the child care issues, but that she needed to make a greater effort to get to work on time. With the other two, I let each know that I understood their grievances about the others, but they needed to put those behind them.
I thought I’d really made headway, but instead the problem behaviors escalated, at which point I had to come down hard on each of the three. Now, these three and others hate me, saying that I’ve let power go to my head and am worse than the prior supervisor.
I started my supervisory position with high hopes and now wonder if I should have accepted it.
If supervision was as easy as employees think it might be, more employees would like their supervisors. You’ve made two classic new supervisor mistakes. You can learn from them and fix them, and go on to be a great supervisor as your heart is in the right place.
First, as a supervisor you can’t afford to give mixed messages. When you told your employees you didn’t like two of the management initiatives, you essentially told them to feel free to not carry them out. Here’s what you need to do instead – when you have concerns about a management initiative, discuss those with senior management and don’t air your doubts with employees. Your senior managers have the right to expect you to support the initiatives and to ask for your employees’ help in implementing them.
Second, if you’re too easy-going when employees engage in problem behavior, the employees “read” it and don’t take seriously your efforts to get them to shape up. As a result, you’re forced to come down hard when your employees persist in the behavior. Often, a new supervisor who wants his or her employees to like them falls into this trap, and then feels disillusioned when the employees don’t.
Meanwhile, your employees don’t necessarily think you’re worse than the supervisor you replaced. When a problem supervisor leaves, employees soon forget their worst attributes and instead focus on the new supervisor’s “worst” qualities. Also, your former peers may resent the fact that your company promoted you over them. How can you fix this? – By becoming the very best supervisor you can be – honest, fair, understanding and inspiring.
© Dr. Lynne Curry is author of ”Beating the Workplace Bully” and ”Solutions” as well as owner of the management/HR consulting/training firm The Growth Company Inc. Follow her on Twitter @lynnecury10 or at www.bullywhisperer.com.