Can I Recover From My Supervisory Mistakes?


When my company promoted me to supervisor, it thrilled me. I knew I’d be the supervisor I’d always wanted to work under–honest, understanding, and inspiring.

Here’s what happened instead. I messed up twice.

Two weeks later, our company started three new initiatives. I knew the employees wouldn’t like the initiatives and I didn’t either. My manager told me I had to educate my employees concerning each of these initiatives.

I did what he asked, but felt I needed to be honest as well. 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. My manager hauled me in and said, “You undercut the initiatives. You can’t do that and be on the management team. You need to decide.”

My company promoted me because I have a work ethic and get along with most people. That’s not true of my former coworkers who now work for me. One regularly arrives late to work. Two others don’t like each other and openly quarrel.

As their supervisor, I talked to each of the three. With the first, I explained that I understood her childcare issues, but she needed to make a greater effort to get to work on time. I told the other two I understood their grievances about each other, but they needed to shape up.

I thought I’d made headway. Instead, their problem behaviors escalated, leaving me no choice but to come down hard on all three. Now, these three hate me. They say I’ve let power go to my head and am worse than the prior supervisor.

I’m a flop as a supervisor. Should I just resign?


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, not repeat them, and become a great supervisor as your heart is in the right place.

As a supervisor, you can’t afford to give mixed messages. When you told your employees that you didn’t like two management initiatives, you told them they didn’t need to carry them out.

Here’s what you need to do instead–when you have concerns about a management initiative, discuss it 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.

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, when a problem supervisor leaves, employees soon forget their worst attributes and instead focus on the new supervisor’s “worst” qualities.

Further, your former peers may resent the fact that your company promoted you over them.

How can you fix this? Learn from your mistakes and become the very best supervisor you can be–honest, understanding, and inspiring.

p.s. You might like this article on how to do a 180 as a supervisor and become a coach,

© 2020, Lynne Curry

Lynne Curry, Ph.D., SPHR, is the author of “Beating the Workplace Bully” (AMACOM, 2016, and “Solutions”, (both books are rated 4.8 out of 5 stars on Send your questions to her at or follow her on twitter @lynnecurry10.

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One thought on “Can I Recover From My Supervisory Mistakes?

  1. Insightful! Supervision is more difficult than many believe, and handling scheduling, behavioral problems, and “feeling,” such as people deciding they don’t like you or coming to you to tell on their coworkers are some of the least favorite bits. There are good tips and ideas here for improving supervisory behavior and outcomes. Good luck to the new supervisor.

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