The lead man was part of the actual work, and yet he was responsible for the behavior of the whole group. From the lead man he has, however, largely inherited his actual position. The word supervisor has conflicting connotations. A supervisor not only commands, directs, controls, and inspects but also takes responsibility for, leads, shepherds, administers, guides, consults, and cares for. Another cause of the decline is the rise of staff service departments in such fields as quality control, production planning and control, industrial engineering, personnel, maintenance, and cost accounting.
Most of these staff service departments were created to handle the new demands of scientific management in the s and s. The more recent growth of specialization and professionalization within companies has been noted as an important trend of the twentieth century. Each staff group wants to have a say in the job, to establish a power base, and to protect its area of expertise.
Its success in meeting these needs has eroded the authority of first-level supervisors. He was left with little to do except administer the plans and programs devised by the service departments. A further influence has been the rise of the unions, which have stripped supervisors in unionized plants of much of their remaining authority. Rather than always dealing directly with workers, the supervisors have become more dependent on, and are quite often the target of, the union. It has become increasingly difficult to hire or fire without union involvement.
Let First-Level Supervisors Do Their Job
Hiring often has to come from the union list, firing has to follow a strict interpretation of the contract, often requiring a number of warnings. Layoffs are normally by seniority, not according to productivity. And, even when the strict letter of the contract is followed, grievances are often filed by the union steward. The company, in some instances, has failed to support the supervisor in a legitimate claim against the union. When such actions have eroded the power base of first-level supervisors, they have been bypassed by workers and union officials, and workers have taken their problems to the union steward instead.
The first stage of any grievance procedure—talking with the supervisor in charge—has become lip service. Setting work standards—the one domain supervisors had prided themselves on and that had been considered their territory—has become the domain of the industrial engineering and industrial relations departments working with the union. The union has also served to lower the prestige of the first-level supervisor by winning large wage increases, improved working conditions, and job security for its members.
Both groups have very different values and priorities. Middle managers tend to be interested in cost, efficiency, and performance; workers tend to be more interested in wage rates, security, and comfort. Managers usually believe that hard work leads to advancement; workers often see little point in exerting themselves. To management, the labor contract and work rules seem restrictive; to labor, they seem protective from unreasonable management demands. Managers are concerned about the status of their positions; workers want recognition for work well done.
Managers usually identify strongly with the company; workers often have little company loyalty. This combination of role confusion, increase in staff services, overlap of power with the unions, and conflicting demands has reduced the position of first-level supervisor to just a shadow of its earlier form.
As we can see from the often ambiguous and contradictory findings, success is difficult to identify. Sometimes it means productivity, sometimes satisfaction, and sometimes quality of work life. What is successful to employees is not always the same as what is successful to management, and that is not necessarily the same as what is successful to the first-level supervisor. Our knowledge of what makes a successful supervisor is still quite incomplete.
However, several studies have been carried out since the end of World War II. A pioneering effort was a three-year study — conducted by Aaron Q.
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Sartain and Alton W. The samples were statistically alike with regard to number of men and women, marital status, average age, education, years of experience, salary grade, average distance from job to home, and average score on a battery of psychological tests for each pair of work groups. However, the productivity differences between the two samples of work groups were statistically significant.
Prior to the study, characteristics of the group leaders supervisors such as age, education, experience, and salary were thought to explain the differences in group productivity, but the study did not show that any of these factors makes a difference. What it did show is that the high-productivity groups had more pride in their work than the low-productivity groups.
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Supervisors of high-productivity groups usually supervised in a more general manner than did supervisors of low-productivity groups. These latter supervisors closely watched their workers and gave greater amounts of instruction to them. Overinstruction was an easy way to oversupervise.
The supervisors of the low-productivity groups made a larger number of requests for promotions and salary increases, but a lower percentage of their requests was approved. The supervisors of the high-productivity groups were more critical than their counterparts. Finally, and perhaps most important, the high-productivity supervisors talked about their people; the low-productivity supervisors talked about their jobs. Sartain and Baker concluded their analysis of this study by noting that there are no ironclad rules for supervising.
The Institute for Social Research, under the direction of Rensis Likert, followed the Prudential study with a number of similar studies in a variety of settings. The findings from these studies can be summarized as follows:. In a later study, Saul W. Gellerman analyzed the jobs of 12 first-line supervisors in the packaging plant of a major food-processing company. Gellerman found three supervisors A, B, and C particularly interesting.
For each of these supervisors Gellerman detected a number of important elements of substance what is done and style how it is done. How their superiors described their ways of supervising is shown in the Exhibit. What is certain is that the job of first-line supervisor is an extremely difficult and demanding one that requires shifting sets of information, skills, and abilities.
A successful supervisor seems to have the ability to balance the demands of task, employees, union, and management with his or her own needs for esteem and respect. But this balancing act takes place in a ring where not all of these demands can be met at once.
To see what good first-level supervisors are like, it is useful to hear what subordinates want from their leaders. And to see what kind of supervision encourages the development of first-level supervisors, it is helpful to hear what they think of their managers. In , a national restaurant chain we interviewed undertook a confidential survey of its employees as part of an attempt to find the cause of a corporate sales plateau. The results of the survey were quite revealing:.
6 Big Reasons Employees Sue, And How To Protect Yourself
Overall, there was a strong correlation between how the employees ranked their unit managers supervisors and the performance of their units. If they're not, you can count on this unhappiness to spread.
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We all make mistakes. It's part of being human. The key is to learn valuable lessons from those mistakes so we don't make them again. When members of your team make honest mistakes, don't punish them--instead, encourage them to try again. The members of your team will be more valuable to your organization, and to themselves, when they have opportunities to learn new skills.
Provide your team with the training they need to advance in their careers and to become knowledgeable about the latest technologies and industry news. The opinions expressed here by Inc. More from Inc. First, though, a word about what not to do: we recommend that you make a personal commitment that you will never fire an employee on the spot. Acting out of anger or frustration is a good way to get yourself in legal hot water.
Employees who are fired in this way are the most likely to sue you or to cause other trouble for you and your business. If a worker does something so terrible that you must take immediate action, tell the worker that he or she is suspended, effective immediately, while you investigate or cool down. The safest way to fire someone, from a legal standpoint, is to be sure that you have a valid, nondiscriminatory business reason for the action, and that you have enough documentation to prove it.
Your documentation must be created in the normal course of business, before you fire the person except, of course, for a record of the actual termination discussion. Don't get caught trying to reconstruct documentation such as warnings or poor performance reviews after the fact, when you should have been creating them all along. Also, the documentation process should not be used to "build a case" against one worker when other workers in similar situations did not have their actions documented.
Selective documentation may be proof that a person was the victim of discrimination. It's important to remember that workers and courts are more likely to perceive a firing as "fair" if your employees have had plenty of notice about what conduct and performance you expect from them. It's also important that workers receive regular feedback about their job performance, and that they are warned whenever you find that they are not living up to expectations. For that reason, your ability to "fire right" depends on the groundwork you lay, starting as early as the first day you hire somebody.
You need to:. If you do ignore all the expert advice and fire someone impetuously, perhaps because you had an argument or you caught the worker in the act of stealing or damaging property, what should you do? The answer depends on the worker's previous history with your company. If you have documentation to justify your actions.
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You can start by going through the worker's file to see if you have enough documentation of previous violations of rules or of poor performance reviews to justify your action. If you do, you can heave a sigh of relief because you'll have a defense ready in case the worker decides to sue you. What to do if there's little or no documentation to justify your actions. If you have little or no documentation of any previous problems with the worker, the safest course of action would be to call him or her, say that you acted too quickly, and offer to reinstate the worker.
If he or she refuses, you have just transformed the firing into a voluntary quit, so your possible liability has decreased dramatically. If the worker agrees to come back, you'll naturally keep a watchful eye on him or her. Hopefully things will improve; if not, be sure to document any problems before you repeat your hasty conduct. If you don't want to take the worker back, perhaps because his or her conduct was so appalling that it would justify firing in itself, or because you feel your ability to work together has been destroyed, you should first gather and save any available evidence that supports your version of what happened.
Then, after reviewing the evidence, you have a choice. You can sit tight and hope the whole thing blows over, or you can try to work out a deal with your ex-employee: you can agree to provide some severance benefits to the worker, in exchange for a signed release form that waives his or her right to sue you. When economic reasons demand that you eliminate an employee's job, either temporarily or permanently, you automatically have a sound business reason for the discharge. Few courts will question your judgment in this regard.
2. Avoid useless meetings
But if you decide to lay off some but not all of your workers, you must be sure that your selection process does not discriminate on the basis of age, sex, or race, or violate some other public policy. Who will stay and who will go? In most small businesses, if it becomes necessary to lay off anyone, the decision will be based on the desire to keep the business going.
Obviously, those whose jobs are most essential to the business will be kept, and those whose jobs are least essential or whose tasks can be taken over by a remaining worker or the owner will be let go.