Sunday, August 28, 2011

I Want a New Supervisor!

Start a discussion about workplace satisfaction on one of the social media sites and you will very quickly start to read responses from people who are not getting along with their supervisor. These comments fall in one of several categories: my supervisor pays no attention to me; my supervisor is looking over my shoulder all the time; my supervisor is offensive; I don't trust my supervisor. Rarely does the subject bring up positive comments. No surprise. A 2009 study at the University of Florida said half of employees don't trust their supervisor and identified the relationship with the supervisor as a prime reason behind job dissatisfaction. Today, being a supervisor is a tough job. The old rules no longer seem to apply but rarely are the new rules articulated in clear and operational terms.

What we know is that the old "command and control model" of being the boss no longer works. Or should I say it does not work consistently or sustainably. Command and control supervisors put a gun to everyone's head and say, "my way, or the highway," my friend. The lack of respect for persons in authority today makes this a dysfunctional model for the most part. When it does work, it works because someone is there to pull the gun's trigger when there is a performance violation. And this is why, especially in 24-hour care programs, the danger is that there will be one set of rules and expectations from 9-5, Monday through Friday and another set on the weekends and after 5 pm. Sound familiar?

Today the research is consistently telling us that supervisors are effective to the degree that a positive relationship exists between supervisor and employee. Real human issues are involved: loyalty, trust, concern, caring, direction and focus. When these characteristics are in place, the supervisor can say "I am committed to your success in this job, and we will work together to accomplish that." and know that the statement will make for better results. None of this means that supervisors put up with poor performance. In fact, if anything many supervisors tend to dilute their teaching effectiveness through tolerances which are too high, a reluctance to confront and a willingness to make excuses. Developing and maintaining positive relationships with employees is hard work; it's not a soft approach. David Zinger, HR writer and sponsor of the Employee Engagement blog says it takes "backbone."

A favorite quote of mine is from former President Dwight Eisenhower, who said that "leadership is about getting other people to do things the way you want them done because they want to do it that way." Worth thinking about.

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