You finally have gotten that promotion, and now you are a supervisor. Your hard work, study, extra effort and dedication have paid off. But something is wrong. Things aren't working out as planned.
You know the people on your team, and they know you. So, what's the problem? Maybe you are. Your team knew you as a co-worker, but now, you are a supervisor. You are an unknown.
If you are fortunate enough to have come from the ranks of the class you will be supervising, you start out with intimate knowledge of what their jobs are like. However, if you came from another class, then you are not only bereft of that experience, but you may be considered to be a "know-nothing" by those you supervise. In either case, you are the supervisor and have to think of yourself in that position.
Knowing your employees' abilities and weaknesses, and having first-hand experience of their tasks is essential. Almost all groups will gauge your management style over time, forming opinions that will last throughout your tenure.
They also will be concerned about losing the perks they have wrangled from the former supervisor, their hard-fought time schedules, their status and the alliances they have forged.
New supervisors should start by making only those changes that are immediately necessary. Then, observe the current practices before working on major changes. When you are ready to make changes, you should announce them beforehand to the groups being affected and allow for discussion. Therefore, once changes are put in motion, no one can say that he or she was not informed.
If you know your employees well enough, pre-sell your proposals one-on-one to influential employees before holding a group meeting. This might ferret out flaws and will alleviate the chances that you'll appear like an uninformed fool.
There are two basic supervisory types: steady and unsteady.
* The steady type encompasses the "lift that bale, tote that barge" supervisor who nurtures bitter regrets over the waning of slavery. This type brooks no deviance from his all-controlling dictates, using harsh discipline readily for any infractions.
* The unsteady type is the "firm, but fair" supervisor. He is willing to seek feedback, explain his rationale and make alterations when needed. He is more likely to use progressive discipline when persuasion doesn't suffice.
The unsteady type is polarized into "The Politician" and "The Bouncing Ball" styles. "The Politician" adopts the opinion of the majority in all things, taking a straw poll of opinion and then deciding with the majority.
"The Bouncing Ball" adopts the opinion of others, but the "others" are usually a writer, politician, commentator or other authority figure regardless of whether they have expertise in the field.
The worst despot is sufferable because he is predictable. The best ambivalent neurotic is terrifying because you never know what the rules are. Whatever kind of supervisor you chose to be, be consistent.
Good supervisors try to educate those they supervise at every opportunity. Educating someone is a sign you acknowledge that person's worth.
Many supervisors are afraid that if they educate employees, they will be promoted, leaving a position that might be filled by a rookie who will start from scratch. Some supervisors are so insecure that they are afraid that giving any information to employees diminishes their own superiority.
In reality, anything you can do to enhance your employees' skills enhances your own status.
Smart supervisors note the skills exhibited by their own supervisors. Some supervisors make you want to gain their approval, while others make you want to find another job.
Motivation is key and runs the gamut from punishment to encouragement. The best supervisors encourage their employees to do their best, not for the company's bottom line, but for their own benefit. They nurture their employees' skills or natural talents.
If this sounds like grooming your own replacement, you're correct. Training subordinates to become future supervisors not only produces better morale and enhances the work effort, but it also ensures that there are people who can fill in for you while you're ill or on vacation. They become a natural resource who will facilitate your own promotion because there is someone who can take your place. If anyone doesn't think that happens, ask around.
Got a question about your solid waste operations or want to sound off? Contact Bill Knapp c/o World Wastes at 6151 Powers Ferry Rd., Atlanta, Ga. 30339. (770) 618-0112. Fax: (770) 618-0349. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org