The Right Amount of Supervision

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Wayne appreciated all the autonomy the boss gave him but...

Wayne appreciated all the autonomy the boss gave him but…

How much supervision is too much? Or too little? Is that new employee who checks in every hour ever going to wean himself off your help or is this just the way it’s going to be? Conversely, if you’re a new employee, you might have to wonder if the boss is going to always hover over you like a waiter who’s afraid of getting stiffed.

It’s actually, like most relationships, a delicate dance. I’ve known bosses who micromanaged employees to distraction. The employees always felt like their hands were tied and like they had no choice but to check everything with the manager because he was going to come through and second-guess it anyway. I’ve also known managers who, the minute ink dries on the paperwork, abandon the employee to the deep end of the pool, expecting results that haven’t been outlined from processes that haven’t been explained. The best approach is actually a big swath of management interaction between the two and a lot of it depends on the individuals. Everybody needs different levels of feedback and instruction. The question is whether the levels are within that swath in the middle or they’re on those extreme edges.

One of the best management techniques is to stop by the new employee’s desk periodically and just ask how it’s going. Make yourself available to answer questions or give direction. Sometimes the employee’s attitude is “I’ve got this.” And sometimes they do. It’s good to give someone as much room as they can handle to manage the job you hired them for. But if the employee seems insecure, unsure of what he’s doing, checks constantly whether he’s on the right track, a manager needs to figure out whether there is actually a gap in the skill set or whether it’s a crisis of confidence. It could be that the employee’s last manager had major control issues and the employee doesn’t know if that’s the case with his new manager. In many cases, it helps to set up a weekly or bi-weekly meeting to make sure the employee knows there is time for him to discuss his concerns and get his questions answered, but that no one will be looking over his shoulder. If he needs more supervision than that, he may not fit in the culture. In a high-speed environment, you might need someone who is more of a self-starter, who can figure out the answers to a lot of his questions.

And then there’s the manager’s role. Management requires a certain level of self awareness about one’s own tendencies. The managers who drive me the craziest are those who say ‘I don’t want to have to manage these people. I just want them to do their jobs.’ You’re a MANAGER for Pete’s sake. It’s in your title. Managers manage people. That’s what they get paid for.

A lot of it comes down to trust. Do you trust the employee to get his or her job done? Does the employee trust you to give him the information and resources he needs to do a good job? Trust takes time. So find the time to give it time.

We work with companies on a project basis or on retainer, providing a custom level of HR help designed for your business. Contact me at Caroline@valentinehr.com or call (512) 420-8267.

We work with companies on a project basis or on retainer, providing a custom level of HR help designed for your business, with offices in Austin, San Antonio, Dallas and Houston. Contact me at Caroline@valentinehr.com or call (512) 420-8267.