5 Tips for Protecting Your Business Through Effective Supervision

Jun 06, 2014   Print PDF

By Kelly Twiss Noonan | Related Practice: Employment

Benjamin Franklin once said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” That phrase applies to many aspects of running a business, including employment relations.

Setting clear expectations about management techniques and providing training so your supervisors are as effective as possible have the potential to pay big dividends for your company.  In addition to increased productivity, reduced turnover and a more harmonious workplace, having well-trained supervisors on the front lines of your business provides some level of protection from employment lawsuits.

Below are five basic tips for teaching your company managers how to become effective supervisors. Contact your employment attorney for more in-depth training or advice on specific employment issues.

1. Set Basic Expectations. Supervisors should be respectful and courteous in all interactions.  They should recognize and acknowledge the importance of everyone’s job duties, responsibilities and pressures. Encourage open, honest and non-judgmental communications and discourage gossip or the spreading of rumors.

2. Schedule Annual Reviews. Annual reviews are the opportunity for the manager and employee to discuss professional goals and objectives. Managers should help employees identify development priorities and plan how they will be achieved along with specific goals and benchmarks to ensure accountability. The discussion should include a candid evaluation of the employee’s prior performance, strengths and growth opportunities. However, review time is NOT the time for employees to learn about project-specific feedback for the first time.

3. Establish Open Channels of Communication. Good supervisors know how to give and receive feedback. Remind your managers that feedback shouldn’t be reserved for negative situations.  Giving positive feedback is at least as important as negative feedback. The feedback should be specific, succinct and timely, rather than being “saved up” for delivery long after the performance. Equally important is the supervisor’s ability to receive feedback from employees. Supervisors should convey a welcoming, approachable manner, listen for understanding and control defensiveness.

4. Build a Team. Fostering respectful relationships between employees is just as important as the relationship between supervisor and employee. Supervisors should provide their direct reports with context and explain why the work matters. They should identify priorities for the team and clearly define the expected results. Each team member’s role and how that role contributes to the goal should be clarified for the entire team.

5. Delegate. Delegating tasks empowers employees. Remind managers that when they are delegating, they should clearly define what they want their employees to do. They should encourage employees to restate the task to ensure their understanding and offer constructive feedback throughout the project.

Resources.  Hundreds of books on management and supervision are published each year.  A few of my favorites:  The Oz Principle by Connors, Smith and Hickman; Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott; and The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor and Achor’s TED Talk, “The Happy Secret to Better Work.”