What makes good people become bad supervisors?

Published October 12, 2011

What makes good people turn into bad supervisors? This is an interesting subject and unfortunately a common problem. In some ways it is similar to bad parenting. Although some bad parenting skills can be offset with lots of love,. people don't come to work to be loved. They come to work to make a living in the most positive and productive atmosphere possible. So supervisors need to do whatever it takes to foster and promote a productive, positive, motivating, and energizing atmosphere.

Ok, that sounds good, but what does that have to do with a good supervisor? A good supervisor promotes a positive work atmosphere by making sure employees are treated fairly, given good constructive guidance and direction. Some good people turn into bad supervisors because they do not make employees follow the rules. Instead, they overlook problems hoping they will go away (they don't). What results from this type of supervision is an unequal work place with some employees pulling their weight and the proverbial bad employee missing work, coming in late or just working at half speed.

Why do some supervisors have a hard time with employees that break the rules? Many times they are tired and do not want to have to deal with the bad employee. Others are afraid that they will be accused of retaliating or picking on the employee. Some believe that you have to "catch the employee in the act" before you can say anything. For example, Sally Supervisor knows that Pesky Peggy doesn't offer to help others when she is caught up with her work but she has never actually seen it happen. So what does she do? You got it–Nothing. Meanwhile, the rest of the work force simmers on a low boil. Result, an unpleasant place to work.

The phrase "plumbers have leaky sinks" has applied to me in the past. I had a secretary that loathed to file. I knew it but I let it slide. When it finally boiled over and she was gone, I sadly learned that the other secretaries had been aware of this for a long time. She acted like she had special privileges and in a way she did because I let her get away with it.

After she was gone, the other secretaries pitched in and did the filing she had neglected for so long. To give you an idea of how long she was allowed to slide, the carpet was a different shade of color where the stacks of paper had been. You never realize how much your carpet fades unless you have an area that has been protected by paper, to compare it to. Whew, that was a jolt.

So the moral is, don't turn into a bad supervisor by ignoring a problem and hoping it will go away. It won't and I have the faded carpet to prove it.

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