Even in businesses in which the owner and supervisors are sincerely interested in their workers and make a concerted effort to be good managers, problems still occur. Assuming that an employee does not dislike the supervisor, but that they are still not communicating effectively, it could be for one of the following reasons:
• Age differences. When the employee and supervisor are of widely different ages, either may be guilty of believing that they have nothing in common. Young people may tend to believe that the growing pains of life are known only to them. Older employees can be intimidated by the strength or impetuousness of younger ones or may have no patience with the inexperience of young workers, forgetting that they were once that young and inexperienced themselves.
• Education differences. Less educated employees may feel intimidated by a better educated, articulate supervisor. Young supervisors recently graduated from college can expect to be regarded suspiciously by the employees they direct. If the workers are appreciably older, more experienced, and have seniority with the firm, the young supervisor may be on the receiving end of a reverse snobbery.
• Sex differences. Certain types of ornamental horticulture businesses have been the domain of men for many years, due mainly to the need for physical strength to perform the work. Nurseries, landscape contractors, and lawn care firms have been dominated by male workers and have only recently started to accept women as both laborers and supervisors. A female supervisor may experience resentment or balking by some workers for no reason other than her sex, and the questions it raises in their minds about her knowledge and competence.
• Ethnic and background differences. The often illogical problems that develop between people from different cultures and economic backgrounds are known to most people of intelligence. For example, communications can be awkward between an employee and a
supervisor merely because one is from the city and the other from the country. It is not a case of disliking each other but of believing that they have nothing in common.
• Position or status differences. Some employees are not comfortable around authority figures, no matter how hard the supervisor tries to develop a good relationship. Supervisors who are promoted from the ranks may find that their former friends on the staff suddenly turn cool for this reason alone.
If one or more of these factors leads to complications of the human relations within a firm, it may or may not affect the workers’ productivity, but it will affect their job satisfaction. As much as possible, a good supervisor or manager will seek to break down barriers that stand in the way of communication. Seldom will workers initiate the action.
Reconciliation of differences requires that supervisors seek out and emphasize the many areas that they and the employees have in common. Stressing areas of common interest and similarity, while tolerating differences that do not affect the business, can eliminate or at least minimize the areas of difference.