In addition to realistic expectations for each employee, effective supervision requires an understanding of what motivates workers to respond positively to their work and their supervisors. Most people respond in a positive manner to a supervisor whose competence they respect, whose expectations are fair and impartial, and whose attitude is upbeat. Consider the following qualities of good leadership.
Decisiveness The supervisor must be able to make good decisions quickly. The knowledge necessary to make the decisions may come from earlier preparation or experience. Employees need to believe in the ability of their supervisor to confront and resolve a problem correctly without a long period of indecision.
Thorough directions Employees may need a lot or a little direction to accomplish a task correctly the first time. Supervisors must know the abilities of their staff and provide clear instructions as work assignments are made. If the staff member has done a particular job many times before, directions can be abbreviated. If the employee is new or a new task or a new technique is being introduced, the supervisor must take longer to explain and demonstrate what is to be accomplished and the quality that is expected.
Competence Employees seldom perform at a level that they believe is beyond the capability of their supervisor to recognize and appreciate. Therefore, supervisors must perform the tasks that they assign frequently enough to retain and refresh their own skills.
Fairness Supervisors must allocate work among their staff equitabil – ity. Two workers with the same competencies and receiving the same wage or salary should be expected to perform equally. Otherwise, feelings of resentment develop. Fairness implies equal treatment for all, whether in the choice of vacation weeks, the assignment of new tools, or the requirement to work over holidays. If benefits accrue with seniority, this should be understood by all employees at the time of their hiring. Partiality, real or perceived, can be demoralizing to a staff or crew.
Understanding A good supervisor is predictable. Employees must be able to anticipate the consequences of performing in a way contrary to established company policies. A certain inflexibility is necessary or all discipline will quickly disappear. However, the enforcement of company policies must be tempered by understanding when circumstances warrant it. If a trusted and proven employee suddenly begins performing carelessly or erratically on the job, something is probably happening outside of work to explain it. A supervisor who points out the problem to the employee privately and without a tone of reprimand is likely to be effective and appreciated. It is seldom necessary to become involved with the employees’ personal problems. Pointing out how the symptoms of the problem are being manifested on the job is often enough.
Respect Supervisors who expect respect from their staff must demonstrate their own respect. Many employees have insights and abilities developed through years of experience on the job. Others have knowledge attained from recent classroom experience. The employee’s point of view should be sought by the supervisor whenever possible. At times it may be offered without solicitation. If it has merit, it should be used. If it is inappropriate, it should at least be listened to courteously and an explanation given as to why it is inappropriate. It is not a sign of weakness or incompetence in a supervisor to use an employee’s suggestion or ask an employee for an opinion. It is merely good sense.
Sincerity All supervisor-employee relationships benefit if the staff perceives that the supervisor is sincerely interested in their well-being. Concern for the employee as well as for the company can be exhibited in numerous ways, such as asking about employee’s children or vacations, or whether they are satisfied with their work. Equally important is the employee’s understanding that the supervisor cares about the business, the satisfaction of the customers, and the quality of work. Any sense of phoniness or indifference perceived in the supervisor will negatively affect the attitudes of the staff.
Praise Everyone appreciates recognition. When an employee or group of employees does a job well, the supervisor should recognize the accomplishment. It may be as simple as telling the employee privately that the work was well done; for example, “Nice job, Fred. You got that done in record time and it looks great.” It may be more public, such as complimenting a crew or crew member in the presence of peers. Then it is best to praise the action or the results to avoid embarrassing individuals or implying criticism of other staff members. For example, a supervisor might say, “We’ve had a productive week. Everything went well and that job at the Johnson home really made some money for us because it went faster than we expected. They’ve already called to say how pleased they were.” The crew responsible has been praised, and the other workers have not been compared or criticized.
Reward In return for their continuing good performance, employees expect their status within the company to improve. The most expected reward is an increase in salary or wage, or a bonus. Surprisingly, monetary reward is usually short-lived in terms of employee satisfaction. We all tend rapidly to adjust our way of living to the new income level and look for our next reward. When a business’ financial circumstances do not permit monetary reward of deserving employees, or when the supervisor has no authority to reward an employee with money, other forms of reward can be offered. These may even be more long-lasting sources of worker satisfaction than financial rewards. Deserving employees may be the subject of public relations news articles. Others may be presented with service awards or prizes. Some companies recognize the “employee of the month” by posting the employee’s photo in a prominent location. Other companies recognize employee excellence through titles, such as assistant grower or crew leader. Something as simple as a handwritten note from the supervisor to the employee acknowledging the latter’s performance can be an effective reward.