Certain qualities in a supervisor may cause negative feelings to develop in an employee or group of employees. The probable result of negative feelings between workers and their supervisor is low worker morale, reduced productivity, and even theft or vandalism. While no supervisor can expect to perform flawlessly, an effort should be made to avoid the following:
Inflexibility Company rules must be applied fairly to all employees, but little is gained by a policy of “no exceptions for anyone at any time.” If the rules penalize a worker for tardiness, most employees will see the need for it and the logic behind it. Employees who oversleep may expect to have their paycheck adjusted to reflect the lost time. However, if an employee arrives late once because of a flat tire, enforcement of the rule will probably be seen as needless rigidity. “They don’t care about me” is a difficult attitude to reverse once implanted in an employee’s mind.
Partiality In the close working environment of many horticultural businesses, friendships form easily. If personal associations between supervisors and employees outside of work cause partiality at work, however, resentment is bound to result. Joking with some employees and not others or buying some of the crew a beer after work but not all members can be interpreted as partiality. Such an interpretation can be as harmful to worker morale as if favoritism actually exists. It must be guarded against.
Condescension Training a new employee or assigning a new task to an old employee usually requires the supervisor to give instructions. They must be delivered in a manner that respects the employee’s intelligence, skills, and insights. Talking down to employees by oversimplifying the directions or giving shallow answers to serious questions insults their intelligence.
Subjective criticism No one likes being criticized or reprimanded, yet every supervisor must do so on occasion. The objective of properly applied criticism must be to prevent the employee from feeling personally offended or embarrassed while assuring that the mistake in behavior or performance is corrected. If the criticism is directed to an individual, the individual should be spoken to privately so that no other workers overhear. Whether the criticism is directed toward an individual or a group, the supervisor should remain objective. Criticizing the actions or the outcome rather than specific persons allows employees to retain their own sense of worth and avoids a long-term negative reaction to the supervisor. All criticism should be delivered in a positive manner without anger or profanity. Emotional reprimands are much more likely to be taken personally.
Double standards Employees have the right to expect that policies set for them will be followed by those in supervisory positions as well. It is the responsibility of supervisors to exemplify the positive qualities and attitudes that they desire or require of their workers.
Indifference The small-business atmosphere of most horticultural enterprises requires that supervisors give frequent positive reinforcement to their workers. When a supervisor inspects the work done by an employee or crew, the supervisor is expected to react, not merely walk on. The supervisor may silently approve, but failure to say so may cause employees to think their work is not worth mentioning. Equally damaging to working relationships can be a supervisor who displays no concern when births, deaths, illnesses, or other personal events occur in the lives of employees. “They don’t care about me” is an attitude that can be avoided by a few outward expressions of concern from a supervisor.
Sarcasm Neither humor nor criticism should be directed toward employees in sarcastic tones. Getting a laugh from one employee at the expense of another employee is certain to cause resentment. To criticize an employee with sarcasm makes the criticism much more hurtful and is totally unprofessional in a supervisor.