CIOProject Management

Is Active Supervision Dying?

The world has gone agile, yada yada, which means businesses are placing a premium on action. One way this idea manifests is when new employees are thrown into the deep end of the pool immediately, where they sink or swim. And the idea has merit, but are we taking this idea too far by using it as an excuse to just not supervise properly? Steve Cooper analyzes this problem in an article for CIO magazine.

Not So Super Vision

With or without offering sink-or-swim challenges, the reality is that new employees will do better and invite less rework when a supervisor is around to answer basic questions. But supervisors are not around enough, it seems, and Cooper offers up these four worrisome reasons:

  1. Supervisors are expected to produce work too.
  2. Supervisors assume expectations have been set by someone else.
  3. Supervisors expect that new team members are experienced professionals.
  4. Supervisors find it uncomfortable to give feedback.

A lot of the time, supervisors are expected to supervise while still producing as much work as the people they are watching. In such a scenario, actual supervision will be cut to a minimum so that supervisors can complete their own work on time. Thus, businesses should cut back on the work assigned to supervisors so that they have sufficient time to actually do supervising.

Another problem is that supervisors assume HR has already gotten new workers up to speed on things like job expectations. But it is impossible for HR to lay down the explicit job expectations of one specific role by themselves. Supervisors need to take the formal effort to establish ground rules by themselves, and/or with the assistance of their teams.

Regarding the third reason—the assumption of dealing with an experienced professional—Cooper explains that there is an important differentiation to make:

Every supervisor’s first priority is to get the team to finish the job, on time, with no defects.  …  In my first job out of college, I learned much more than technology and business skills.  I learned about pinpoint shirts, when to thank clients for paying for our dinner, and the difference between billable and unbillable time.  My supervisors taught me those lessons.  When a new college graduate hits their first job, the supervisor’s first response may be to give them a desk and put them to work, assuming the expectations are clear, and that the employee is an expert professional.  In this environment, the art of good first-job supervision has perished.

Lastly, some supervisors just do not like having to give feedback, especially negative feedback. To that, I would just say: “Toughen up, buttercup.”

For additional thoughts on the issues plaguing supervision, you can view the original article here: https://www.cio.com/article/3246271/leadership-management/is-active-supervision-slowly-dying.html

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John Friscia

John Friscia was the Editor of Computer Aid's Accelerating IT Success from 2015 through 2018. He began working for Computer Aid, Inc. in 2013 and grew in every possible way in his time there. John graduated summa cum laude from Shippensburg University with a B.A. in English.

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