The Real Role and Function of a Supervisor


Supervisors tend to be responsible for a wide variety of duties and tasks — however it is important to really understand what the supervisor’s role and function is. Setting employee work schedules, approving time cards or leave requests are examples of tasks that many supervisors do — but they are just that: tasks. The supervisor’s role and function speaks to a larger perspective that essentially accounts for needing a supervisor in the first place.

Here is a short list for consideration on the role and function of a supervisor.

Ensure employee maximum productivity

A major role of the supervisor is to make sure employees are productive. Employee productivity centers around doing the job, doing it correctly and doing it on time. Effective supervisors help employees obtain a clear understanding of their job description and performance standards. The missions of our agencies are greatly impacted by employees who do not do the job they’re hired to do, make costly mistakes in their work or miss deadlines.

Employee morale

While low morale does not automatically translate to low productivity, it can be a big factor. Supervisors are a big influence in the work environment — both positive and negative. Research shows that one of the biggest stressors for employees is their supervisor. Morale can be influenced by the effective supervisor by paying attention in their interactions with employees to make them as positive as possible. Dean Spitzer, in his book Supermotivation, discusses “de-motivators” in the workplace and I’ve often thought if supervisors just avoided “de-motivating” those employees who show up to work motivated it would be a great start.

Employee development

Supervisors play a big role in the development of employees. Competent and well trained employees are more productive, more motivated and are the foundation for succession planning. The aspects of development should not stop at the skills or knowledge employees need to do their job but should include growth opportunities for advancement. Helping employees learn to see “big picture” within the organization or work as a part of larger project teams are good ways to influence development.

Communication link

Flow of information is important to successful organizations. Employees need and expect information that is vital towards the accomplishment of their job duties. Employees will seek information and it is best they get it, appropriately, from their supervisor. Employees also need effective supervisors who will appropriately represent the employee perspective to management. These two important functions are the heart of the supervisor’s role in serving as the communication link between employee and organization.

These four components help create a concise yet comprehensive understanding about what a supervisor’s role is in comparison to what the employee’s role is and help focus on the bigger responsibilities not just tasks. In reality many tasks completed by supervisors could be done by subordinates but it is the role and function that solely belong at the supervisor position.

Chuck Bayne is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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