On a functional level, Departmental Supervisors are tasked with coordinating, controlling, educating, and nurturing their direct reports. The strength and nature of a Supervisor’s relationships with members of his or her department are critical to the stability and morale of that department and, even more, the company as a whole. A truly effective Supervisor understands this and uses their own performance as a model for others.
Unfortunately, the case may be that a much-beloved Supervisor simply isn’t performing their job as expected. Despite their good standing with Senior Management and/or long tenure at the company, they may exhibit a lapse in judgment on routine responsibilities or even fail to oversee the responsibilities of others. In certain circumstances, when the failed attention of their duties is evident, others will try to jump in with good intentions and fill the performance gaps. The potential short- and long-term consequences can undermine the department and your company in profound ways.
The key question is how to take the necessary action and execute in such a way that:
Here are some suggestions on how to best handle this challenging situation:
It’s important that you have a clear understanding of the Supervisor’s performance shortfalls. Are they not communicating effectively? Are they cutting short their workday before a task is complete? Are they coming down on their direct reports with undue criticism? Before interjecting as the “boss” try to observe their work on a day-to-day and figure out the problem areas firsthand. When you then enter a conversation with the Supervisor you will have facts and examples of their misbehavior. You should not rely on hearsay or rumors but rather hard evidence that will be hard to dispute.
Often the Supervisor will already be aware of issues in their performance and still unable to admit or agree with your feedback. They may give any number of reasons why their performance has suffered, ranging from personal issues outside the office to changing responsibilities as a Supervisor to a lack of skills in a changing work environment. Regardless you should address the situation with the Supervisor in a supportive manner. Focus on the positives – they are much beloved, after all – and explain in a non-confrontational way how their performance must improve for the good of the company. The argument should focus on how as a Supervisor they are a model to others and a critical team member within the organization.
If you are interested in retaining the Supervisor, you must be willing to provide them with the tools or resources to improve. This may come in the form of additional skills training, counseling or mediation sessions, or even hiring additional staff to relieve the workload. When you offer these to an underperforming Supervisor you are showing optimism and initiative to tackle the issues head-on. All parties – Supervisor, Senior Management, and staff – should be in agreement as to when improvements should be effected. Progress must be apparent as you follow up periodically.
What if, after all of your most supportive and positive efforts, there is still no improvement or change? The Supervisor should not be retained and you must be prepared to move on. Ask yourself:
Depending upon your answers, you will know how hard you must work to help the much-beloved but underperforming Supervisor to succeed.
For further discussion or comments, please contact Gail L. Trugman Nikol, President Unique Business Solutions, firstname.lastname@example.org or call (516) 935-5641.