David has over 15 years supervisory experience and has extensive knowledge in how to handle personnel issues across many areas.
Life as a New Supervisor
I was so excited when I had a job interview for a supervisor position. They seemed excited to have me interview and offered me the job at the end of the interview. After years of being stuck in the same job, it felt great to finally get the promotion I felt I had earned. I walked in my first day confident I could do the job without a problem.
However, when I first became a new supervisor, no one warned me of the troubles and tribulations I would experience in my first few weeks on the job. I wish someone had warned me of what it's like to be a supervisor so I could have properly prepared myself prior to my first day.
So, I wrote this article for all of those new supervisors out there just starting out. Below is a list of the ten things I wish I knew when I first became a new supervisor. All new supervisors will want to read this list in order to prepare themselves for what could be the hardest job they will experience.
1. Your Employees Will Try to Con You
This is something I learned quickly when I first became a supervisor. Employees will try to con you because they think you will fall for it. Guess what? You will.
For example, I was working on a shift and supervising three employees. They weren't my regular employees, but I knew them well enough. One of the temps asked if they could leave fifteen minutes early to go get gas. I said it was fine because I didn't see any reason to deny the request.
Later, one of the other supervisors asked why I did that. I said I didn't see the big deal. The supervisor then stated why couldn't the person have waited until their shift was over with to get gas. There was no reason to go early for such an unimportant reason.
I was totally conned there because the employee knew I didn't know any better.
2. You Will Get Stuff Dumped on You
When you become a supervisor you get all sorts of duties. Your staff will come to you with issues, your boss will give you assignments, etc.
The problem is that you don't know if those duties are being given to you because of your new role, or because no one else wants to do it. The worst part is you may not even know what the reason truly is. If others don't like a task, it typically goes to the new supervisor to do because they may not know any better.
When I was first hired as a supervisor I was eventually given two tasks that others did not like doing. Those tasks were tedious, boring, and had to be done promptly. It was a learning experience for me, but in the end I did feel dumped on for doing a task no one else wanted to do.
3. You'll Be Expected to Know Everything
When I first became a supervisor, three or four staff members came up to me to ask me a question. I had no clue how to answer it, but they all expected me to know the answer anyways. I was terrified beyond belief. Luckily I was able to BS my way through the situation until I could find a real answer.
For whatever reason, when you are given the title of supervisor you are expected to have all of the answers. That isn't always the case. So you will have to learn to defer until you can find out the answer.
4. You Will Have to Earn Respect
Even though you are expected to handle all of the duties given to you and to know all of the answers, you won't be respected when you first take charge. You will have to earn the respect from your employees and supervisors.
That's easier said than done. One negative incident can erode all respect you have and force you to start all over again. I had one employee who lost all respect for me and I never got it back. This affected our relationship until the employee left the department. That happens sometimes and you have to live with it.
5. Supervising Employees is the Hardest Part
When I became a supervisor, I thought the hardest part of my job would be making hard decisions, planning projects, and other high level stuff.
Nope. The hardest part was supervising employees. As I promoted, that task never became easier. It was hard, annoying, frustrating, and proved to be a bad experience many times over. Not everyone is cut out to supervise other people. You have to be a special kind of person to be able to do it and do it effectively.
6. The Pay Isn't Worth It
Unless it's a huge raise, the amount of money you get from being a supervisor isn't all that much. In fact, I had staff earning more money than me due to the overtime they were working.
I held two different titles for a total of ten years, both of which involved supervising staff and working in a lead capacity. The pay wasn't worth it, but the experience was. In the end, that experience landed me a well paying job supervising no employees. Sometimes the pay isn't why you take a supervisor job, its the experience.
7. It Requires a Lot of Independence
Being a line staff member means having your boss check on you, check your work, and direct what you do. That all changes when you become a supervisor. One of the biggest things about being a supervisor is having independent thought.
You'll be expected to think on your own. You'll be expected to make decisions with little to no guidance from those above you. Your boss will expect you to work on your own and won't always be checking the decisions you make. This can be stressful since you could easily (and probably will) make the wrong decision. That's part of the process of learning to be a supervisor. When I started my first supervisor position, I was working a graveyard shift with no one to help me, so I had to work independently.
8. You Will Suck at Your Job
To be honest, there is a good chance going in that you were completely suck at being a supervisor. It doesn't matter if you know the job being done inside and out. The transition to being a supervisor adds a level of complexity that you can't predict.
The only thing to do is to suck at your job for awhile. As time goes on you will learn more about the job and what being a supervisor entails. But until that time comes, don't expect to be the most effective boss.
One of my early, big decisions ended up blowing up in my face. The employee affected never let me forget that mistake years later. Your staff will always remember when you make a mistake and will hold it over your head.
9. You'll Hate It
At the beginning you'll hate being a supervisor. You aren't good at your job, the pay won't seem worth it, and your staff are making you miserable. When I had my first supervisor position, I didn't like it at all for awhile. In fact, I had more negative experiences than positives experiences for the first year or so. The hours were bad, my staff was uncooperative, and the pay wasn't worth it at all.
During that time I considered going back to my previous position. I liked it, I was good at it, and I could not think as much. However, I decided to stick it out in the end.
10. It Will Get Better
As stated above, I hated my first supervisor job for about a year. Eventually, things changed. I moved to a different shift so I had better hours and I had stronger staff on my shift that listened to me. The pay still wasn't great, but it allowed me to learn and do more so I could get more experience. Eventually, I transferred to another department where I shined as a supervisor.
It will get better, you just have to stick it out. But it also entails you taking some action to make it better. That's what it took for me to improve upon my situation.
The Choice to Be a Supervisor
In conclusion, there are a lot more negative aspects to being a supervisor than positive ones. It's up to you to decide if it's worth it in the end.
If you are about to be a supervisor, or you are a supervisor already, please leave your comments or questions below. I'd be happy to respond and discuss the finer points of being a supervisor.
Don't blame the boss. He has enough problems.
— Donald Rumsfeld
One Last Note: A Great Book
I recommend picking up the book, It's Your Ship. It's a great book that provides real world stories on how to be a leader in the workplace. Best of all it's a quick read!
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2017 David Livermore