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How to Manage the Responsibilities and Duties of a Supervisor

David has over 15 years supervisory experience and has extensive knowledge in how to handle personnel issues across many areas.

The Role of a Supervisor

Supervisors are required to perform a juggling act between overseeing their staff, keeping customers happy, and ensuring managers have no problems in the operations of the office. That can be a difficult task. A supervisor is expected to perform multiple roles, and is expected to perform them flawlessly. It can take time to learn how to organize your supervisory duties so you can ensure you get the most done with the time allowed.

This article will cover the three best ways to manage supervisor duties:

  • Determining Priorities
  • Becoming Organized
  • Delegating Duties

Supervisor Experience

I have been a supervisor for over fifteen years, earning a promotion during that time to a higher level of supervision. With short staffing and more job duties being pilled on me, I had to learn how to manage my supervisor duties to get everything done in an efficient manner.

What is Your Biggest Priority?

Determining Priorities is Important

Determining what your priorities are is important when managing supervisor duties.

Determining what your priorities are is important when managing supervisor duties.

Determine Your Priorities as a Supervisor

First things first, a supervisor has to determine what their priorities are in the office. Now this could depend on what your work environment is. Some supervisors may rely more on their employees than anything else, or perhaps there are pieces of equipment that have to be up and running at all times. Here is rundown of what you have to prioritize:

  • Employees. Your staff tend to be the backbone of most operations. A supervisor needs to be constantly involved in what they are doing. Not in a way that seems like you are micromanaging, but to keep your employees happy so they perform their job. That means giving them the materials they need, instructions to perform the job, and providing feedback.
  • Customers. Most organizations need customers to survive. So there may be cases that your customers get the utmost priority. Either in satisfying their demands, or just listening to their complaints.
  • Equipment. Computers, printers, drilling rigs. It's all equipment that has to be up and running all of the time. Whether it be a multi-million dollar piece of equipment, or something as simple as a printer.
  • Work Environment. The work environment you, your employees, and your equipment is in needs to be kept up too. It can be considered a priority if something is falling apart or in need of general maintenance.
  • Managers. Another priority is appeasing the managers above you. Even if you have an incredible manager, sometimes they will expect something done and will expect that you get it done.

Once you figure out what your priorities are, you can arrange them accordingly. As a supervisor, you have to be flexible, so these priorities will shift from time to time depending what is going on at your workplace. One of my more recent jobs put my manager first above all else.

Tools That Can be Used to Get Organized as a Supervisor

Organization tools a supervisor should use.




Microsoft Excel.

Microsoft Sharepoint.


Folders to sort computer files, e-mails, etc.

Microsoft Word.



Your own staff.

Cell Phone.


Color coding systems.

How do You Organize?

Become an Organized Supervisor

The best way to manage supervisor duties is to become organized. While some staff in your office may consider you to be a neat freak, having yourself organized will allow you to manage your supervisor duties and be able to complete them in a timely matter. Or, allow you to switch from one task to another when the time comes. Here are some ways to become better organized:

  • Keep a "to do" list. I know this sounds remediable, but it's one of the best ways I have kept myself organized. I keep an electronic document that has my weekly duties, monthly duties, and one-time tasks I need to ensure I complete. If I complete one of these tasks, I cross or check it off. I place due-dates on them and even highlight the duties by priority so I know when I need to complete them. Another great tool to use in this area is Tasks, which can be found in Microsoft Outlook. It's great to be able to take an e-mail received and set it as a task for a future date.
  • Binders are your friend. Another simplistic, but effective method. I have had over 15 binders on my desk, each that covers certain tasks. One is for supplies, one for writing evaluations, and various binders that each cover a program or task. I also have one master binder. This binder contains documents I use on a daily basis, documents that require action by me at some point, etc. I can take this binder anywhere. So if I have to work in another area or another desk, I have it accessible to make the transition that much easier.
  • Use computer software to organize yourself and to make things easily accessible. My office used to use Microsoft Excel to organize a calendar for managing time off requests from staff. It worked just fine, but I knew there had to be a better method. I made a calendar in Microsoft Sharepoint to manage my staff members time off requests. This worked wonders. The calendars were already set up, easy to read, and easy to make changes to. It allowed for e-mails to be sent out to all supervisors on a daily basis to advise of changes. This ensured everyone was kept in the loop. Microsoft Excel and Word are great for lists, organization, color coding systems, etc. Microsoft Access can be used for advanced data entry and for generating customized reports.
  • Go paperless. My manager asked me if we could create a form in Excel that would track all of the transactions we do multiple times a day. At that time we were filling out a full page form and scanning it into our document management program. Using Excel, I was able to create such a form. This cut down on the man hours required. The less you have to write, distribute, and deal with paper documents, the more organized you will be.
  • Organize the entire office. When I first promoted into a higher supervisory position, I was given the responsibility to order supplies. Our office had a supply closet, but it was a horrible mess. Supplies were everywhere, and it was impossible to determine what we needed. There were times I missed a supply that was needed because of it. So, I spent two days organizing the entire supply closet. I could tell my manager was thinking I was wasting time. I organized, threw out, and labeled all of our supplies. The end results was that I spent less time figuring out what supplies were needed, spent less money in ordering supplies, and my staff were happy they were able to find the supplies they needed easily.
  • Organize your e-mail. Your inbox can quickly become full and unorganized. Instead, create folders and subfolders to sort your e-mails into. More advanced programs can send e-mails directly to some folders depending on the title or sender e-mail address. You won't feel overburdened seeing a huge e-mail box, and be able to find other e-mails easily. I personally recommend a "Pending" folder for any e-mails that require action that you will need to respond to at a later date.

Delegating Duties

Delegating duties to your subordinates is a great way to manage all of the supervisor duties you are responsible for.

Delegating duties to your subordinates is a great way to manage all of the supervisor duties you are responsible for.

Delegate Supervisor Duties

One of the best ways to manage your supervisor duties is to delegate them for someone else to do. The advantages of doing this are:

  • Keeps you from being overburdened. A supervisor can be expected to do it all, but that is just not possible. Delegating duties to your staff will help spread the work around so you aren't responsible for it all. Just ensure you double-check their work if they haven't performed that task before.
  • Delegating duties promotes succession training. You won't always be in the position you are currently in. You may promote or leave the organization. Delegating duties will help future leaders of your organization easily slide into your position when the time comes.
  • It makes you look good to your managers. When you delegate duties, your manager will be happy to see you spreading the work around and that you are utilizing all of the tools available.
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Read More From Toughnickel

Being Flexible as a Supervisor

Managing supervisor duties requires a supervisor to be flexible.

Managing supervisor duties requires a supervisor to be flexible.

Managing Supervisor Duties Quiz

For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.

  1. A manager gives you a one hour project along with a three day project. Both are priorities. Which do you do first?
    • The one that will take three days. Since it's longer, I better start on it first.
    • The one that will take an hour. I can get it out of the way and focus on the longer project after.
  2. You have an employee review planned, but you have an irate customer wanting to talk to you. What do you do?
    • I call up the employee and advise them of the delay, then deal with the customer.
    • I give the employee their review since I already had this scheduled days ago.
  3. You have a week to finish a secret project, but don't have the time due to your other duties, what do yo do?
    • I stay over and come in early to complete the project and my other duties.
    • I pass on parts of the secret project to my staff to do.
    • I pass on some of my regular duties to staff so I can focus on the project.
  4. Files and papers are everywhere, but you have file cabinets. These documents aren't a priority. What do you do?
    • I have my staff help me sort and file the documents away in the file cabinets.
    • I stuff everything in the file cabinets. Not like I'll have to deal with them for awhile.
    • I sort them myself and file them away. Never know what could be in them that I don't want seen.
  5. In what order should you handle the following - change light bulb, fix a computer, approve vacation requests, chit-chat.
    • Fix the computer, approve vacation requests, change the light bulb, chit-chat.
    • Approve vacation requests, fix the computer, change the light bulb, chit-chat.
    • Fix the computer, change the light bulb, approve vacation requests, chit-chat.
    • Change the light bulb, fix the computer, chit-chat, approve vacation requests.

Answer Key

  1. The one that will take an hour. I can get it out of the way and focus on the longer project after.
  2. I call up the employee and advise them of the delay, then deal with the customer.
  3. I pass on some of my regular duties to staff so I can focus on the project.
  4. I have my staff help me sort and file the documents away in the file cabinets.
  5. Fix the computer, change the light bulb, approve vacation requests, chit-chat.

Interpreting Your Score

If you got between 0 and 1 correct answer: You aren't managing your supervisor duties well at all.

If you got between 2 and 3 correct answers: You need to re-evaluate the way you manage your supervisor duties.

If you got 4 correct answers: You are learning how to manage your supervisor duties.

If you got 5 correct answers: Great job, you know how to manage your supervisor duties.

General Tips for Managing Supervisor Duties

Below are some tips that I follow when I am approaching my supervisor duties on a daily basis:

  • I lay out my plan for the day. I have the tasks I must work on, tasks I would like to work on, and tasks that I need to get done eventually. I pile documents on my desk in a certain order each day. I also have trays with documents I need to process easily visible, so I know that is something I need to get to at one point.
  • I'm flexible. A supervisor has to be flexible. I can plan to work on a project all day, but something of a higher priority comes up that I must work on. But what if one of my projects that day can be finished in a short time? I finish that project then work on the higher priority item.
  • My job determines how I manage my supervisor duties. If I have a severe employee discipline issue, then that is what I have to manage right away. if I have an angry customer, then I have to jump on that to ease the situation. Your job will determine how you have to manage your duties, which is something you will learn in time.
  • I pat myself on the back. Whenever I finish a task, even small, I give myself a pat on the back for it. It sounds corny, but it works. It pushes me on to the next task, then the next, and then the next. It allows me to manage my supervisor duties and feel rewarded for doing it.

In the end, it's up to you how to manage your supervisor duties. Keep these tips in mind to make yourself a better supervisor with the skills to manage your duties. If you have any tips on how to manage supervisor duties, please share them in the comments below.

Lastly, I recommend picking up the book, It's Your Ship. It gives great real world examples on being a manager.

The Best Damn Management Book I Have 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.

© 2013 David Livermore


Jessica Peri from United States on April 20, 2013:

This is great advice! I'm not a supervisor, but I know what you mean when you say that sometimes the customer has to come first. There are tons of things at work that I would love to organize, especially when I find myself looking for something for twenty minutes when it should only take a few. Voted up!

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