Thursday, June 19, 2014

The One Rule For New Supervisors

I sat down and flipped open my computer as I normally lunch alone.

Then a colleague who I knew from minimal interaction struck up a conversation. After a moment or two she sat down.

"Tell me about your job," I said.

"I have a new supervisor. She is making us read 'Who Moved My Cheese.'" 

She said that as though it were a bad thing.

"She is changing everything around. Very strong personality. Doesn't think that any of us know how to do our jobs."

It went on from there.

"One lady can't eat because of her, others can't sleep. It's really bad."

It went on from there.

"She favors her friends, who are ignorant, over the staff people who do a really good job. It's so frustrating."

I nodded.

"And every time one of us says something to another one, she somehow finds out about it."

Yes the workplace can be a small world.

"We're afraid to talk, and now she wants to go on a team-building retreat to build so-called 'trust'."

She laughed sadly and bitterly. I could see she was hyper-competent and the injustice of having to serve a new and awkward supervisor was killing her.

And then, the final blow.

"I'm looking to get out."

Later I told my daughter about it.

"Oh, teambuilding. Everybody hates it when they have to do that."

Reflecting on the whole thing, I felt bad for my colleague, and frankly felt bad myself as well. Because I've been on both sides of the coin.

And I could see both sides: As supervisor, wanting to prove yourself, and please your boss, and deliver the results you are bound to deliver in a difficult environment.

As employee, wanting to practice your tradecraft with minimal interference, wanting to not have to train all the new and awkward management folks.

What can I say, it's hard. But I do think supervisors can help themselves a lot by learning to listen more, especially at the beginning, absorbing the culture, and reserving comment for when it's absolutely needed.

*All opinions my own.